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Smithtown looks at ways to preserve land and water, weighs land swap

People ride in a canoe in the Nissequogue

People ride in a canoe in the Nissequogue River in Smithtown, NY, June 14, 2014. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Smithtown town board members are considering ways to preserve property near the headwaters of the Nissequogue River in Hauppauge on which a developer wants to build homes.

Richwood Hollow Inc. has an application pending before the town planning board to subdivide for residences about eight acres on the south side of Smithtown Bypass, east of Old Willets Path, officials said.

The subdivision -- Richwood Estates -- borders the Town of Islip, where Richwood Hollow plans to demolish a home to build a road into the Town of Smithtown to serve roughly 10 homes, said David Flynn, Smithtown assistant planning director.

Flynn recommended at a work session last month that Smithtown officials try to acquire the land to protect the river. Officials could either purchase the land -- perhaps with financial assistance from Suffolk County for open-space preservation -- or try to do a land swap with the developer, he said.

"This trade would preserve more property near the springs [small water bodies on the property around wetlands] and provide the future homeowners access in the Town of Smithtown," Flynn said in a memo last month.

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said he favors preserving the land, and Councilman Robert Creighton asked Flynn to pursue options for both buying and swapping the land.

Richwood Hollow's attorney, J. Timothy Shea Jr., of Hauppauge-based Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman LLP, declined to comment.

In an interview, Flynn said Richwood Hollow planned to cluster homes a few hundred feet from the river, but said pollution from septic systems and fertilizers doesn't stay on someone's property. "Development causes pollution," he said. "Pollution at the headwaters works its way down the rest of the river."

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