Across Long Island, there's always plenty of talk about regional planning.
But it rarely — if ever — happens in practice.
Attempts to bring a true regional perspective to the table typically fail, as parochial concerns take precedence.
Now there is an effort in the Suffolk County Legislature to address cross-border concerns at the town and village level, most recently over plans to develop the 75-acre Gyrodyne property in Smithtown. This effort may seem to offer an easy fix. But it would not help in this case — and likely would stop more projects in their tracks, even if the town where they're located supports them.
A bill sponsored by Suffolk Legis. Kara Hahn would allow a municipality to file an objection with the Suffolk County Planning Commission over a development plan in an adjacent municipality that falls within 500 feet of the border. That objection would trigger a commission hearing. If the commissioners uphold the objection, only a supermajority of the home municipality's board could overrule it.
Hahn and civic advocates say it would provide a specific path for neighboring communities to voice concerns over projects that sit near their borders, a path they say has been lacking.
But it provides a frightening precedent, and likely would become another layer of blockage on everything from simple variances to critical affordable housing. It's difficult enough to build anything of significance on Long Island; a bill like this will just make it much harder.
In practice, it could mean Brookhaven Town could object in the Gyrodyne case, or that neighboring communities could further try to stop Heartland Town Square in Brentwood.
Introducing a bill civic associations love may seem like a quick win with a political upside for Hahn, who has announced plans to run for Rep. Lee Zeldin's congressional seat. Hahn, however, seems to know that the bill, at the minimum, needs fixes and told the Editorial Board she's open to changes and sees that as the start of a conversation. That's a good step.
But if Hahn and other lawmakers, advocates and civic leaders are serious about addressing the county's insufficient regional planning efforts, they would work together to take a broader, more thoughtful approach. They'd examine the role of the commission and local governments, and consider how to modernize and improve the way crucial projects move forward and what roadblocks stand in their way. They'd analyze such priorities as redeveloping downtowns and adding affordable housing, then determine which properties are key to the Island's economic success and, as a result, deserve a more regional look. They'd find ways to make it easier to develop and easier to say "yes."
And they'd work with Nassau County so that regional thinking isn't limited to county borders, either.
That conversation is much harder. But it has to happen.