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Smithtown discusses deal for a shared sewer plant at Gyrodyne

Officials say the move would help grow downtown St. James and serve development proposed at the 62-acre Gyrodyne property.

Developers are proposing a hotel, assisted living units

Developers are proposing a hotel, assisted living units and medical offices at the Gyrodyne property in Smithtown. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Smithtown officials will explore a deal for sewers in downtown St. James with a company proposing a major subdivision in the town.

Under the deal, Smithtown would use a planned sewage treatment plant intended to serve future development of the 62-acre Gyrodyne property, Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said at a St. James Chamber of Commerce meeting Tuesday. The Gyrodyne site is a mile northeast of the northern end of Lake Avenue, St. James’ main thoroughfare, and borders the Town of Brookhaven. It is one of the largest undeveloped sites in western Suffolk County.

“We are supportive of Supervisor Wehrheim’s approach and we will devote time and effort to study his suggestion,” Gyrodyne CEO Gary Fitlin said in an interview. Gyrodyne will study the engineering needed for plant expansion, Fitlin said, adding that there were a number of possible ownership and operating models for a shared plant.

Should a deal prove unfeasible, the town will consider a plant in Smithtown to serve both hamlets, Wehrheim said in an interview.

Gyrodyne, a former defense contractor now operating as a real estate investment trust, submitted documents to the town with its subdivision application envisioning a $150 million development with a hotel, assisted living units and medical offices, all served by a sewage treatment plant on the site’s northeast. Some residents and elected officials in neighboring Brookhaven Town and Head of the Harbor Village oppose those uses, which they say would clog area roads.

Top town planner David Flynn said in an interview that a sewer system might cost $40 million, not including land, enough that a deal between the town and company might not make financial sense. For Gyrodyne to build a plant big enough to serve St. James “would mean they’re giving up some of their land that would be profitable to them.”

Advocates say sewers would mean cleaner water and new water-intense uses like apartments and restaurants. Those uses are difficult or impossible now in St. James because of the area’s reliance on lower-volume cesspools and septic systems.

William J. Garthe, a chamber board member who runs a real estate company and owns property on Lake Avenue, said a deal with Gyrodyne could be beneficial. “They have the space and they’re community minded.”

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