By Jano Tantongco
Residents are squaring off with a pair of business owners who want to build a senior center with 166 apartments on Deer Park Avenue in Dix Hills, a proposal that requires zone changes some residents have said could be “precedent setting.”
Anthony Natale and Mark Palumbo, owners of Island Design and Garden Country Nursery, defended against residents’ claims, saying they believe the proposal could improve the community and reduce commercial activity in the area.
“We’re not adding to the school districts because seniors don’t go to grammar schools,” said Natale, adding that the proposal could bring in an estimated $700,000 in property taxes, with 60 percent going to the school district. “You have to remember that this is a residential use, this is not a commercial use.”
Natale and Palumbo jointly own the lot at 482 Deer Park Ave., which is currently zoned residential, and which is currently occupied by Island Design, Garden Country Nursery and a tenant, Bella Casa Floral Design.
Natale said the businessmen would lease their property to Brightview Senior Living, which operate senior centers across the east coast.
The proposed 174,557-square-foot, three-story senior center would also be built on two adjacent lots, both of which are currently occupied by Bissett Nursery. Ellen DeRiggi, an attorney for Bissett Nursery, said the company plans to continue business and expand its Holtsville location, but has no plans to transfer “operations” from Dix Hills.
According to Natale, Brightview has plans to buy Bissett’s lots, which are located directly north of Natale’s and Palumbo’s property.
In order to move forward, Natale and Palumbo need the Huntington Town Board to approve zone changes for all three lots to residential health services, which permits assisted living facilities, nursing homes and life-care communities. The board is expected to host a public hearing on the proposal at 2 p.m., July 12, at Huntington Town Hall.
“We’re in our 60s now, we always knew that sooner or later, something would be developed on this property,” Natale said. “This company is actually doing the right thing by purchasing two pieces instead of cramming it on one piece.”
Nearby residents disagree, however.
A Change.org petition opposed to the proposal has emerged and garnered 382 signatures out of a targeted 500, as of deadline Friday.
Gail Jospa, who lives on Tiana Place just south of the site, is one of the residents who organized the petition. She said that, except for a handful of residents, “nobody wants” the proposal to move forward.
Jospa, a 47-year resident, said that any tax benefit potential raked in by the project would be offset because property values would decline if the zoning district was changed. Even if tax benefits were accrued, she said, she would still oppose it based on protecting the residential character of the neighborhood.
“We voted the town officials in to protect us, not to find some rules to bring in more money into the town,” Jospa said.
Further, Jospa called the potential zone changes “precedent-setting,” believing they could cause a domino effect leading to other rezonings in the neighborhood.