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Smithtown planning board OKs zoning change for Commack home

Smithtown planning board members have voted unanimously to conditionally approve a zone change petition for a single-family home in Commack to become the site of a professional business, moving the request on to the town board for a final vote.

The planning board voted 4-0 Wednesday, with board member Tom Unverzagt absent, to rezone a .26-acre lot on the northeast corner of New Highway and Commack Road from single-family residential to professional business, which allows for office or 2-family residence uses.

Conditions of approval include barring the site from office use until a site plan is approved and a new certificate of occupancy is issued.

Property owner Dr. Samir Mostafa originally requested rezoning the site to neighborhood business. But town planning department officials found that the site was too small to be developed for neighborhood business uses, such as a retail store or restaurant, unless the existing home was raised.

Town planning director David Flynn wrote in a Jan. 15 memo to the planning board that there were at least 20 other single-family homes fronting Commack Road, and neighborhood business zoning would “adversely affect the adjacent residential neighborhood by changing the character.”

Flynn also found that professional business zoning was apt because “the town needs more affordable residences to retain young people in the workforce, and this site has potential to help meet this need by being used for an accessory apartment or 2-family residence.”

John Breslin, Mostafa’s Huntington-based attorney, said he agreed that professional business was the proper zoning to maintain the property’s residential look and permit a more suitable use, given its location at a busy intersection.

“The owner has owned it for a while,” Breslin said, adding that the property is currently being rented to one tenant. “He’s tried to sell it and he can’t sell it for residential purposes because of the location.”

Maureen Veprek, who has lived in Commack for more than 50 years, said the property owner knew what he was buying when he purchased the residentially zoned land.

“To change a designation to something else that will give him a lot of latitude for his use I don’t think is fair to the rest of us,” she said. “They get to pay their taxes through an asset.”

Planning board chairman Conrad Chayes said that by properly rezoning the site, the property taxes would be increased “and they would pay their fair share.”

But Breslin said Mostafa’s property is already “dramatically” taxed at more than $20,000 annually. “That’s one of the problems,” Breslin said. “It doesn’t work economically” with the rent he collects.

Veprek also pointed to concerns that Commack Road is becoming inundated with development and traffic.

But Breslin said his client wasn’t to blame for changes that have taken place over the years. “The highway is what it is,” he said. “It wasn’t created by this property owner. It’s not sleepy Commack anymore.”

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