David Flynn, the top Smithtown planner who helped shepherd the town’s suburban growth, will retire in May.
“There are things I wanted to do but never did because of the pressure to go back to work,” Flynn said last week. He said he hoped to travel, run more miles and spend more time on his hobby, building models of trucks, ships, tanks and other vehicles, in his Kings Park home. His last day on the job will be May 30.
Flynn, who will turn 62 in June, winds down a 38-year career, the last four leading the Planning Department. “He’s going to be missed,” said Town Supervisor Edward Wehrheim. “He was an excellent department head and a very good planner.” Wehrheim said the town would review both internal and external candidates.
Flynn’s time at the department started as decades of double- and triple-digit population growth in the town ended, with once-rural Smithtown edging toward full suburban development. He and his colleagues devised rules to encourage development and stem the loss of retail business in hamlet downtowns to malls and big box stores in outlying areas.
Because of laws that Flynn drafted, car washes are allowed in Smithtown and counter service restaurants are allowed along a portion of Route 25 .
Linda Henninger of the Kings Park Civic Association said he played a significant role in developing that hamlet’s downtown revitalization plan and building Russ Savatt Park. He was also a valued information source in the community’s efforts to preserve a 50-acre wooded site near St. Johnland Nursing Center and the Nissequogue River, she said.
“He helped make this town the wonderful place it is to live and raise a family,” she said.
But some of Flynn’s work was never implemented. Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, a smart growth planning organization that contributed to the Kings Park plan, blamed elected leadership.
“He had to work under the tenure of (former town supervisor) Pat Vecchio, which was not a creative time for the types of things our organization supports: downtown redevelopment, sewer infrastructure, walkable communities.” New York State promised $40 million in sewer funding in 2017, Vecchio’s last year in office.
Alexander added: “We would not have seen progress in Kings Park downtown or the emerging plan in Smithtown without” Flynn.
In the 2000s, Flynn and colleagues spent years on a comprehensive plan update, the town’s first since 1961, which they hoped would guide Smithtown into the 21st century; submitted in 2015, it was never adopted.
Wehrheim said earlier this year it would be incorporated in a new plan to be developed by outside consultants. That will take at least a year, he said.
Flynn declined to comment on the stalled plan update. But without good planning, the town might have no Hoyt Farm, no Smithtown Landing Country Club, no green belt, he said. “All these things that people take for granted today didn’t happen randomly. The town board hired a planner to think ahead to try to make the town better.”
Residence: Kings Park
Factoid: He was laid off when the town board abolished the Planning Department in January 1982. “They said there was no more need for planning because the town was fully developed.” That view did not hold, and he was rehired later that year.