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Controversial St. James zone change requests tabled by town planning board

Zone change requests for two sites fronting a busy St. James intersection near Smith Haven Mall have been adjourned by the Smithtown Town planning board, pending action by the town board on a third, adjacent parcel.

The board voted unanimously, 5-0, Wednesday night to halt taking action on requests by Sun Enterprises Inc. and Haddington Company LLC to rezone a vacant 0.6 acre site and the 1.6-acre site of a former Checkers restaurant, respectively, to neighborhood business as part of a nearly 5-acre total development project that would front state routes 347 and 25.

The third site of about 2.68 acres, irregularly shaped, that the companies planned to include in their development is subject to a 1995 zoning condition that restricts uses permitted on the property to those that would be low traffic generators, town planner Alex Wallach said. That would likely rule out retail or fast-food restaurants that the applicant may want to build,Wallach said.

David Altman, an attorney for both applicants, said his clients were unsure of what type of businesses they would build and had no prospective tenants, but planned to construct a 30,500-square-foot retail building and 3,100-square-foot building estimated to generate at least $250,000 together in annual taxes.

Matt Seckler, a senior project manager for Farmingdale-based Stonefield Engineering and Design, assessed traffic and found that the site overall would only generate 27 cars in addition to what a single fast-food drive-through would typically generate -- a drop in the bucket at the intersection, which he said gets about 4,000 cars per hour during peak times.

But Joseph Natoli, 57, of St. James, said he thought the proposal could be a traffic nightmare. "Why do we want to add more congestion to this overtaxed highway, which I travel every day, which I have to make an appointment to get on 25A or Nesconset Highway?" Natoli said to applause. "There's enough stores there. Some stores are vacant. . . . Do we need more stuff here? Are we going to look like Queens?"

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