The bill would expand the grounds for opposing land use claims for neighboring towns and villages
A bill that would give towns and villages a new foundation to tackle some land use claims and zoning issues in neighboring municipalities is expected to be heard publicly Tuesday night in the Suffolk County Legislature.
Bill, sponsored by Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), would apply to cases before the county planning commission. It was brought in after months of an intermunicipal dispute over a large subdivision application for the 75-acre Gyrodyne property on North Country Road, which is in the town of Smithtown but near Head of the Harbor Village and the town of Brookhaven. Leaders in those municipalities criticized the demand, which could bring a hotel, assisted living facility and offices to the property, as outrageous for the region.
Under current county rules, a municipality can only oppose zoning actions and ordinances in an adjacent municipality if they relate to land within 500 feet of the common border.
The proposed law would expand the grounds for opposition to include applications involving certain special permits, exemptions, subdivisions and site plans.
An objection to the proposed action triggers a public hearing of the Planning Commission. Ten town planning commissioners are expected to vote to uphold the opposition from the neighboring municipality. The originating municipality can override the planning commission, but only by a qualified majority vote on a resolution explaining its reasons.
Projects with cross-border complications besides Gyrodyne have included the construction of big box stores on Commack Road near the Smithtown-Huntington border and Heartland Town Square of 9,000 units, which is in Islip but faced the Huntington’s opposition.
Smithtown’s lead planner Allyson Murray said the bill could have implications for Gyrodyne’s candidacy if passed. Head of the Harbor or Brookhaven “might object to the final subdivision application or to any site plan, special exception or derogation within 500 feet of their boundary, and such objection would prompt the County Planning Commission to hold a public hearing before rendering a decision. ”
Mitch Pally, CEO of Long Island Builders Institute, a major trade association for home builders, said in written testimony to the legislature that the group was “very concerned” about the possible consequences of the bill and called for the place for a thorough examination of the relationship between the commission and the zoning powers of towns and villages.
“This issue has basically been under the radar for many, many years,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “What role should the commission have, what process should it follow, what capacity should it have to allow neighboring municipalities to influence the votes of the commission and [other] municipalities? “
The bill has garnered qualified support from the Three Village Civic Association and We Are Smithtown, civic groups whose leaders have been among the strongest opponents of Gyrodyne’s candidacy.
George Hoffman, president of the Three Village Civic Association, called the bill a “good, solid start” to better regional planning.
“We can’t have that kind of nimbyism of cities that are developing and don’t care what happens to adjacent cities,” he said. He said he also wanted changes to be made to the composition of the commission to dilute what he called the “big influence” of the construction industry. The commission has 15 members, one for each town in Suffolk, plus two for the villages and three in general.
All are appointed by the county supervisor and confirmed by the legislature. At least four members have connections to building or real estate, according to biographies on the commission’s webpage.