Residents of had to divide their time on Thursday night between a Brookhaven Town board meeting where members were set to advance discussions on the Carmans River Plan and the Comsewogue School District budget meeting, two issues people deem important to the future of the community.
While it had been reported by the Port Jefferson Station\Terryville Civic Association on its website that Town Supervisor Mark Lesko took all potential receiving sites from the hamlet of Port Jefferson Station out of the plan earlier in the month, community members showed up anyway to make sure.
Initially, properties like the to trade development rights credits from properties along the Carmans River to build high density, multifamily housing. While Heatherwood was removed from the plan, alternate properties from a list of eligible sites remained, including a wooded area behind , the old and some property in the near the , close to .
Town Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, who represents the 1st Council District that encompasses Port Jefferson Station, confirmed that Lesko removed the plan from consideration at the board meeting.
“He withdrew it,” he said in a phone interview on Friday morning.
Fiore-Rosenfeld admitted that he was unsure if it meant the plan was actually dead in the water or will be revived later on.
The biggest problem the Councilman said he had with the plan was the lack of transparency and public input. Although he said he usually sees eye-to-eye with the conservationists who developed the plan, he had a hard time with this proposal viewing it as a boon for the builders eyeing the list of properties.
"They left out one important component: the public," he said. "If that had passed it would have turned lead into gold for those developers. Ultimately the public said 'no thank you.'"
Fiore-Rosenfeld said that he’s worked out an alternative plan with fellow board members that breaks the initiative apart into three separate pieces of legislation and involves a full public comment period. He is also trying to make it so that no designated areas are rezoned into multifamily housing specifically as a result of the preservation of the Carmans River.
One resident said that she still has mixed feelings about the plan.
“I am very relieved that Port Jefferson Station will not be burdened with 840 new housing units especially given our current school budget issues,” Christa Yamanita wrote in response to a question posed by Patch. “I am concerned though as to what will happen to those families that would have occupied those units.”
Yamanita said that she thought that instead of high-density housing, a better alternative would be garden style apartment complexes in several towns across Brookhaven.
“No one town will be over burdened and the affordable housing will still be available to those who need it,” she said.
For some there was no choice of which meeting to attend and they had to split their time between meetings. That included Comsewogue Superintendent Joseph Rella who showed up for the Town Board meeting and then dashed off to be at the budget meeting by 7:30 p.m. in the High School auditorium.
At the second meeting, community members discussed the changes to the proposed school budget. When a survey done by the school showed that respondents would not support , the administration announced it was that brought the district in at a conforming 2.6 percent tax levy.
Before the meeting, a community Facebook page heated up with people arguing to either hold the line at the state mandated cap or to push past it in the name of preserving the school’s current level of education.
According to estimates, three quarters of the 1,200 seat capacity auditorium was filled with residents on both sides of the issue although some saw the room tilted in favor of the higher budget proposal.
, a former school board member who attended the meeting, said that although he’s for the higher budget, he’s also sympathetic to those who oppose it.
“I am for the 4.5 percent budget increase. I will do whatever it takes financially for my children,” Ruddy said in an email on Friday morning. “But I also respect other families that cannot.”
He estimated that 70 percent of the people who came out to the meeting were for the 4.5 percent increase.
“What that will equate to come the vote, I don't know,” he said.
After hearing the public comments, the school board will meet to discuss which budget will go up for a vote on May 15.