A proposed plan to preserve land near the Carmans River by transferring development rights on those parcels to other properties around Brookhaven drew a crowd of angry residents to the Town Board meeting on Tuesday evening.
Port Jefferson Station residents were happy to ultimately learn that Heatherwood Golf Club was not on the list, although some other properties in the hamlet are still being considered.
Many showed up at Town Hall in Farmingville to protest the offering up of Heatherwood as eligible for development into high density housing to replace land in a core area around the Carmans River that Brookhaven needs to acquire. According to Town Councilman Steven Fiore-Rosenfeld “half of (the property) is in and half is in Three Village School District.”
Applause erupted from the packed room when Supervisor Mark Lesko said the golf club was not on the list of sites considered in the plan for development in exchange for acquired land in key areas near the river.
He did warn that the property owner of the golf course wants to explore options to develop the site and that he told the owner he’d have to take it to the local civic associations first.
“It’s a big, important piece of property,” Lesko said.
Although the Heatherwood property was off the table, other parcels in Port Jefferson Station remained in the plan. The alternate properties from a list of 34 eligible sites in the plan include the wooded area behind , the old and some property in the near the , close to .
Owners of properties in designated areas around the Carmans River purchased by the Town under the plan would be given developer credits. These so-called, “Pine Barrens Credits” would then be able to be sold off by the recipients to developers to build on selected properties around Brookhaven, rezoned for multifamily unit housing.
“What we’re trying to do here is save a river,” said Lesko who used the fate of the another Long Island river as an example. “Forge River is essentially a dead river.”
According to a fact sheet presented at the meeting, 34 sites throughout Brookhaven in all six council districts will be eligible for the development of multi-unit housing. The density of housing would be anywhere from a base of three units per acre up to a maximum of 10.5 units per acre. Lesko said at the meeting that the sites total about 566 acres, just .003 percent of the Brookhaven’s total land acreage of 165,000.
Most of the sites, Lesko said, are either "blighted or partially disturbed properties" and located in commercial areas, downtowns or around train stations.
Lesko promised that the affordable component of the multifamily housing will be genuinely affordable.
“For people just starting out to get housing they can afford,” he said.
Port Jefferson/Terryville Civic Association member Laurie Green said in an email that, although Heatherwood Golf Course has been spared, she doesn’t consider one neighborhood more important than any other.
“We are eager to work with the town and strive to be part of the process in a reasonable and respectful manner,” she said. “Our goal is not to shift the problem elsewhere whether it be inside our hamlet or outside.”
She encouraged the Town Board to vote against the Carmans River Plan saying it was “severely flawed” and will only “shift the problem elsewhere.” Money being used to purchase land could be reallocated into other areas.
“Why not put it towards addressing the chronic homelessness that currently affects every single community in the Town of Brookhaven,” she said.
Members of the Carmans River Study Group had the opportunity to pitch their reasons why the plan should be adopted at the meeting.
Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, called the plan to save the river “truly historic.”
While he noted community members' issues with taxes and multifamily housing, he said that every piece of land in the study was negotiable.
“If you have a problem, fix it,” he said. “But don’t foreclose the opportunity tonight.”
Lesko said that the Town Board was not adopting the plan at the meeting and it was just “the start of the process.” The sites were not final and could be changed, calling the list the “first cut.”
“It’s not written in stone,” he said.
Adoption of a final version of the plan is set for June. The Town Board will review the plan at the next Town Board meeting on March 29.
Kevin Martinez who lives on Janet Street in Port Jefferson Station, across the street from Heatherwood Golf Club, said he was “ecstatic” when he heard it was off the table.
His major concern was the impact developing that space would have on wildlife. The open space was one of the biggest reasons he moved there.
“I see more than 100 geese land there every morning,” he said. “I see owls, blackbirds and rabbits.”
Martinez’s elementary school-aged daughter Nina accompanied him to the Town Board meeting because she had the same concerns. She said that she cried when she heard the news because she loves all the animals she sees living around the property.
“I was afraid of where they were going to go,” she said.
Port Jefferson Station resident, Tim Granito said he thinks Brookhaven has already been burdened with more than its fair share of workforce housing with Port Jefferson Station being particularly targeted for these types of projects as of late.
“Within a quarter mile we have two proposed high density housing projects,” he said referring to the Carmans River Plan sites and the recent .
Granito said that developers are making money building workforce housing but there’s no place for the people who are going to occupy them to work.
“What employers are they bringing in?” he asked. “Where is this workforce required?”