By Jano Tantongco
No tax breaks have been approved for the 486,000-square-foot mixed-use shopping center proposed for Jericho Turnpike in Elwood.
Despite multiple reports stating $18.8 million in tax breaks were approved by the Suffolk Industrial Development Agency for the proposal, developer Kouros Torkan said Tuesday that he has no plans to submit such a request.
According to Tourkan, the Suffolk IDA reached out to him to apply for tax breaks in May 2013. He applied and was given preliminary approval, but it represents no commitment from the agency, according to Suffolk IDA Executive Director Anthony Catapano.
It was later determined that the project would not qualify for such incentives since, Catapano said, the Suffolk IDA only grants abatements for projects that are less than one-third retail.
Plans for the Elwood Orchard shopping center, which has been proposed for the 49.28-acre site at the northeast corner of Jericho Turnpike and Manor Road, currently include an allotment of two-third retail space and one-third office and/or medical space.
As per town code, the required off-street parking for the site would total 2,180 spaces. The plan provides 2,249 spots.
Torkan lauded the design of the proposed shopping center, and also cited benefits like job creation and a bolstered tax base for the local economy if it is approved.
The project’s November 2015 draft environmental impact statement details that approximately 750 construction jobs, and 950 permanent jobs, would be created. The project is also estimated to generate $4.06 million per year in tax revenue, with $3.03 million for the Elwood Union Free School District.
In order for the plan to move forward, Torkan, who is the president of development company Syndicated Ventures, needs the Huntington Town Board to approve two zone changes, and an amendment to the town’s Horizons 2020 Comprehensive Plan.
First, the Huntington Planning Board is seeking public input on the proposal during a public hearing at its June 22 meeting, slated for 7 p.m. at Huntington Town Hall. The planning board is also expected to finalize its recommendation on the project for the town board.
The project also includes a reduced density alternative, which would scale down the proposed shopping center to 392,975 square feet. The Huntington Planning Board could recommend this alternative, but the the town board will ultimately determine which version of the plan, if any, is approved.
Currently, the town’s comprehensive plan identifies Jericho Turnpike as congested, with “very high” traffic levels.
Local community members have taken issue with a potential change to the town’s comprehensive plan.
An online petition has been created by a group called Citizens for Protection of Residential Zoning in the Town of Huntington. Laura DiGrande, organizer of the group, said she was “one of many who are very much against this.” The petition had 1,473 signatures as of Tuesday’s deadline.
“This attempt to change the comprehensive plan, change the zoning and allow this megamall to go into place is really flying in the face of the vision of the Town of Huntington,” said DiGrande, who lives south of the site.
The comprehensive plan specifically identifies the “R-40 single-family residential zone between Warner Road and Manor Road” as providing a “significant break in the predominantly commercial land use pattern of the corridor.”
It goes on to say the future design for this corridor should limit the “intensity of development” to improve “traffic flow, land use patterns and visual character.”
DiGrande added that another main concern for the project was the potential traffic impact of the project.
A traffic study on the proposal was conducted, and analyzed by engineering firm Greenman-Pedersen, as per request of the Huntington Planning Board. The analysis found concerns about potential “spillbacks” of traffic, and a potential congestion in front of nearby residential driveways. But, it also found that trip generation estimates to be “acceptable.”
DiGrande called the lack of tax breaks “good news,” but reiterated that she believes amendment of the comprehensive plan is the central issue.