A public hearing on a zone change petition to build a 260-unit apartment complex in Smithtown with more than 500 parking spaces brought out a packed crowd that voiced concerns over traffic, safety and quality-of-life issues.

Rochester-based Home Properties Inc. submitted plans requesting the zone change from light industry and single-family residential to garden apartment for the 22-acre site, which includes vacant, wooded land and a business operated by Smithtown Concrete Products Corp. at 441 Middle Country Rd.

"With the concrete plant going out of business, this will become one of the largest sites in the town under single ownership that can be available for redevelopment," said Smithtown town planner Alex Wallach. "This presents an unusual opportunity, one the town should approach with care."

The planning board voted unanimously, 5-0, Wednesday to ask the town board to make a determination on whether the project will come under environmental review, which officials said is likely, and postponed further action until completion of the review, which may take nine months to a year.

Donald Hague, Home Properties' senior vice president of development, said the company is among the largest owners of apartments on Long Island, with 3,586 units in 14 communities. The Smithtown location would include one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments with monthly rents estimated at $1,900 to $3,500, along with a clubhouse, fitness room and pool, he said.

Vincent J. Trimarco, an attorney for the developer, said the project would take about two years to construct and at least $1 million annually would be generated in property taxes.

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"There is a very, very strong need for apartments in our town," Trimarco said.

But more than a dozen residents among the more than 75 in attendance said the project would drain schools, lower property values, exacerbate traffic on Route 25 and create unsafe conditions on adjacent roads used as cut-throughs.

"A four-story monolith in our community is beyond reason . . . it's just simply a case of the type of people you're going to be having in there," said St. James resident John Pettit, 72, who has lived near the proposed project for 47 years. "You're talking about transients. You're not talking about people who are moving in, like we all did, with the intent of putting down roots."

Marisol Philippou, 40, of Smithtown, said she was preparing to put up a for-sale sign.

"It's like New York City coming out to Smithtown," she said. "This is not what I signed up for."