Keeping track of Graybarn
Residents from Sayville and Bohemia discuss the proposed development.

SCN/Chalifoux

Keeping track of Graybarn

Story By: RICK CHALIFOUX
10/12/2017


BOHEMIA/SAYVILLE—A large group of residents gathered last week at the Bohemia Civic Association meeting inside Sycamore Avenue Elementary School to discuss a major change of zone application seeking to develop nearly 1,4000 apartments on the former Island Hills Golf Course property on Lakeland Avenue in Sayville. Most in attendance voiced concerns over the size and scope of the application, while speakers encouraged everyone to make sure they direct them to Islip Town officials once the proposal comes before the planning and town board down the road.

Earlier this year on March 8, Plainview-based Rechler Equity Partners officially filed a change of zone application to alter the former course from AAA (residential) to PDD (Planning Development District). The parcel’s current zoning would permit about 84 single-family homes on 40,000 square-foot (.9 acre) lots. On the other hand, if the zoning change is granted, the developer would be allowed to build 1,371 one- and two-bedroom rental apartments in 27 buildings at a maximum height of three to four stories. In addition, the application currently offers 1.75 parking spots per unit. The development – titled Greybarn – would share the name of another Rechler development that stands in Amityville.

Bohemia Civic director Patrick Fife pointed out that the number of units included in the proposed project is greater than the current amount in all of Sayville and Bohemia combined.

“The reason we put this on our agenda is because we agree this is not good for Bohemia,” said Fife. “It’s going to impact our traffic, our schools, our property values, and it also sets a really terrible precedent for any other undeveloped properties…This project is absurd. It’s just too much.”

Fife encouraged the community to plan to attend the first public hearing before the town planning board and speak out alongside their neighbors against the project. While the proposal is still in its early preliminary stages, he encouraged everyone to be as informed as possible and plan on writing letters as well.

“Everybody needs to speak,” said Fife. “You have to detail why you think this project is wrong and how it impacts you personally.

“Without a zoning change, this can’t happen,” added Fife. “Without it, they could keep the existing use as a golf course, or build 80 to 100 single-family homes, which is consistent with everything else around that property.”

Steve Finlan of Sayville sought to put the residents and their perceived plight in perspective.

“We’re going against the developer on Long Island who has the deepest pockets, the most resources, and the political infrastructure to push their way through,” said Finlan. “These are big players...[and] we need to let our candidates know that we pay taxes in this community for what we have. We don’t need a city built amongst our village here.

“This community has to stop changing,” added Finlan. “The Islip Town Board is just giving away to commercial interests day-by-day and week-by-week, so hopefully we see you all out there.”

Meanwhile, the Rechlers and representatives have stated that the proposed upscale, traditionally designed rental community would be a positive, welcome addition to the surrounding area, noting that the target markets to fill the apartments are millennials and empty-nesters. With reports of more than 800 golf courses closing in the nation over the past decade, they claim they are seeking to utilize the property in a way that benefits the entire surrounding community.

“It would be a really interestingly designed and attractive campus-like setting with a lot of amenities,” said planning consultant Ann Marie Jones.

The developers also emphasized that the process is in its very early stages and that it would be a long, flexible process while remaining open to community members’ questions and issues.

“The whole process would take a number of years, and it would be phased so that it’s not all constructed at once,” added Jones. “There will be a very complex and lengthy review process detailed that’s going to honor, observe, and make sure there’s a lot of [outside] input as required along [the way].

“In my experience with an application that comes in, the first submission is never what the final product is,” added Jones. “You go back and forth with the staff, town and community, and hopefully we can arrive at something that answers people’s questions and concerns while providing attractive and exciting housing to fill that need.”

A list of core principles suggested by the community was also developed as a guideline that the developers state they will abide by. These include visual sensitivity to surrounding homes, traffic mitigation and site access, ample public open green space, economic/community benefits for Sayville’s downtown and neighborhoods, connectivity and access to downtown, sewer connectivity/utilization, stormwater management/mitigation, and overall compatibility with the surrounding community.

“We want to convey to the community the uniqueness of this development,” said Jones. “We believe it will be an asset to Sayville.”

Other key points made are that the influx of renters would have minimal impact on the Connetquot School District. In addition, a landscaped 25-acre park would fully encircle the property. Regarding traffic, a shuttle to the Sayville and Ronkonkoma LIRR stations – along with alternatives including Zipcars – is aimed to offset the need for two cars per household. A shuttle to downtown Sayville would also help generate more consumers for the local economy. Meanwhile, they state that surrounding property values would actually most likely heighten as millennial tenants would increase demand as they shift towards home ownership.

To learn more about the campaign against the project, visit www.stopislandhills.com.

For more information on the proposal from the developer’s perspective, visit www.islandhillsplan.com.