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Smithtown planning board to rule on changing density restrictions

Smithtown town planning board members are to make a recommendation Wednesday on a developer’s petition to change restrictions agreed to 20 years ago for a senior apartment community in Nesconset.

Story Book Meadows has asked to change covenants that allowed for the construction of 192 units at the 23.17-acre site on Smithtown Boulevard west of Gibbs Pond Road. The property has remained vacant.

One altered covenant would allow the company to seek additional density, though it previously waived that right.

The planning board adjourned a Feb. 17 meeting to determine if the Long Island Workforce Housing Act — a 2008 state law that requires builders to designate 10 percent of new homes as affordable housing, in exchange for more units — applied to Story Book.

Planning board chairman Conrad Chayes said Tuesday that town attorney Matthew Jakubowski had determined the state law does apply and would increase the number of units at the site to 212.

Other changes requested for Story Book Meadows include permitting about 36 acres north of the site — also owned by Story Book developer Al Hornberger — to be developed under R-15 zoning, which allows churches, hospitals, schools, fire stations and other uses rather than single family homes as had been agreed to. Another modification would allow for a sewage treatment plant to serve the retirement community and any development to the north — not just single family homes.

A fourth proposal would remove the need to include permission from all adjacent residential property owners to agree with any covenant change, instead requiring only the property owner and town to agree.

More than 800 residents have signed a petition opposing Story Book’s requests, saying Hornberger should stick to his original deal. Many at the meeting cited safety and environmental concerns in a community that is prone to traffic jams and flooding.

Sal Romeo, 54, of Nesconset, said he was among a group that opposed the project more than 20 years ago, but accepted the covenants at the time to protect the area’s character.

“So I guess Mr. Hornberger thinks if we wait long enough, maybe people will forget,” Romeo said. “Well, I don’t forget...I simply request that you do not turn back what the town board did years ago.”

Frank Tantone, an attorney for Story Book Meadows, said his client understood that “no one likes to have change to their environment.” He said the owners “don’t want to put out a product that’s really going to make everybody’s life miserable.”

Tantone described the covenant changes as “tightening,” saying “there’s no nefarious purpose for changing the language.”

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