By Connor Beach
The Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals was forced to adjourn a public hearing Thursday night on developers’ plans to construct a four-story, 84-unit luxury apartment building in Huntington village because there were too many people.
Hundreds of Huntington residents converged on town hall for the hearing on a proposed 271,000-square-foot building that would require the demolition and re-construction of five lots fronting Main Street, Gerard Street and Stewart Avenue.
A capacity crowd packed into the town board meeting room, and ZBA chairman John Posillico estimated some 300 more overflowed into the hallways.
Huntington-based attorney Jim Margolin, who is representing the project’s developer John Kean and property owner Alan Fromkin, began the hearing with an in-depth presentation on the proposed development. After about 45 minutes Posillico told the audience the hearing would have to be postponed because the lone speaker for those listening in the hallway had stopped working.
Posillico said the people in the hallways outside of the town board room would not be able to participate in the public hearing if they could not hear what was being said. He added that if the meeting continued its legality could be questioned, and a court could order a “do over.”
“I know you’re all here; I know the presenter is hear ready to present,” Posillico said. “But if it is irregular in the way that it is now we can’t have full participation because people can’t hear what’s going on.”
Many in the audience had signed up to speak against the proposed development, which would require seven variances from the ZBA, including for building height and parking relief.
In an interview Monday, Kean said the proposed mix-used building would include retail and restaurant space in addition to the apartments. Plans also call for a 127-space, below-grade parking garage on the Gerard Street side of the development.
Members of Save Huntington Village, a group of residents opposed to what they say is the overdevelopment of Huntington village, sent out a mailing earlier this month encouraging people to attend the ZBA hearing and oppose the development.
Bob Suter, a member of the group, said members of Save Huntington Village also handed out around 170 signs at an event on Jan. 19.
“A lot of people where quite angry,” Suter said. “This latest development turns the whole concept of small town on its head.”
The building’s height and a parking deficiency of 135 spaces are chief among the issues cited by opponents of the project.
Kean said the properties currently carry a 392-space parking variance from the ZBA, and the decreased retail and restaurant space in the proposed building would actually improve the parking situation.
In addition, Kean said the proposed building would not exceed the 45-foot height limit mandated under town code. The project is considered four stories because town code counts a parking garage as a floor, even though parking garage will function like a walkout basement along Gerard Street, according to Kean.
“On Main Street you’re not going to see much of a change at all,” Kean said. “You are going to see a change on Stewart and Gerard, but we’re going to do it in a motif that’s in keeping with what Huntington looks like.”
Kean said, if constructed, the building would “enhance” Huntington village by increasing the number of people within walking distance of shops and restaurants in the downtown area without increasing traffic.
“I don’t want to do anything that’s going to ruin our town, but retail is dying and main streets are hurting,” Kean said.
The ZBA voted unanimously to adjourn the meeting. Posillico said the meeting would be rescheduled at “an appropriate venue” as soon as possible.