Armed with clipboards, pens and a large map, East Moriches and Eastport residents have been standing outside shops and delis for about two weeks, soliciting signatures on a petition that seeks to compel lawmakers to study the potential impact of several proposed and planned developments in their hamlets.
They plan to submit the signatures to the Brookhaven Town Planning Board on Monday, November 23, and to the Brookhaven Town Board on Tuesday, November 24. Ultimately, they hope that Town Board members will order an environmental study that will gauge the impact of the projects as a whole. Typically, such studies only take into consideration the effects of developments individually. It is hoped that the study would look at the cumulative impacts of the projects on traffic, noise, the environment and school taxes.
Eastport resident Andrea Spilka, who noted that residents began collecting signatures on November 8, explained that they want to have the study consider three developments currently under review by the town along with a handful of other projects that have already been given the green light. Combined, the projects could add an additional 800 homes to the area.
While the Brookhaven Town Board would need to approve a cumulative study, Ms. Spilka said they planned to submit the petition to the Planning Board as well to demonstrate community members’ concerns. “What we’re really doing, in my mind, is putting the Planning Board on notice as to what the community really wants, to look at all the proposed developments together,” she said.
The developments still being considered include Eastport Meadows, a proposed 70-home subdivision on 97 acres off County Road 51 in Eastport. Under the proposal, 45 acres would remain open space and 10 acres would be given to the town for the construction of ballfields. The Planning Board is expected to hold a public hearing on the proposal on Monday.
Another development of concern is the Eastport Hamlet Centre, which includes a mix of office and retail buildings, including 78 townhouses and 75,000 square feet of commercial space on about 13 acres on Eastport Manor Road, across from the King Kullen shopping center. In order to build the project, the developer is asking the Town Board for a change of zone of the property to a planned development district, a special kind of zoning that is formulated for an individual project.
The third development, the Hamptons Club, calls for 119 townhouses to be built on 79 acres on County Road 111 in Manorville. Although the developer was granted approval to build 64 single-family homes on the property in 2007, and began construction last year, this past September the builder filed a new application with the Town Board asking for a change of zone to allow for the increased density.
Developments that have already been approved include Heritage Square, a 408-unit senior housing development on County Road 51 in East Moriches, and The Oaks, also on County Road 51, where the developer has been granted the right to build 62 homes. The town and county are in negotiations to preserve The Oaks property as open space. In addition to that, another project, called Eastport Meadows, could create 50 senior units on Seatuck Avenue.
Members of the East Moriches Property Owners Association first asked Town Board members at a meeting on September 29 to lump all the developments together and conduct a cumulative study. But because the board has not acted on the request, Jim Gleason, a member of the board of directors of the association, said the group will request that the Planning Board order a site-specific environmental impact study of Eastport Meadows as part of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). He said the request will be made during a public hearing on the project at Monday’s meeting at Town Hall.
Tullio Bertoli, commissioner of Brookhaven Town’s Department of Planning, Environment and Land Management, declined to offer an opinion on a cumulative study, but said he felt most of the concerns raised by residents would be addressed through the Eastport Meadows application.
“I think in general what I’d like to see is the process play itself out,” Mr. Bertoli said. “I believe wholeheartedly in the SEQRA process, and I think that the concerns of the residents will be heard on the first project, Eastport Meadows.”
So far, the public has reacted well to the petition, Ms. Spilka said, noting that residents have garnered about 700 signatures. The petition is also available on the East Moriches group’s website at sites.google.com/site/empoaweb.
“The overwhelming majority of people ... want to sign on,” Ms. Spilka said, while soliciting signatures in front of the King Kullen in Eastport on Monday. “It’s rare that people aren’t concerned.”
As people walked in and out of the grocery store, Ms. Spilka called them over and pointed to a large map of the proposed developments, which were outlined and shaded, and marked by pink Post-it notes indicating the number of homes each development would yield.