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Editorial: Elwood controversy illustrates need for housing

Huntington resident, Kim Camron shouts her opposition to

Huntington resident, Kim Camron shouts her opposition to the building of a housing development "Seasons of Elwood" prior to the start of a Huntington Town Board meeting at Town Hall on the evening of June 17, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

A compromise has been reached between community groups and a developer that will allow a controversial senior housing project in East Northport to finally move forward. The next step is approval of the required change of zoning by the Huntington Town Board, which should say yes.

But as squabbling subsides over The Seasons at Elwood, we need to focus on the bigger picture: Long Island has a desperate need for housing other than single-family homes, of all types, for all age groups and at all income levels. Housing advocates, senior citizens groups, pro-business organizations, employers and many elected officials are among those who recognize the urgency. The Elwood fight underscores how difficult it's been to meet this need.

Residents objected primarily to the project's density -- which, in every iteration of developer Engel Burman's proposal, was lower than what's allowed in the retirement community district zoning the town is required to adopt. The compromise -- reached after Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone wisely sat the parties down and told them to find a way forward -- calls for 256 units, down from the most recent pitch of 360.

In the meantime, there are about 1,000 people on the waiting list for those condominiums and now a few more will be disappointed. A recent lottery for The Club at Melville, an affordable senior housing development under construction, included 1,323 applicants for 260 units. That's why the Suffolk County Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the zoning change for the Elwood project.

The reduction in units, while a win for nearby residents, slashed the property's annual real estate taxes by about $900,000, a loss mostly for the Elwood school district. The bigger loss would be the continued exodus of our senior citizens if we fail to provide the kind of housing they clearly are seeking.


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