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Deal reached for housing, park, temple in Melville

A complex deal to allow construction of affordable

A complex deal to allow construction of affordable senior housing, a park and a house of worship on two sites in Melville is moving forward. This is an illustration of the proposed project. Credit: Michael Schnurr

A complex three-way deal hatched to allow construction of affordable senior housing, a park and a house of worship on two sites in Melville is moving forward.

The Town of Huntington recently closed on the $1.3 million purchase of the 8.1-acre Meyers Farm property, at Round Swamp Road and Old Country Road, to one day create Sweet Hollow Park. The senior housing community and house of worship, which would be built on Deshon Drive, got site-plan approval from the town in late March.

The farm property was purchased in 2003 by Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam-Northeast, a Hindu organization known as the BAPS, with plans to erect a temple on the site. But after objections from area residents who said they preferred a community park on the land, town officials, the BAPS and the Civic Association of Sweet Hollow Inc., devised the plan that transferred development rights from one property to another.

"I appreciate the hard work, cooperation and out-of-the-box thinking from all sides that helped make this day a reality," Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said in a statement.

In June, the town board approved transferring 5 acres of development rights from the farm property to an 18-acre site on Deshon Drive. The board then changed the zoning on that parcel from light industry to garden apartment, something that will allow construction of 261 units of affordable senior housing on 13 acres of the 18 acres by New York City-based developer Deshon Development Venture. The remaining 5 acres were sold to BAPS, which, using the development rights transferred from the Meyers Farm property, will be able to build its temple there.

BAPS spokesman Girish Patel said last month the group received site-plan approval for the temple from the town.

"This is good news all around," Patel said. "Now we have to make the final plans to make sure they are in compliance and then we can get started with a groundbreaking."

He said he expects building to begin this summer.

The developer's Melville-based attorney, Garrett L. Gray, said it, too, has site-plan approval and is ready to go once lingering approvals from various agencies are granted, probably by the end of summer.

"Rarely do you have a transaction where every side wins," Gray said. "And in this transaction you have three winners."

Alissa Sue Taff, president of the Civic Association of Sweet Hollow Inc., which represents about 2,500 homes in the Melville area, praised BAPS members for their patience.

"Although people say you have swing sets in your back yard, this will be a community-oriented open space," she said.

But not everyone thinks the plan is a winner. Town Board member Gene Cook, who voted against the resolution that made the deal possible, said he does not like the intensification of units on a smaller piece of land.

"I also didn't agree with the town transferring development rights of town-owned property to a private developer," Cook said. "I think this sets a precedent."

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