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Senior housing proposal divides residents of East Northport

Civic activism is alive and well on Long

Civic activism is alive and well on Long Island. Thank goodness.

More than 100 people in a crowd three times that size spoke at a hearing in Huntington Town Hall last week. The topic: a proposed senior housing complex on Elwood Road in East Northport. Supervisor Frank Petrone said the number of speakers -- split roughly evenly between supporters and opponents -- was a town record.

Nothing draws crowds to public meetings like controversial development proposals. Huntington has had its share. Both sides last week were organized and passionate as adherents brandished placards and took turns chanting, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" and "No! No! No!"

We have been on record as supporting this particular plan. But we're even more excited to see so many people participate in the process.
Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

With some town leaders calling for compromise, residents are divided over a proposed zone change to allow a controversial 360-unit senior complex at the Oak Tree Dairy on Elwood Road in East Northport.

More than 100 people spoke at a packed hearing at Huntington Town Hall on Tuesday night, held to consider changing the zone from 1-acre residence to retirement community district.

The latter allows for 14.5 homes per acre, and Engel Burman, the Garden City-based developer, is asking for about 9.75 per acre for a development called the Seasons at Elwood. The town board has 90 days to vote on the measure.

Residents on each side of the issue at the four-hour hearing held signs emblazoned with their allegiance.

"Moderation is the most effective way to address significant issues," said Elwood resident Mary Jane Mackey, who objects to the density and increased traffic. "The use of moderation is clearly called for in the case of the Seasons at Elwood as currently proposed."

Patty Berwald, also of Elwood, said the proposal has received a bad rap because a few vocal residents have spread misinformation. "This proposed residential development is not a factory, an environmental risk, a prison, or a high rise that brings down home values," Berwald said.

The hearing came about two years after Engel Burman proposed building 444 homes on the 36.87-acre site. The community rejected the proposal, submitted in March 2012. They also opposed Engel Burman's revised plan for 396 homes. The developer asked that the application be pulled from review in October to have more meetings with residents. The current plan was submitted in January.

Following the hearing, Steven Krieger, principal of Engel Burman, said he is open to discussing the density with residents, although he said they are set at 360 units. "As of right now we are," Krieger said."It's something obviously my partners and I would discuss together."

Town board members Susan Berland and Gene Cook said they would like the project's density to come down.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, and town board members Mark Cuthbertson and Tracey Edwards, said they hope a resolution comes from conversations between the developer and residents. "It's critically important that we continue to work with the community and the developer to see if we can come up with a solution that will be amenable to both parties," Edwards said.

Kim Cameron, of Elwood, said she is not counting on conversations changing much. "The promises of Engel Burman have gone to the wayside," Cameron said. "They are not truly interested in compromising."

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