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Dix Hills plot to host soccer fields

In the end, Dix Hills neighbors seemed more at peace with soccer fields than a church.

After several years of debate over what to do with a 5-acre plot in Dix Hills, the Huntington Town Board has voted to buy the land from a religious organization, which had planned to build a house of worship, and instead go with a 2007 plan to build soccer fields.

Residents near the Burrs Lane property near Ryder Avenue objected strongly to the soccer fields, which they said would be incompatible with the neighborhood. The town dropped the plan.

In 2009 representatives of Sadhu Vaswani, a spiritual organization based in India, bought the land to build a church. Again, the community objected, citing the same reason against the soccer fields.

Seeking a peaceful solution, in the summer of 2011 Huntington officials, who are restricted by state law to pay market rate, offered $1.4 million for the land. But church officials wanted $1.75 million to cover the $1.5 million they paid for the property in 2009, plus carrying costs such as taxes and site plans.

But last fall, after careful consideration about building a house of worship in an area where it was unwelcome, church officials accepted a second appraisal for the property.

In a 3-2 vote last month, the town board approved $1.5 million to purchase the land.

"They are peaceful people and decided they didn't want to fight," said John Breslin, the Huntington attorney representing the church. No timetable has been set for construction.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said the purchase has several benefits, including the land being bought at a low value and fulfilling a desire to increase town recreational facilities.

"This was our original plan for the parcel," Petrone said. "People change their minds and see different desires for their community at different times."

Michael R. Neidell, a representative of Burrs Neighbors, a community group formed because of the church plan, said in an email that the purchase will be a community benefit.

"We greatly appreciate the efforts of all involved parties and their willingness to reach a mutually agreeable and favorable resolution."

Town Board member Eugene Cook said he voted against the purchase. "We're talking millions of dollars of investment," Cook said, referring to field upkeep over time. "We don't have the money for this."

Town Board member Mark Mayoka abstained.

Breslin said his clients are considering locations west of Huntington: "They are clearly losing money on this deal and will probably pay more where they are going."

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