Green light for Bayport apartments
Artist rendering of the new Fairway Manor apartments.

SCN/Chalifoux

Green light for Bayport apartments

Story By: RICK CHALIFOUX
8/3/2017


BAYPORT—At the latest Islip Town Change of Zone meeting, the board unanimously voted to recommend a longstanding, contentious application by Fairway Manor Inc. for apartments in Bayport, despite comments from some local residents and community leaders who feel that the application is encroaching on 21.5 acres of deeded open space that they claim were never even meant to be developed in the first place.

The request was for a change of zone from Recreation Service G District and Residence C District to all Residence C District for property located on the east side of John Avenue, just south of Sunrise Highway. The property itself consists of six parcels totaling 45.6 acres. The entire property consists of 550 apartments, while the applicant is seeking to add 156 more on 26 acres of land on the western portion.

The applicant originally received approval in 1991 to construct 394 senior citizen apartments on 26.3 acres. Meanwhile, the remaining 19.45 acres were planned to be either developed as a nine-hole golf course or to be left in its natural state with limited recreation areas for residents of the property (this section was rezoned to Recreation Service G). However, an application was submitted in 1995 looking to modify the zoning line between the Residence C zone and the RSG zone in which 20 additional units were requested, but no formal decision was ever made.

In 1998, another application was submitted. Afterwards, the town board made a decision that modified the zoning line and provided 24.33 acres for the apartments in the Residence C section and 21.42 acres for the RSG portion. The board also approved a request that reduced the number of affordable units from 20 percent to 10 percent of the apartments. Then, in 2005, yet another application was made to rezone the RSG area of the site to residence CA in order to build 118 new units. The applicants subsequently withdrew that application.

Back in late 2014, another application took the issue a step further, asking for a change of zone from RSG to Residence CA as well as a modification of the covenants that limit the number of units on the overall property in order to build 260 new units. Although the unit density on the RSG portion of the site is 12 per acre, the applicant proposed to meet this density by classifying 65 of the units as affordable. While these units would not have been age-restriction by code, the applicant indicated that they – by covenant – would require at least one tenant to be 55 or older and ensure that no schoolchildren (aged 19 and under) would be added to both the Bayport-Blue Point School District and the nearby Sachem School District.

Ultimately, this past May, the planning board unanimously voted to recommend the application.

Donald Rettaliata – the Holbrook-based attorney representing the applicant – noted at the latest meeting that the applicant agreed to pay the town $1.2 million so that they could possibly buy other property or improve parks in the hamlet of Bayport, and give $300,000 to the local school district. He also stated that the application’s merits are better than ever and that the town would be able to monitor its ongoing development.

“The planning commissioner at the planning board meetings indicated that the covenants are stronger now than they were in past versions, and that they will be specific and strong enough to give the town control of the situation during the site plan review,” said Rettaliata.

In response to previously voiced concerns about traffic, Walter Dunn, of Westhampton Beach-based Dunn Engineering, testified that the new units would have a “beneficial impact” from both a traffic and engineering standpoint.

“In essence, our plan is to not have any access that would go through the residential communities to the south,” said Dunn.

Dunn stated that his team had conducted studies comparing the impact of the amount of vehicles generated by the previously approved nine-hole golf course with that of the 156 senior citizens in the current application.

“[Studies] showed that in both the a.m., p.m., and Saturday afternoon peak hours that the golf course would generate more traffic,” said Dunn, who noted that over 70 existing apartments already depend “solely” on a jitney service provided by the development to “reduce the amount of traffic generated on the site.

Later on, Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt asked town planner Sean Colgan to address the “loss of recreational space that is precious” in accordance with the application along with the exchange of the $1.2 million to “mitigate that loss.”

“Are there areas in the surrounding park community – say in Bayport Park or maybe down by the water – where there are some significant repairs that we could look at to put this [money] into bettering the community if this is to pass?” asked Bergin Weichbrodt.

“I personally haven’t discussed extensively with [the Parks and Recreation Department], but I assume there are,” responded Colgan. “It’s not just limited to those parks [nearby], it could be anywhere in the hamlet...anywhere within the Bayport-Blue Point School District.”

Afterwards, members of the public were allowed to express their feelings about the proposal. The response was ultimately mixed. Some felt that the additional units would be a welcome addition to the area and meet a demand for senior housing in the region. 

“The complex is extremely well kept and very nice,” said current Fairway Manor resident William Rowley, whose family recently decided to sell its home of 42 years to move into the complex. “I’m here to support it because I’m proof that there is a need for senior citizen over-55 units, and I think the job they’re doing to provide that…is well deserved.”

“My family spent 20 years in Holbrook and 20 in Bayport, and it’s time for us to sell our home and move on,” said Richard Gells. “[Fairway Manor] is an opportunity for us to stay in town.”

Other local residents expressed similar sentiments.

“My parents have been in Florida for about the last 15 years, and around the past year have been looking to come back [to Long Island] at least in some respect,” said Mike Sudo. “They want to be in town near their grandchildren, so there definitely is a need for this type of housing…I really [can’t] think of a better use for that piece of property.”

“There is this unbreakable bond that these seniors have with their local community that they want to keep,” said Dennis McCarthy. “The affordability of housing is difficult for seniors…and if this [offers] additional housing for those people, I’m all in favor of it.”

On the other hand, those in stark opposition chided the applicant for seeking to alter the conditions of the original agreement multiple times, noting that they feel the proposal would be exaggerating existing traffic concerns while encroaching on 21.5 acres of deeded open space that was never meant to be developed.

“It’s impossible to say that there won’t be a traffic problem,” said Pauline Barracca. “We could all benefit from a golf course or a park in that area.”

“My understanding is that a covenant is a promise, and this [has been broken],” said Kennedy Avenue resident Matthew Geran. “I was here last time telling the applicant that I’d be willing to donate my services as a golf coach to help the people of the community have access to what’s supposed to be a golf facility. After all, it’s called Fairway Manor, and there are no fairways [there].

“We’re at a point where additional need for housing needs to come from somewhere else,” added Geran. “We’re not a huge community.”

Ed Silsbe, president of the Blue Point Community Civic Association, reasserted his opposition to the project.

“It’s been 30 years I’ve been standing here talking to many iterations of the board about this project,” said Silsbe. “We were made many, many promises by the applicant –including this open space – and all we’ve found are collusion and lies. It’s insulting you’re coming back here asking for more units.”

The next Islip Town Planning Board meeting will take place on Thursday, Aug. 17 at 6:30 p.m.