Huntington, NY

Zoning Change Foes Pack Town Board Meeting

Pam Robinson

Dozens of residents spoke Tuesday at a Huntington Town Board meeting against a zoning change on apartments, although the proposal itself was not on the agenda.

The Town Board had voted unanimously last month to have a public hearing on a resolution that would have allowed the Planning Board to grant special use permits for residential apartment buildings that are within 1,500 feet from one of the town’s five hamlet center boundaries and within the C-6 General Business or C-6 Huntington Station Overlay District.

On Tuesday, the proposal itself was not voted on; instead, the board voted 3-2 to cancel a public hearing. Council members Gene Cook, Mark Cuthbertson and Joan Cergol voted to pull the hearing off the agenda; Councilman Ed Smyth and Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci voted to keep it on.

The decision to put the withdrawal of the hearing onto the meeting agenda was made at the morning Town Board workshop.

But many residents who oppose apartment buildings and other developments around Huntington arrived at the Town Board meeting to make clear their views.

The proposal itself had made it onto the agenda through a Planning Department request; Cuthbertson sponsored it onto the agenda.

Cuthbertson, Cook and Cergol all said last week that they supported public hearings, but residents had made their opposition so clear that there was no reason to pursue the resolution.

Smyth, in a Facebook posting between the workshop and the hearing, wrote that the proposal, “would dramatically expand apartment building development, which our roads, sewers, parking and infrastructure cannot sustain. “Nevertheless, as a proponent of transparency in government and public participation, I feel it is important for my colleagues on the Town Board who are pushing for this monumental change to the zoning code to hear the public’s opinions.”

Attorney Thomas A. Abbate, representing a client with a property, wrote to Town Board members last week, saying, “…the Code Amendment arose from unique circumstances affecting a property in which my client has an interest.

“After engaging in further review of the language of the ordinance vis a vis the site, I write to you now to respectfully request that the proposed amendment be withdrawn” from the Town Board agenda.”

But town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo, in response to a question last week, said, “A legally scheduled and noticed public hearing cannot be cancelled without a Town Board vote. This is not a zone change application, where a letter from the applicant withdrawing the application would in effect unschedule it; this is a proposed zoning code amendment — there is no application to withdraw.”

Residents’ opposition to the zoning change centered on parking, traffic jams, overbuilding, potential overcrowding of schools, beach pollution, a decline in property values, and an erosion of a suburban lifestyle. There were multiple references to the need to prevent Huntington from turning into Queens. A flyer mailed to some residents last week blamed recent closings of beaches because of bacteria in the waters on the increase of apartments.

Several social media posts made reference to the political futures of town officials–Smyth is the Republican candidate for town supervisor, while Cook, also a Republican but running on the Stop LIPA line for supervisor. Cuthbertson, the most senior member of the board and a Democrat, is running for the Suffolk County Legislature.

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