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St. James residents oppose plan to expand commercial zone

The southwest corner of Lake Avenue and Sixth

The southwest corner of Lake Avenue and Sixth Street in St. James on April 3, 2016. A developer has asked to rezone a portion of the residential property to central business. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

A developer’s petition to rezone a small portion of residential property to central business in St. James has upset some residents, who say the area is already clogged with traffic and commercial enterprise.

Aldrich Management Company LLC wants to increase the depth of central business zoning by 96 feet at a .7-acre site, Smithtown planning documents show. The site is on the south side of Sixth Street, west of Lake Avenue.

The East Meadow-based company plans to demolish a vacant single-family home and garage, build a 5,000-square-foot retail building and create a cross-access easement to an existing shopping center to the south that is also owned by the company, said Aldrich’s attorney, Smithtown-based Vincent Trimarco Sr.

Trimarco told Smithtown town board members at a March 17 hearing that his client can already develop part of the property closest to Lake Avenue zoned central business, but wants to allow for more parking by extending that zoning to the rear portion of the site, which is residential.

“Either way, the buildings can be knocked down, and there’s going to be something put up there,” he said.

Sean Durham, of St. James, said infrastructure in the area cannot take additional commercial business. “You can barely get a single car down Sixth Street,” he said.

Jacqueline Roberts, who said she has lived in the neighborhood for 50 years, compared Lake Avenue to Queens Boulevard.

“We cannot continue to just approve commercial properties because there are other ones around it,” she said. “What does it do to the families and the homes and the value?”

Anthony Martino, whose property abuts the site, took issue with the developer not knowing what type of business would occupy the new building. Trimarco said his client has not yet found a tenant. Officials said central business zoning allowed for restaurants, automotive repair garages and other uses.

“I don’t see how we can grant something when we don’t know what’s going to be there,” said Martino. “I don’t want an automotive garage that’s dumping oil and stuff right in my backyard . . . It makes a big difference if it’s an automotive garage, or if it’s a clothing store, or if it’s another restaurant.”

Town planning board members last August conditionally approved a recommendation in favor of the zone change in a 4-1 vote, with Conrad Chayes dissenting. A condition of approval included the preservation of a large tree.

Planning board members disagreed with a recommendation by the town planning department to deny Aldrich’s request.

Planning director David Flynn said in an interview that the zone change would affect residents with properties to the rear of the site.

“They purchased homes next to residential zoning, and a business zone is more intensive,” Flynn said.

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