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Suffolk planners to rule on start of Heartland development

A building in what will become the Heartland

A building in what will become the Heartland Town Square Project in Brentwood, Aug. 19, 2016. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

The Suffolk County Planning Commission is set to decide whether the Heartland Town Square project — a massive commercial and residential development proposed for the Pilgrim State property in Brentwood — will get its recommendation at a public meeting on Wednesday.

The meeting is to start with public comment on the development at the site of the Pilgrim State Psychiatric Hospital off the Sagtikos Parkway. Anyone wishing to speak about the project will be allowed three minutes to make their views known, said Jennifer Casey, chairwoman of the planning commission.

The Islip Town Planning Board in August recommended a portion of the project that includes development on 133 acres for the first phase of construction, allowing the town to monitor its impact on traffic and infrastructure before considering subsequent phases. The board limited the height of buildings in this phase to five stories, which reduced the overall size by about 1.9 million square feet. The original plan had a construction timeline set for 12 years and for 3,504 residential units, officials have said.

Casey said Tuesday that project documents were received by the Town of Islip at the beginning of December and are “so voluminous” that the commissioners are “still reviewing” them.

Gerald Wolkoff, the developer behind Heartland’s vision — which has been 13 years in the making — is seeking a zone change for the site from residential to a newly established Pilgrim State Planned Redevelopment District.

Wolkoff purchased the 450-acre plot from the state in 2002 for $20 million and originally intended to build a mixed-use development that included 9,000 apartments, 3 million square feet of office space and 1 million square feet of retail.

Wolkoff, who has said the large development would help attract new industry, and provide needed housing and an atmosphere to keep young people from leaving Long Island to more urban areas, said in a phone interview this week that he is prepared to make a statement to the commission at the meeting.

The county planning department will give an overview of the project at the meeting that will include its recommendation, Casey said. The planning commission will then have a “public conversation” about it, alter or add its own recommendations then proceed to a vote.

“I think transportation is a big concern for the commission, making sure everyone can move around OK, and about the scale of the project, to make sure it’ll work,” Casey said.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. at the W.H. Rogers Legislature Building at 725 Veterans Memorial Hwy. in Smithtown.

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