By Jano Tantongco
Melville residents gathered to voice their opinions against variances for a proposed 15,000-square-foot addition of two buildings for mixed-use and restaurants proposed for the Melville Mall at a public hearing at the Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on Jan. 19.
The applicant, Federal Realty Investment Trust, wants to construct two buildings that are connected as one. The larger building would be 10,700 square feet and the other would be 4,300 square feet, according to Michael McCarthy, the attorney representing Federal Realty.
McCarthy, who spoke at the public hearing, said the buildings would share an open plaza space and would serve as a “pad site” for the existing commercial center.
“Consumers, they want a different experience. They want to be able to go and they want to be able to have an experience. That’s the goal here,” McCarthy said. “Anyone that’s familiar with the subject property knows that that parking lot is empty. The shopping center is old.”
The application requires a special use permit, a variance for lot coverage and a parking variance for 10 percent.
Out of 14 speakers after the applicant, 12 opposed the project, mainly due to concerns about traffic, congestion and safety for children.
Leslie Wolff, a resident of the Country Village at Melville, which abuts the property to the north, said there were three previous attempts to expand at the Melville Mall, but were all struck down by the ZBA. She said the square footage of the current plan is “more than all of the previously denied applications combined.”
“The application that is before you is an unconscionable, egregious and flagrant disregard of this board’s prior findings,” Wolff said. “We all know that they can expand the existing building as of right, but they choose not to. Instead, they choose to build in the same location that has been denied three times previously.”
One supporter at the hearing was Matt Mears, owner of card and gift store Write Stuff & More, which is located in the Melville Mall.
He said his family has owned the business for almost a decade, but it’s been there for about 30 years.
“I am not here to oppose this plan, I’m actually here to advocate for it because, as a small business owner, I see tremendous benefit from the adding of other potentially small businesses and restaurants to the shopping center,” Mears said. “I see a future where this buzzword ‘synergy’ can actually become a reality.”
After the hearings, the ZBA closed the hearing and tabled the matter.