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Opinion

Editorial: Consider light use of inn land at Lake Ronkonkoma

Former site of the Bavarian Inn in Lake

Former site of the Bavarian Inn in Lake Ronkonkoma. (June 11, 2013) Credit: James Carbone

The Bavarian Inn -- the long-shuttered eyesore on Lake Ronkonkoma -- is coming down. Finally. Suffolk County has found the funding to remove asbestos in the crumbling, graffiti-scarred building and demolition begins Monday. The county expects to complete the project in seven to 10 days. But what comes next?

Typically, the county would put such a property up for auction to recoup its expenses. Suffolk has allotted $325,000 for demolishing the inn and, since taking over the property for nonpayment of taxes in June 2012, has spent $348,000 to reimburse the local school district, Town of Smithtown and other entities for that tax loss.

But most forms of development seem unworkable on what essentially is a wetlands parcel. It sits directly across Smithtown Boulevard from the swamp known as The Great Bog, which drains under the inn into the lake. The water table is too high to install a workable septic system and any heavy rain puts the parking lot under water. Smithtown planners say any development would be treated as a shoreline project, using flood zone guidelines that would require raising a building several feet or more above the flooding area. Local civic groups and Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), who represents the area, want the 2.6-acre parcel to be transferred to the county parks department to enlarge the adjacent Lake Ronkonkoma County Park. Some have suggested it could be the site of a boat launch.

Such light use is a wise idea. It would allow the county to recoup some of its losses through leases for such concessions as canoe/kayak rentals and a snack bar, while giving residents additional recreational opportunities. The county also is seeking partners -- the town, nonprofits -- to share maintenance costs on the property. There are many precedents for such arrangements in Suffolk. Someone should step up here, too.

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