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Avalon Bay's New Proposal Heard by Planning Board

The Avalon Bay Housing Project applied for a zoning change, while discussion over the placement of a crosswalk dominated discussion on the

The Town of Huntington Planning Board reviewed and recommended a request to the Town board for a zoning change sought by proponents of the proposed AvalonBay project to be built just south of the Huntington train station at their April 20 meeting.

The new project’s considerably reduced density is identical to those of Avalon Court and Court North in Melville, according to the developer

The 26.6 acre site, located north of East 5th Street, is requesting to be rezoned from a R7 single-family zone to a R3M zoning district. The zoning change was designed to allow for the construction of 379 apartments on the site.

This meeting with the planning board was the first appearance for the revised Avalon Bay project. That plan was denied by the Town Board following vociferous public opposition.

Planning board chair Paul Mandelik praised the revised application, saying that it will "bring needed housing to revitalize Huntington Station". He also praised the plan's diversification of housing (54 of the 379 units will be affordable housing units) as well as the decision to put a path between the development and the nearby Huntington train station, promoting residents to use public transportation.

The planning board's approval didn't come without the expression of several concerns. They were specifically interested in finding out information on how the housing development would impact the Huntington school district. In response, VHP Engineering environmental planner David Wortman shared information from a study conducted by the company. The study, which combined information from all of the AvalonBay communities on Long Island (with a specific focus on communities in Glen Cove and Smithtown), estimated that the Huntington community would have between 65 to 78 school-aged children. At those estimates, there would be a net gain between $2,000 (if 78 children) to $300,000 (if 65 children) if the costs to educate the children are weighed against potential tax revenues gained from housing the new residents. Board member Mitchel Sommer added that the school district would not be burdened with constructing new facilities to support the new residents.

Board member Avrum Rosen was also concerned over the proposal to create a new light at the corner of Park Avenue and East 5th Street. VHP Engineering associate Tom Mazzola explained to the board that the light was needed to prevent significant delays for traffic coming out of East 5th Street. Rosen agreed, but believed that people running the light while approaching from the south along Park Avenue could cause significant danger to the surrounding area. He proposed for a re-routing of the road to go through a nearby park, with the outlet street becoming Pulaski Road instead. He did acknowledge that it will take significant steps for that to be permitted.

The board also asked Mazzola for an estimate of cars added to the intersection by the plan. His approximate total was between 100 and 125 cars, which Rosen said would probably be lower when commuters were taken into account.

The board also recommended that the project develop some form of added security along the walkway, with Rosen suggesting a "blue light" security system similar to those on college campuses, with phone posts directly linked to the police. Attorney Anthony Guardino, who spoke on behalf of the project developers, said that they would investigate the claim.

An environmental impact statement on the study showed that the new plan will have fewer adverse impacts on the community than the previous plan, and that the potential adverse impacts will be properly mitigated. Specifically, the plan proposes to connect the new homes to the Huntington sewer district plant, reducing any concerns that the new homes will impact the groundwater supply.

Board member Lynn Healy recused herself from the discussion and the vote because of her relationship with the law firm representing the AvalonBay developers.

Site Plans
The other project discussed at length was an site plan review for a proposed sports center around the corner from the Huntington train station at 25 Depot Road. The sports center, titled the "Station Sports Family Fun Center", was granted conditional final site plan approval.

The sports center will have two separate buildings on both sides of Depot Road. The building along the west side will be the main building, with in-game simulations to practice batting and golf swings. The building across the street will have batting cages and a miniature golf course.

The main concern over the project was over where pedestrians would cross Depot Road to travel between facilities, as most of the people using the facilities would be school-aged children. The site plan originally proposed for the crosswalk to be across the middle of Depot Road, but Suffolk County Traffic Safety suggested that they build it at the corner of Depot Road and East 4th Street. The board wanted to make sure that there are adequate signs for both pedestrians and traffic in place so that each is aware of the other's presence, suggesting that they might even want to consider putting in flashing yellow lights to caution drivers.

ZBA Applications
The board recommended the approval of an application from a property at 40 Millet Street in Dix Hills that is set to go before the zoning board of appeals. The owners of the lot want to re-shape the lot from its current hourglass figure into something more suitable.

They were not as supportive of ZBA Application #20239. The application, submitted by the Apex Rehabilitation Center at Birchwood, is seeking, among other things, relief on numerous setbacks on the property. They are seeking additional relief in the front of the lot for parking, as well as to eliminate two homes on the property. 

The parking at the front of the lot was designed to separate the short-term ambulatory patients in the front from the long-term patients in the back. Deputy director of planning and development Robert Riekert told the board that the planning department believed the parking lot would significantly change the character of the area.

The board was also concerned with a proposed increase from 200 beds to 240 beds, since the ZBA currently limits the facility to 200 beds. The property's proposal also plans to increase the size of the facility by 60%.

The application isn't up for ZBA consideration until May 12, so Riekert told the board he would put some of their recommendations together and present them at the next meeting.

Subdivisions
Two subdivision applications were approved. One, for 43 Glen Way Plat, was a preliminary approval for a two-lot subdivision. The existing house will remain in place on the lot, with the remaining lot being a panhandle lot. The board approved the application once they were told that the lot would be putting in a drainage system, something that was a problem with the application in the past.

The other subdivision application approved was for a waiver to expand the Red Barn Estates at the corner of Pulaski Road and Old Bridge Road in East Northport. Rosen recused himelf from the vote.

Next Meeting
There was discussion about changing the date of one of next month's meetings because board member Jane Devine will be unable to attend both regularly scheduled meetings. They unofficially decided to change the May 4 meeting to next Wednesday (April 27).

Marie May 17, 2011 at 04:30 PM
South Huntington residents should pay close attention to ZBA Application #20239 submitted by the Apex Rehabilitation Center at Birchwood . This facility is already very large and in the middle of a residential neighborhood. There is already a cesspool / sewage concern today. Environmental testing is warranted as any passerby can attest. During school hours and at shift changes the traffic to and from the facility is excessive. The entrance and exit is on a blind curve where cars compete with children at play and buses. The town should be clamping down on the existing operation - not allowing an expansion of it. The town should send someone out between the hours of 3 and 5pm to visit the facility on Birchwood Drive before entertaining this permit.

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