What’s up with the sewer committee?
Pictured left is the proposed and preliminary overlay map. Pictured right is the business area in Sayville on the current Town of Islip zoning map.

Courtesy photos

What’s up with the sewer committee?

Story By: NICOLE FUENTES
10/31/2019


This summer, Legis. William Lindsay III (D) formed a Sayville Sewer Committee comprising 15 key players within the community, including an architect, business owners and members of the local civics and chamber, to conduct and create a hamlet study in an effort to pre-plan and preserve the area prior to the possibility of sewers from Main Street south.

“It’s a pre-active approach,” Lindsay said, explaining that it was a reaction of sorts to the Island Hills project to ensure overdevelopment doesn’t overcome Main Street, should sewers be installed. “We don’t want a developer to come in with a ‘master plan’ and start building 10-story buildings.”

However, he said, the creation of the study is not legally binding and is less restrictive than current code. The hope is that the Town of Islip will review their study once it is completed and reworked with community input and adopt it so that it can be used as a reference point for what the community wants Sayville’s future to be.

Still, some members of the sewer committee, including Teal Rizzo, who is also a member of the Greater Sayville Chamber of Commerce, said the zone change/overlay district is also being packaged as part of the committee’s study, opening up a larger and denser business area to development, which she says, will change the character of the town.

Lindsay provided a map of the said preliminary overlay and promised that it would be included as part of the study and none of it would be binding unless the town decides to adopt it to serve as a reference point for what the community wants. He emphasized that the parameters of the overlay are still being re-worked and are not final.

According to Brian Egan, the past chairman of the Municipal Law Committee for the Suffolk County Bar Association and a local land-use attorney, an overlay district can be confusing, being that it could either be more or less restrictive than current town code depending on the way it is authored. Basically, he said, it is a specialized zoning that can be created to place more or less restrictions on an area, such as building heights, parking requirements and setbacks. However, because it is a local law change, it must go before a public hearing prior to adoption. But, if passed, it will supersede town code, he said.

Also according to the Town of Islip, the project sponsor of any land-use study or change of zone application is required to undertake a detailed New York State Environmental Quality Review. These reviews disclose and analyze the proposed impacts prior to adoption of a study or approval of a zoning application. 

“Any land-use study or change of zone application that fails to comply with SEQR process is prone to legal challenges. The Town of Islip Planning Department would not recommend the scheduling of any public hearing for a land-use study that does not comply with the SEQR process,” said a town spokesperson.

When asked if the overlay would be more or less restrictive, Lindsay said, “Possibly, but no recommendations have been made yet.” 

Instead, he explained that the overlay would make it harder for someone to come into the town and apply for a change of zone that is contrary to the overlay. Whether it is more or less restrictive, he said, is up to the committee and ultimately the community. This means that it is possible that they can decide whether it be less restrictive; however, that would not be in line with the current intentions of the committee and at that point counterintuitive to current town code.

“I have no stakes in whether it is more or less restrictive, whatever way it comes out,” Lindsay said, further stating that it is up to the committee to decide.

As for the details of the study, he said, it is too early in the process and nothing has been established. However, according to previous meeting minutes, discussions of themes and uniformity of buildings were brought up, and a three-story (current town code) height requirement was agreed upon as well as setting some sort of ordinances for outside hours for drinking and live music. The committee also agreed that they did not want to see Sayville developed into something like Patchogue Village and hoped for a balance between promoting tourism and local business.

Still, Rizzo said she and other members of the committee feel Lindsay has blended several different issues together to create an “all-or-nothing narrative.” She has since requested Lindsay put a freeze on the zone change/overlay until complete transparency and full community input is taken into account.

“Legis. Lindsay has blended several different issues together to create an all-or-nothing narrative.  However, each issue needs to be identified and examined separately,” she said, explaining that she feels there are three separate issues. “First issue, do the residents of Sayville want sewers? If so, how is that to be accomplished, practically and financially? Second issue, do the residents of Sayville want a business district zone change overlay, which would change the size, density and character of the town? Third issue, what federal, state and local funding is available to enhance our existing town?”

Sayville resident Linda Tyra, whose residence is located within the new proposed boundaries of the overlay, said she is also concerned with the lack of transparency and was shocked to be just finding out about the committee now after several meetings have already been held. 

“I am really concerned about overdevelopment and the impact to our residents,” she said, hoping to see more transparency about the study and overlay. Rizzo said she also expects to see more transparency and community input.

“Legis. Lindsay has indicated that it is time to bring in the Regional Planning Association to put the Sewer Committees’ suggestions into a proposal. At this time, that is extremely premature; we have more questions than answers,” she said. “It also needs to be clarified that RPA’s CEO is Scott Rechler and Gregg Rechler is a board member. For RPA to become involved in Sayville’s town planning, given Rechler’s interest in Island Hills, is not only imprudent but [also] insulting to the residents. The most disturbing problem is that there has been no public comment sought on any of these issues.”

Although not part of the study’s area, The Island Hills project basically served as a push to for the committee to be formed so that the community isn’t caught off guard again Lindsay said. In an effort for transparency, he said the developer of that project has no involvement with the study, though his relative, another Rechler, who isn’t involved with Island Hills, is the president of the nonprofit Regional Planning Association board, which might be contracted to put the study on paper and make it readable, with no input.

According to the RPA website, their “community redesign” option, which is a nonprofit service, “focuses on promoting sustainable and equitable development patterns by directing as much of the region’s growth as possible to established villages, towns and cities.”

The website further reads that the company works with communities to demonstrate how both public investment and private development can help them achieve their local objectives for community development and quality of life by creating vision plans and land-use regulations. According to the committee, the RPA will take their ideas and concepts and come up with a formal design document and an enhanced version of what Sayville could look like, based off their findings.

Other committee members like Dr. James Bertsch, a Sayville resident who is also a member of the Sayville Board of Education, and Christine Sarni, resident and president of the Greater Sayville Civic, aren’t as concerned with the intentions of the overlay and study. 

“I’m grateful Legis. Lindsay brought together different community leaders to obtain input on the future of Sayville,” Bertsch said. “The other option is that developers come in and tell us what they’re going to do. These changes could be 10 or even 20 years away. Even still, this is the first time anyone asked us what we want downtown Sayville to look like in the future. It was nice to hear someone from Sayville who runs a global business with an office here say he left our meeting feeling inspired. That’s what good government looks like.”

Sarni further explained that the intended purpose of the committee is to give the residents input into the future of Sayville.  “With the possible addition of sewers, it is imperative that we get ahead of the developers and put a plan in place before they dictate one to us,” she said, also stating that she has been reporting about the committee discussions at her monthly meetings and has made it clear that no decisions have been made, there is no current proposal, and absolutely nothing has been approved. 

Though on board with the committee, Sarni said she also was concerned about RPA’s involvement and has since asked that the committee hold off on moving forward with RPA until they are thoroughly vetted and other alternatives are considered.

The group, Lindsay explained, was chosen by word of mouth in an effort to secure as many leaders and groups as possible for a diverse group with stakes in the community. Members also include New York State assemblyman Andrew Garbarino and representatives on behalf of town councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt and Sen. Monica Martinez—a bipartisan effort, Lindsay promised.

The study is similar to what Lindsay worked with the Holbrook community on. They recently completed their hamlet study, last year. According to Holbrook chamber president Rick Ammirati, the work done with Lindsay was finalized this year and will hopefully be adopted by both Brookhaven and Islip towns soon. He said it was a welcome process in the community and something desperately needed to keep Main Street alive.

“We are not looking to expand like Patchogue did, but in order to remain viable we have to move forward with sewers and some sort of small-scale, mixed-use development,” he said, happy with the work done by Lindsay’s office.

Once Sayville’s plan is completed by the committee, it will be presented to the public, Lindsay said. Then the community’s input will be reworked into the plan, a final plan will be completed and then presented to the town board for possible adoption, further cementing the vision of Sayville, he added.

“Even if the town doesn’t adopt it… building 2,000 apartments on Main Street would be contrary to what the community stated they wanted,” Lindsay said, explaining that the study is intended to be used as a tool against overdevelopment in the future. “Sayville wants to keep its history.”

The committee has been meeting monthly as of August and will have their next meeting sometime in November at the Sayville Library.  RPA is expected to be in attendance. Lindsay said the plan should be completed sometime in the spring and presented to the town board after public input.

THE OVERLAY/BUSINESS DISTRICT

The study’s preliminary territory includes Main Street west to Atlantic Avenue and as far east as the train trestle, south to Gillette Park and North to the train station. The overlay map has not been finalized.

 

CURRENT TOWN CODE

In a Business District (BD), no building, structure or premises shall be used or occupied, and no building or part thereof or other structure shall be so erected or altered, except for one or more of the following purposes: store, office or bank. Community building, broadcasting study, personal service establishment, Laundromat, retail, a place of business such as baker, florist, artisan, microbrewer, tailor, printer, etc., non-profit, monument, church, parking, funeral home, vet, public or private school, museum and more. However, universities, restaurants, billiard halls, health clubs, dwellings, private parking, mix-use buildings, and drive-throughs are subject to special permits from the planning board after a public hearing. 

Parking requirements and necessary site improvements for these uses are to be determined by the planning board. 

Also, any outdoor seating or accessory use for a permitted bar, tavern or nightclub is subject to requirements including a minimum of a 150 feet from any single family residence, no outdoor loudspeakers of any kind, and no operation past 2 a.m. Outside seating is permitted on sidewalk area adjacent to roadway between 10-11 p.m. for dining purposes as long as it doesn’t encroach onto the sidewalk by more than 50 percent. If on-street parking is permitted adjacent to the sidewalk, then a minimum unobstructed sidewalk area of five feet shall be required. The service and consumption of alcohol shall only be permitted as clearly accessory and incidental to the service of food.

Height requirements: no building or structure shall be erected or altered to a height in excess of 35 feet or 2 ½ stories. Accessory buildings are not to exceed 18 feet in height and flagpoles are not to exceed 35 feet.

As for area density the minimum required plot area for business uses shall be 7,500 square feet.
The minimum required plot area for a community building, nonprofit fraternity or lodge, church or other similar place of worship, or parish house, funeral parlor/home, public school, private or parochial school, university or college dormitory, and community theater shall be 20,000 square feet.

 

SEWER COMMITTEE GOALS

To creatively express the goals and desires for the future of Sayville’s downtown area with sewer connections to Main Street. To meet as stakeholders and representatives of Sayville’s community organizations to design an enhanced Sayville while maintaining the core values and feel of its current assets and aesthetic. With a finalized RPA document this committee can bring the work to the Town of Islip as a recommended plan for Sayville.

 

When are sewers coming?

According to Lindsay’s office, sewers in Sayville are anywhere from five to 10 years from becoming a reality due to a number of different factors, including whether or not Oakdale approves the first phase for parts of Idle Hour and the availability of future funding.

If and when the hookup becomes available, it would be the plan established by the committee, Lindsay said, and would focus on how redevelopment should look based on community recommendations. 

There was a sewer open house informational meeting held at the Idle Hour Elementary School on Wednesday, Oct. 16. A referendum vote will be proposed and if passed, construction will begin sometime in the spring. It will take about two years, he explained, to obtain funding for the next phase of Oakdale. But if it is not approved, there will be no place to expand it.

“The key is to have a plan secure,” he added.