By Danny Schrafel
The Huntington Planning Board recommended the town board order a full review of potential environmental impacts tied to a nearly half-million square-foot commercial project eyed for approximately 56 acres along Jericho Turnpike in Elwood.
The recommendation, approved by the planning board at its Sept. 10 meeting, was ratified six days later by the Huntington Town Board. The only dissenting vote was Councilman Mark Cuthbertson.
“There is a finding that there is the potential for significant adverse environmental impacts from the proposed project,” town spokesman A.J. Carter said Friday.
Across the street, three shop owners at the Dix Hills Shopping Center – Spuntino Restaurant, Dix Hills Hot Bagels and Price Rite Wine & Liquor Shop – all in the Dix Hills Shopping Center – have retained the Weber Law Group ahead of the environmental review. Attorney Mort Weber said attorney Jason Stern will serve as counsel representing the businesses.
Weber said the businesses have “general” concerns about traffic, environmental and health issues tied to the project. Previously, at a community meeting related to the project in March 2013, a co-owner of Spuntino raised concerns about negative impacts on the Dix Hills Shopping Center by over saturating the area with retail.
However, until the environmental review begins, Weber declined to get into specifics, saying those more precise concerns would crystallize during the SEQRA process.
“Depending on what parameters they put in the process, we will then participate in that process and make our concerns known,” Weber said.
Great Neck-based developer Kouros Torkan, of the Villadom Corporation, hopes to build a 486,380 square-foot, two-story commercial structure, which is to include a 90,000 square-foot health club and a 40,000 square-foot supermarket, 180,680 square feet of retail food service and 129,800 square feet of office space on approximately 56 acres. The property may also become site to the Elwood Public Library, Anthony Aloisio, the town’s planning director, said during the Sept. 10 planning board meeting.
The largest structure will be situated on the rear of the property, parallel to Jericho Turnpike, according to plans. Five smaller, standalone commercial “pod” buildings are planned closer to the road, which would require variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals because town code only allows one building per lot. The proposal also includes 373 underground garage spaces, 1,283 surface parking spaces and 273 land-banked spaces, according to an expanded environmental assessment by VHB Engineering dated March 2014.
According to the environmental assessment, the project, if developed, would generate over $4 million in annual tax revenues, with more than $3 million of that going to the Elwood School District.
To get to that point, though, Villadom must address the town’s concerns about traffic, the use of parking garages, the five “pad” sites along Jericho Turnpike, construction on steep slopes, loss of open space, conflicts with the town’s Comprehensive Plan and the possibility that a 50-acre parcel to the east may also be rezoned in similar fashion in the future.
Elwood school board vice-president Dan Ciccone said the district will closely monitor the project. The school board recently opposed a zone-change proposal, adopted Aug. 19, that cleared the way for The Seasons at Elwood, a 256-unit, 55-and-over community to be built by Engel Burman Group.
“We have a concern on the scale of the project, but to date that has not been made clear to the board of education by either the developer or the Huntington town officials,” he said Monday.