The Town of Smithtown will spend $800,000 this year on consultants to update “antiquated” parts of the town code and plan.
The updates, part of a $9.5 million 2018 capital funding plan the town council approved unanimously earlier this month, are intended to ease the way for downtown revitalization projects in Smithtown, Kings Park and St. James, Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said.
“Many of our town codes are antiquated and some were put in place back in the ’70s and ’80s,” he said. Rewrites to zoning and building rules will be the focus of the code update, he said. The town is soliciting proposals from specialist firms, due Feb. 22, and will spend up to $300,000 on the work.
Also scheduled for an update is the town’s comprehensive plan, a macrocosmic document grounded as much in the community’s aspirations as its empirical data, intended to guide choices in areas such as land use, transportation and economic development.
The last plan was adopted in 1957. Town Planning Department staff spent about seven years working on a seven-volume draft update they finished in February 2015. It has lived in limbo since, as town officials posted it on the town website but never gave it the town council hearing and environmental review needed for implementation.
“The previous administration’s theory that all this could be done in-house,” Wehrheim said. But “it never really worked out,” he said, describing a “piecemeal” effort that town planners had worked on intermittently, when their day-to-day duties allowed. “When town board members looked at it, there were some parts we disagreed with.”
He cited sections on traffic and multifamily housing that could dissuade developers from proposing projects for the downtown business districts, which elected officials and civic leaders have targeted for revitalization.
Councilman Tom McCarthy, who also favors outsourcing the project, said the board would likely issue a request for proposals within a month. The town will spend up to $500,000 on the project this year. “We want to look at it from a new, clean set of eyes from an agency that does this for a living,” he said. “There’s 100 percent support on this from the council members.”
Town planner David Flynn did not comment on the council’s decision. But, from a planner’s perspective, he said, the town would be well-served by a document that helped officials prepare for large-scale developments confronting much of Long Island like a leveling off of tax revenue and aging citizenry.
“Municipalities don’t grow and stay in a state of equilibrium forever,” he said. “There’s always going to be change, whether you want it or not.”