owl hill (development)

NOTE:  After considerable opposition from the FSA and community, the Smithtown Planning Board at their meeting on Feb. 17, 2021 voted on and passed this project thru, giving it their unanimous approval.

To: Town of Smithtown

Attn: Planning Board

Re: Owl Hill hearing Feb. 17. 2021

 

Board members,

It has recently come to our attention that the Planning Board has put the proposed Owl Hill development project on tonight’s docket. We do not know if this was intentional, as this short notice occurs during a holiday week, making it difficult to inform and allow all interested parties to attend.

 

In the not so distant past the Town and State of New York Office of Parks and Historical Preservation had previously earmarked $1,000,000 in grants to preserve acreage of this property.  Unfortunately, the long-time owners sold the property after they could not come to an agreement as to a fair value per acre.  Since that time, the property has been sold to a developer who himself has signed a letter of intent to preserve the property via the County of Suffolk.  We feel that the Town should hold off and allow more time for conservation efforts to come to fruition.  Owl Hill is obviously worthy of preservation as it has been deemed so by the Town, State and now, County.  In addition, the estate / home at the property is on the Town’s list of historic homes.

Throughout the years Smithtown officials and departments have worked well with the Fort Salonga Association, with many instances to help keep the existing 1-acre zoning in place.  Fort Salonga has a rich history, as well as being a beautiful community to live in, and by the Board allowing the developer to in essence change Fort Salonga, the current plan as presented should not be allowed or permitted, and would allow for a serious wedge to develop between the town and the Fort Salonga Association.

The hamlet of Fort Salonga, with over 2300 families living on properties that have been zoned 1 acre for countless years – they moved here for a reason.  The owner of the Owl Hill property is attempting to change that, and the face of Fort Salonga forever, by asking for unrealistic zoning variances, including ½ acre lots, flag lots, lack of necessary environmental buffers and undersized lots.  In addition, the developer has signed a letter of intent to preserve the property.  Where?  

The current yield for the property is TWO homes.   To go from 2 to 18 will take an extraordinary number of variances and creative zoning maneuvering.  The property lies on land with underground streams, has a high water table and is frequently affected by flooding, yet it is our understanding that proper SEQRA testing, which is an absolute necessity, will not be required.  In by-passing this important step, it in effect will allow other similar projects within Smithtown the precedence to do likewise.  Does the Planning Board want to open that can of worms?  This is an absolute necessity and the Fort Salonga Association INSISTS that a full environmental review take place before moving forward, based on the property’s environmental impact on the surrounding areas. 

The plan calls for the “preservation” of some undevelopable acreage.  In other words, the developer is using this undevelopable land as a trading chip in exchange for a higher yield.  In addition, there is no mention of extra greenspace for the community.   The property currently has several TDR (Transfer of Development Rights) lots along the border of the adjacent Colony Hills Subdivision.  The Town should require that this greenspace be expanded to run the length of the property.  Typically, with a project of this magnitude the developer reaches out to the community to work together in order to have a project that fits in with the existing landscape.  If the builder wants to secure a multitude of variances, the Town should require that he sit down with the neighborhood and figure out a plan that works for his neighbors.  At the moment, the plan has been submitted without any regard for the neighborhood.  

The two affordable homes on the proposed subdivision map are on flag lots.  For decades it has been the policy of the Planning Department and the Planning Board to frown upon and deny flag-lot subdivisions. The Board should follow and honor its own precedent, requiring the owner to remove these homes or restructure the map.  It is because the developer has yet to communicate with the anyone in the community or its civic organization (the Fort Salonga Assn.) that any of the proposed zoning changes are being brought before you tonight, disregarding the community it is situated in.  It would potentially be a better plan if he were to include people from the community who would be affected, though to date no attempt has been made. 

The Planning Board is charged with the duty of protecting property values and maintaining the quality of life of all citizens within the Town of Smithtown and hamlet of Fort Salonga. As constituted, the current plan ignores the environment and conservation of greenspace but it permits offensive items such as ½ acre and flag lots.  We ask that the Planning board exercise its best judgment and only move forward with a plan that preserves and protects Fort Salonga. 

Let us remind this Board that Fort Salonga straddles two Towns.  As such, it is imperative that we review and compare a similar subdivision application made before the planning board in Huntington.  It would be remiss for this Board to ignore Brenna Estates, located off Bread and Cheese Hollow Road in Fort Salonga – Huntington Border.  Brenna Estates is a 22.9 acre plot with a Mansion on it (a near identical comparable to Owl Hill).   The Town of Huntington’s Planning Board DENIED the developer’s plan for half acre lots submitted on 4/19/17.  The builder went back to the drawing board and engineered a plan that met 1-acre zone guidelines, and still conserved 9.25 acres via a conservation easement.  We ask that the Town’s Planning Department take Brenna Estates into account when reviewing the Owl Hill application. 

Based on the many years of due diligence on your part, the Fort Salonga Association is adamant you do your civic duty by not approving the current subdivision as it is constituted. Please exercise your better judgement and help us work together with this property owner to preserve and maintain the beauty of Owl Hill, as it represents a beautiful green gateway to the Hamlet of Fort Salonga.  

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Keith Macartney

President

631-292-4141

Highlights:

  

  • Property size:  27.63 acres

  • The old home  / mansion stays. 

  • This is a cluster development that uses the acreage of non-buildable area as a means to reduce the lot sizes to .5 acres.

  • 10 acres to be preserved. However, a recharge basin is in the plan… and that would level a zillion trees.

  • There are 18 homes. 16 will be priced $1-1.3  million. 2 will be workforce housing as required by Suffolk county.  They are only required if you build up to a certain yield…apparently by building 16… het gets the 2 extra homes (1.6 homes but rounded up = 2). 10% of 16 = 1.6. If he built 14 homes he only gets 1 extra home.   I do not have house sizes yet.

  • THERE IS NO BUFFER. THERE IS NO Environmental Easement along the edge.  The tree line on the map is a farce.  Whoever buys the house can knock them down and do whatever they want.   THIS IS A BIGGIE FOR THE FSA.  Why not ‘preserve’ some more with a buffer, leaving the land in its natural state?

  • The development plan is similar to Spinnaker, as there is no through street. It is a dead end. This matters for the people in my neighborhood, as we have feared a cut through at Yorktown place for decades.  So, the fact that it’s self-contained is a positive. 

  • Next up they will need to apply to the BZA for variances for slope and yield.  The current yield is only 2. 

  • Attorney is Vin Trimarco.

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