Community urges against housing vote

Story By: JENNIFER KATE
1/24/2013


A number of residents and civic leaders — one after another — aired concerns Tuesday that Brookhaven leaders would rush to a vote on a number of land-use changes included in a multi-family housing proposal. 

Next generation housing is described by planners as mixed-use zoning to create pedestrian-friendly developments near transportation hubs in an effort to reduce suburban sprawl. Other proposals tackled multi-family housing and zoning and preservation in the Central Pine Barrens district and along the Carmans River watershed.

John Sicignano, president of the Mastic Park Civic Association, questioned what he and some other residents consider a rush in judgment by the town to pass the code changes. “You can’t leave the public out when you make broad stroke changes to the codes,” he said. “Whatever they write today we have to live with tomorrow.” He also questioned why the town wants to allow for such a large increase in units per acre in the changes.

“Right now they allow three units to an acre but this will allow for 12 to14 units. Why go so high?”

Kathleen Madigan of Yaphank also spoke to officials about what she deemed “unexplained pressure to pass these changes.”  Madigan addressed the board, stating, “The most disturbing thing to me is the urgency to pass it. You’re not all going to turn into pumpkins if this thing isn’t ramrodded through tonight.” 

The Open Space Council also weighed in on the proposal.

“The overarching concern [the Open Space Council] has with the housing proposals is that there is no complementary proposal that would address ongoing sprawl development, a component that is critical to offset the environmental impacts higher density will bring,” according to the council’s statement provided to a reporter.

Not everyone was against the proposal, though.

Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island spoke in support of the code changes, citing Long Island for more affordable multi-family housing.  

“Not everyone’s lifestyle is suited for a single-family home,” he said. Alexander explained that although these changes are just part of the recipe to bring affordable housing to Brookhaven, the residents of these communities would have to ultimately agree to bring it in. “It could sit on the shelf if no community ever agrees to it, but it may be a useful tool for housing options.”

Councilwoman Connie Kepert disagreed with any claims the proposal was being rushed along.

“I wouldn’t say there is a rush, but we have interested developers. Normally we would have one hearing, but we have had two and a special hearing,” she said. “I am going to try to move it forward; it is essential for communities like North Bellport.”  

Supervisor Ed Romaine said he believes Kepert sincerely thinks next generation housing is the best thing for the town but he has “grave concerns which I will address when I cast my vote.”

However, Brookhaven Councilman Daniel Panico, a co-sponsor of the multi-family resolution and representing the 6th District, pointed out that although the town was looking to vote on code changes, that an actual vote for zoning changes would be introduced as a new resolution. “It would come back before the town. This is not going to get voted on tonight,” he said.

Many residents resonated similar concerns as Madigan and Sicignano and pointed out the urgent need for jobs on Long Island as opposed to more housing. Madigan and others implored the board to work on projects to create more jobs first and fix existing problems within the town before opening the door to new development. “It’s not that we don’t have places to live. It’s that we don’t have places to work,” Madigan said. 

The public has 10 days to write in comments on these changes and the expected vote will take place at the next town board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 5.