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County commission supports zoning change for East Northport senior housing

An architectural rendering by Robert M. Swedroe Architects

An architectural rendering by Robert M. Swedroe Architects and Planning company shows the front view of a building designed for the Seasons at Elwood.

The Suffolk County Planning Commission has recommended that the Huntington Town Board approve a zone change that will allow construction of a controversial 360-unit age-restricted development in East Northport.

The commission voted 8-0 on July 2 in favor of the Seasons at Elwood. The recommendation came with a modification that the developer, Garden City-based Engel Burman Group, provide frequent and convenient transportation to mass transit locations, major local medical and health outlets, and to commercial centers.

David Calone, chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, said the Seasons at Elwood plan meets a very important regional need.

"Looking at this from a regional prospective, it was important because there is a real lack of senior housing in the western part of Suffolk County," Calone said. "We see lots of applications for senior housing for the eastern part of the county, and there is better coverage there. But the western part of the county hasn't kept up with housing that works for seniors who want to stay on Long Island or move to Long Island."

The role of the county planning commission is to provide regional review of major development projects.

Steven Krieger, principal of Engel Burman, said he is pleased with the decision and has no problem with the modification.

The housing plan has been opposed by neighbors, who are concerned about traffic and the density slated for the 36.87-acre site of the Oak Tree Dairy on Elwood Road.

The town board held a public hearing on June 17 about changing the zone from 1-acre residence to retirement community district. The latter allows for 14.5 homes per acre, while the proposal asks for about 9.75 per acre.

Just before that meeting, town officials said they received a "protest petition" signed by owners of more than 20 percent of the area of land directly opposite the proposed development.

Town officials determined this week that the petition appears to be valid. With the petition, the zone change will have to be approved by a supermajority, at least four of five votes.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said the developer and the community have made some progress, with the developer lessening the density and changing some of the design to accommodate the community.

"I think the question now is that number," Petrone said, referring to the density.

Elwood resident Mary Jane Mackey, who attended the commission hearing, said she doesn't think the developer has really compromised. "I think he should come down a lot more, it shouldn't be more than 200 units tops," she said.

Petrone is trying to coordinate a meeting for next week between the two sides. The town board has 90 days from the June 17 public hearing to vote on the measure.

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