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Community Benefits Agreement being ironed out for Huntington Station redevelopment

Town officials and the master developer of Huntington Station are finalizing an agreement that will dictate how fees derived from revitalization projects will be used to benefit the community.

The Community Benefits Agreement, or CBA, will be a contract between the town and Renaissance Downtowns at Huntington Station LLC.

It will be based, in part, on initiatives decided by input from the community; and it will govern the use of fees to be paid by Renaissance, projected to total from $300,000 to $400,000.

"It's been a great collaborative process," said Ryan Porter, vice president of planning and development for Plainview-based Renaissance Downtowns. "We're glad to have all the input that's been provided; the hope is that in the coming weeks we'll finalize the document that reflects that input."

But residents, businesses and civic group representatives who town leaders and the developer recommended to help devise the CBA are concerned that they will not see the final draft before the town board votes on it, which could be next month.

Dick Koubek, president of the Huntington Housing Coalition and a member of a CBA subcommittee, said he hopes the agreement reflects the committee's desires.

"We've agreed to a conceptual structure," Koubek said. "I have concerns that the concepts we agreed to will be translated into open and vague language in a piece of paper with holes so big you can drive a Mack truck through it."

Susan Nielsen, a member of the Greater Huntington Civic Group and also a CBA subcommittee member, said there should be language in the CBA that allows for transparency, an advisory group and third-party representation. "It's an accountability issue for our public officials or anyone who is benefiting from becoming a stakeholder in this town," she said.

Joan Cergol, director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, said the attorney representing the town in drafting the CBA has made it clear the town and developer are the two legal parties to the agreement. "As result, that document is not subject to community negotiation," she said. "The town and developer initiated a process that began in February 2014 whereby input and concepts from the various stakeholder groups were invited, debated and discussed."

The CBA must be in place before Renaissance can obtain site plan approval on its projects. Porter is scheduled to discuss the agreement and provide an update about the revitalization at the town's Economic Development meeting Monday at Town Hall, 100 Main St., at 7 p.m.

Huntington Station stakeholders in the project have been meeting since February to decide how to convey the community's vision.

"The purpose of the nine months of effort we put into the CBA was to get all this input and the town was going to consider all the input for what they want to negotiate into the document," Porter said. "We're working through it."

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