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Residents oppose East Northport development

An empty field once occupied by dairy cows

An empty field once occupied by dairy cows is pictured near to the Oak Tree Dairy processing plant in East Northport. (April 17, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

Issues similar to those that almost derailed the AvalonBay development in Huntington Station have cropped up as opposition builds against a 444-unit senior complex proposed for East Northport.

At a recent meeting of the Elwood Taxpayers Association, more than 50 people showed up to talk to members of the Huntington Town Board who had been invited to speak about the community planned for Elwood Road.

The majority of the residents said they don't want the project because a high-density housing development does not fit the community. They also expressed concerns that seniors would consistently vote down the school budget, affecting the quality of schools and, thus, home values, and they added they have concerns about traffic on Elwood Road.

Tom Van de Merlem, an Elwood resident since 1987, said if the property is developed to fit the community, no one was likely to oppose it. "But certainly over 444 units where there is zoning for just over 30 homes doesn't fit with the character of the neighborhood," he said.

BK Elwood Llc, a subsidiary of the Engel Burman Group, of Garden City, has signed a contract to buy a 36.87-acre parcel that is a milk-processing plant now to build The Seasons, an age-restricted condominium community. The company has an application before the town planning department seeking a change of zone from 1-acre residential to a retirement community district.

Some residents recalled the rancor surrounding the approval last year of AvalonBay, a multifamily development in Huntington Station. Among concerns expressed then were the density of the project and traffic.

Attendees at the Elwood meeting said they were prepared to voice their vehement opposition to the new plan.

The Seasons' developer has pledged an estimated multimillion-dollar boost in annual tax revenue to the school district; the creation of a state-of-the-art sewage-treatment plant eliminating the open-air system -- and odor -- on the property; and a major traffic mitigation plan for Elwood Road.

"There is nothing they can give us that can change the geography of the area and what we will be giving up," said Ralph Lamacchia, an Elwood resident for 15 years.

Town board members Mark Cuthbertson and Mark Mayoka took questions from the audience, while Gene Cook said he was there to listen.

Cuthbertson said he thinks there are significant concerns about traffic and would support a traffic study independent of any provided by the developer.

Mayoka encouraged residents to call, email, write letters and start a petition -- all to the town board -- to express their feelings about the project.

Michael McCarthy, a Huntington lawyer representing the developer, said the plan offers a "rare opportunity" to provide much-needed senior housing while adding tax dollars to the local school district -- without adding commensurate services.

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