A rendering of a proposal that would add 280 apartments at Jefferson...

A rendering of a proposal that would add 280 apartments at Jefferson Plaza in Port Jefferson Station.  Credit: Nelson Worldwide

A vote on rezoning a blighted Port Jefferson Station shopping center to allow up to 280 apartments has been postponed to early next year after residents expressed concerns about traffic and other issues.

Three dozen residents speaking at a nearly four-hour-long public hearing Thursday night told the Brookhaven Town Board they support the concept of rebuilding Jefferson Plaza on Route 112, a 64-year-old mall that has struggled with vacancies in recent years as previous tenants closed or relocated.

But many called on the site's owner, Islandia-based Staller Associates Realty, and Brookhaven officials to alter the design, citing concerns about traffic and the height of residential buildings.

Charles McAteer, 70, of Port Jefferson Station, who had helped write a town-funded 2014 study of revitalization plans for the hamlet, was one of several speakers who said the plaza's tallest proposed buildings should be lowered from 50 feet to 35 feet. 

"We want to work with the developers on this. The community wants to be involved," McAteer said.

Suffolk County Legis.-elect Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) called the proposal "unsettling," adding it would create "Brookhaven's first urban canyon-land." 

The mall would be the first Brookhaven property to use a new town zoning category, called a Commercial Redevelopment District, designed to aid struggling business properties by allowing housing in addition to retail and office uses. The district requires town board approval.

Town board members did not set a date for voting on the zoning change.

Councilman Jonathan Kornreich, a Democrat who represents Port Jefferson Station, said the town would accept written comments for 30 days, pushing a vote into early next year.

Councilman Dan Panico, a Republican who will become town supervisor next month, said that will give town officials time to discuss revisions with Staller officials. 

Cary Staller, president of the family-owned company, declined to comment after the meeting. 

The plan calls for adding 280 apartments, including 56 for developmentally-disabled adults, and shrinking the retail area by more than half, from 112,000-square feet to 49,400-square feet.

Staller's attorney, Anthony Guardino of Uniondale, said the mall has seen a "steady decline" of tenants, leaving the property "with a vacancy rate that is unsustainable."

The new mall would include a mix of shops, restaurants, offices, a food hall and areas for events such as farmers markets, he said.

Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce president Jennifer Dzvonar called the plan "beautiful," adding it would be a "milestone" for the hamlet's overall redevelopment. 

But Kornreich said the proposal has "a little bit of a fortress-like feel," though he hopes town and Staller officials will reach a compromise.

"People really do want to see this project take place, but they want it to be something they can be proud of," he said.

Supporters of the plan urged officials not to give up on it.

"I don't think we're quite close to putting down our pencils," said Joan Nickeson, who also was involved in the 2014 revitalization study. "But we're very close and we're very excited."

A vote on rezoning a blighted Port Jefferson Station shopping center to allow up to 280 apartments has been postponed to early next year after residents expressed concerns about traffic and other issues.

Three dozen residents speaking at a nearly four-hour-long public hearing Thursday night told the Brookhaven Town Board they support the concept of rebuilding Jefferson Plaza on Route 112, a 64-year-old mall that has struggled with vacancies in recent years as previous tenants closed or relocated.

But many called on the site's owner, Islandia-based Staller Associates Realty, and Brookhaven officials to alter the design, citing concerns about traffic and the height of residential buildings.

Charles McAteer, 70, of Port Jefferson Station, who had helped write a town-funded 2014 study of revitalization plans for the hamlet, was one of several speakers who said the plaza's tallest proposed buildings should be lowered from 50 feet to 35 feet. 

"We want to work with the developers on this. The community wants to be involved," McAteer said.

Suffolk County Legis.-elect Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) called the proposal "unsettling," adding it would create "Brookhaven's first urban canyon-land." 

The mall would be the first Brookhaven property to use a new town zoning category, called a Commercial Redevelopment District, designed to aid struggling business properties by allowing housing in addition to retail and office uses. The district requires town board approval.

Town board members did not set a date for voting on the zoning change.

Councilman Jonathan Kornreich, a Democrat who represents Port Jefferson Station, said the town would accept written comments for 30 days, pushing a vote into early next year.

Councilman Dan Panico, a Republican who will become town supervisor next month, said that will give town officials time to discuss revisions with Staller officials. 

Cary Staller, president of the family-owned company, declined to comment after the meeting. 

The plan calls for adding 280 apartments, including 56 for developmentally-disabled adults, and shrinking the retail area by more than half, from 112,000-square feet to 49,400-square feet.

Staller's attorney, Anthony Guardino of Uniondale, said the mall has seen a "steady decline" of tenants, leaving the property "with a vacancy rate that is unsustainable."

The new mall would include a mix of shops, restaurants, offices, a food hall and areas for events such as farmers markets, he said.

Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce president Jennifer Dzvonar called the plan "beautiful," adding it would be a "milestone" for the hamlet's overall redevelopment. 

But Kornreich said the proposal has "a little bit of a fortress-like feel," though he hopes town and Staller officials will reach a compromise.

"People really do want to see this project take place, but they want it to be something they can be proud of," he said.

Supporters of the plan urged officials not to give up on it.

"I don't think we're quite close to putting down our pencils," said Joan Nickeson, who also was involved in the 2014 revitalization study. "But we're very close and we're very excited."

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