The Suffolk County Planning Commission on Wednesday returned a $28 million hotel application to Smithtown without taking any action.
The move returns the application to Smithtown's Town Council and Zoning Board of Appeals. A county planning commission vote to approve or disapprove the application from hospitality impresario Anthony Scotto would not have bound the town boards, but they would have needed a majority-plus-one vote to overturn any commission decision.
A report by county planners had recommended the commission disapprove key variance requests by Scotto for 135 rooms instead of the 100 permitted under Smithtown code and for a 45-foot building instead of 35 feet.
The report recommended approval of eight other variance requests related to setback, lot area, environmentally sensitive land and parking.
Scotto already operates the Watermill, a catering facility, at the 7-acre site at Route 347 and Terry Road.
Smithtown resident Suzanne Ober, who lives nearby, said at Wednesday’s commission hearing that the design Scotto proposed would “set a negative precedent for all future Smithtown projects,” with what she said was inadequate parking and construction on environmentally sensitive land. “It’s too large,” she said.
Neighborhood residents packed town hearings earlier this year to speak against the project.
Donald King, a lawyer for Scotto, could not be reached for comment. He and other Scotto representatives have said in town hearings that while the parcel backs up to the Rhoda Avenue neighborhood, it is located on a commercial corridor and is hundreds of feet from the nearest house. They have also said the hotel would add minimal burden to area infrastructure because most guests would already be attending events at the catering facility.
The Scotto family operates restaurants and catering halls across Long Island, as well as hotels in Woodbury and Princeton, NJ. The Watermill catering facility is a favorite location for local GOP events.
The Watermill's location — 347 is a state road and Terry Rd. is a county road — put Scotto's application under planning commission jurisdiction. The application may also be subject to New York State’s environmental review process, town officials have said.
That determination could take months.