By Jano Tantongco
A proposed 486,000-square-foot mall in Elwood has been sent back to the planning board after the town board concluded the developer’s request to amend the town’s comprehensive plan needs to follow certain procedural steps.
At its Dec. 8 meeting, the town board was scheduled to hold a public hearing on a zoning modification, changes to the town’s comprehensive plan and the environmental impact related to developer Syndicated Ventures’ proposal, called Elwood Orchards.
But, after further review, the town board realized it was skipping a step by considering all of these elements in one public hearing, said town spokesman A.J. Carter. New York State Law requires two public hearings to be held to consider amendments to a town’s comprehensive plan.
Now, the planning board will draft an amendment to the comprehensive plan for consideration by the town board.
“The [planning] board will consider the mechanics of changing the comprehensive plan,” Carter said. “At this point, they’re early in the process.”
The project would build upon an undeveloped 56-acre parcel on Jericho Turnpike between Manor Lane and Warner Road.
Craig Turner, principal planner in the planning department of the Town of Huntington, said that the initial plan prompted the town board to issue a “positive declaration” in September 2014. This means that the town board determined that the plan has potential to adversely affect the environment. Therefore, it was necessary for the applicant to produce a Draft Environmental Impact Statement. It was also found that the project was inconsistent with the Horizons 2020 Comprehensive Plan, according to town board records.
The planning board is now waiting for a traffic study to be conducted by consulting firm Greenman-Pedersen to determine how they will formulate the amendment.
“Retail and commercial development tends to be a high-traffic generator,” said Turner. “It’s already on Jericho Turnpike, which is already a busy corridor.”
Once the draft amendment is complete, the planning board will hold a public hearing on the matter. Then, the town board will hold another public hearing that will address the DEIS, the proposed zoning change and the comprehensive plan amendment.
Out of the proposed 56 acres, 49.3 acres would be rezoned from R-40 residential and C-6 general business zoning districts to a C-5 planned shopping center zoning district. The remaining 6.7 acres will be subdivided from the rest of the property and will keep its R-40 zoning and single-family residential use, according to the DEIS.
Also introduced in the latest version of the DEIS submitted by Syndicated Ventures is a reduced density alternative that would downsize the scope of the mall to 392,975 square feet. The planning board may opt to recommend this alternative, but the final decision rests with the town board.
“Most of the environmental impact gets reduced as the project reduces,” noted Turner.
Each plan includes a proposed 15,000 square feet of space for the Elwood Public Library within the mall building, which would increase the size of the library by 67 percent and give it a permanent home. Until now, it has been leasing property, said Susan Goldberg, director of the library.
She added that no final deal has been struck and that they are currently still in negotiations with Syndicated Ventures.