An effort to build apartments and retail space on the grounds of the former Brunswick Hospital in Amityville has slowed, with trustees now saying a critical vote on rezoning will come no earlier than September.
Trustees and civic leaders say successful redevelopment of the 7.67-acre site, one of Amityville's largest and most prominently located, would bring much-needed tax revenue, visitors and energy to the village.
Mayor James Wandell said village trustees will ask to see detailed plans for the site before voting on a change of zone that would allow for redevelopment by property owner BH Realty of Amityville. That approach is a departure from an earlier strategy that would have offered a speedier vote.
"We are going to take a little time," Wandell said last week. "Possibly this is frustrating for the developer, but we owe it to our residents to make the best choice."
Comments at a public hearing on rezoning last week suggested the community is far from agreement on basic issues about any project to be built on the old hospital grounds.
Apartment construction could bring new families with children, which would burden already overcrowded local schools, Amityville school board trustee Jeanette Santos said. "We are going to have a big problem in the school district," she said. "There is no room in any of our five buildings for more kids."
And building more than 50,000 square feet of retail space, as called for in preliminary plans, could worsen a downtown vacancy rate already approaching 15 percent, Bay Village Civic Association president Joan Donnison said.
A third option under discussion, commercial office space, was dismissed as impractical by attorney Joseph Buzzell of BH Realty, who blamed limited demand in the area.
An earlier plan for all-commercial development at the site fizzled this spring after lukewarm response from prospective tenants.
Supporters of redevelopment for the former hospital grounds say taking more time will ensure what is built is the best for the village.
"We have the opportunity to make our village into something like what Farmingdale is doing, like what Patchogue achieved, but we have to stand fast," said Downtown Revitalization Committee co-chair Warren Cohn, referring to redevelopment success stories from other communities.
The added time will allow Cohn's committee and a professional planner the village says it will hire to work more closely with BH Realty and its principals, the Singh family, on developing an appropriate plan for the site.
Once a plan is agreed upon, Buzzell said construction could still begin next spring, a timeline trustees say is feasible.
In interviews, both Buzzell and Wandell said a mix of businesses and studios or one-bedroom apartments could prove ideal.
"Our intent is more for young professionals and/or retirees," Wandell said.
For the younger generation especially, he said, the site's proximity to the village's Long Island Rail Road station could be a draw. "This is a generation that eschews use of vehicles," he said. "They rent a car when they need it."