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Suffolk County center in Yaphank gets new master plan

A new master plan for Suffolk’s Yaphank county center recommends no more land be sold from the 683-acre complex, saying the county should need no more than 60 acres for new facilities.

The proposal says the rest of the vacant 197 acres should be preserved in the long run for parkland.

“It’s a good compromise,” said Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) who sponsored legislation calling for the six-month study.

She said the plan would allow for some development of the county complex while helping to preserve community character, create buffers with a nearby rail hub and protect the Carmans River watershed. Browning plans to introduce a resolution to approve the proposal.

The study, unveiled before the county legislature’s environment and planning committee, came in response to controversy over a proposal last year by SolarCity, of San Mateo, California, to erect a solar farm on the wooded part of the Yaphank property.

The new plan is the first overall review of the Yaphank center — once a 1,000 acre tract — originally set aside in the 1960s to create a third seat of county government, in addition to Hauppauge and Riverhead.

Currently, 242 acres are occupied by police, public works, board of elections and fire rescue and emergency services departments. There also is room for expansion of the county jail and a sewer plant.

The plan comes after the county, amid fiscal problems, sold off 230 acres for $19.4 million in 2013 for a private rail transport center. Suffolk also agreed recently to sell the former Foley nursing home for $15 million to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center.

The plan projects the county may need only 30 to 60 acres over the next 30 to 50 years for either new or expanded police headquarters, a vector control laboratory, or expansion of the sewage plant or the jail.

Josh Slaughter, chairman of the planning group, noted the study’s recommendation that solar panels be located on roofs or over parking lots. He also said all new construction should be limited to sites of five acres or less.

Mark Grossman, SolarCity spokesman, said the firm has continued negotiations with the county to produce 3.5 megawatts on alternate cleared sites including the Riverhead county center, the Suffolk Help homeless shelter in North Bellport and land behind the elections board building in Yaphank.

The company also is reviewing the master plan to see if there are “any other opportunities” at the Yaphank complex.

Michael Kaufman, a planning group member, said the plan did not earmark areas for preservation because “there are so many unknowns” about where the county wants to expand.

George Nolan, legislative counsel, said the county should be careful before marking off the complex park land because reversing the decision would be difficult.

“Once you make it park land, you do it in perpetuity,” Nolan said.

Vanessa Baird Streeter, spokeswoman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, called the plan “thoughtful,” saying, “it will serve as a roadmap to have as we move forward.”


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