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Huntington Holds Emergency Board Meet - After Leader Expose on Melville Apt Scheme

By Maureen Daly


Less than 24 hours after The Leader published a breaking news article, detailing the Huntington Town Board's March 19th Resolution to Re-Zone 650 acres of Melville - one square mile - for four-story apartment blocks with up to 70 apartments per acre, Supervisor Ed Smyth hit the "panic button" and called an Emergency Board meeting to amend the Resolution.


The Board met on Wednesday, March 27th, with Councilman Dave Bennardo absent.


Supervisor Ed Smyth and Councilman Sal Ferro moved to amend the re-zoning proposal with 14 pages of amendments.  Most notable was a provision to "cap" the number of apartments at 3,000 apartment units.  Under the original Resolution, over 40,000 apartments might have been able to be built.


Councilwoman Brooke Lupinacci, who was not present at the March 19th meeting, came out strongly against the Re-Zoning Resolution and the amendments, saying that Smyth and Ferro "had it backwards" because "there is no Plan."


Lupinacci also chided the sponsors for proposing a re-zone first, and not having any plan or schematic for the "walkable town center" which was the basis of Smyth and Ferro selling the Melville project to the community.


In other words, the sponsors had played a "bait and switch" on the rest of the Board and the community, selling a non-existent "town center," but secretly planning, instead, for a massive apartment development.


Lupinacci, a municipal land use attorney and former white collar criminal prosecutor with the Suffolk DA, rebuked the sponsors for applying a band-aid to a fundamentally flawed Resolution, questioning the legality of re-zoning commercial lots for apartments, but then "arbitrarily and capriciously" choosing which lots to give building permits.  


She also noted that even the reduced 3,000 apartments would make Melville "the largest apartment housing development in Long Island history," and comparing the flawed roll-out in Huntington to the more transparent roll-outs of other developments like the 1,100 unit redevelopment of Garvies Point in Glen Cove. 


Smyth, a noted "bedsore attorney," whose private law practice involved lawsuits against nursing homes for patient bedsores, responded that Lupinacci was wrong.  He claimed - "mansplained" to Lupinacci according to several attendees - that a zone change isn't really a zone change unless he or the Board says it is, and that the Courts would have "no authority" to contradict him, under his scheme.


The amendments passed 3-1, with Councilwoman Theresa Mari voting for the amendments, but then stating that she might be voting "No" on the Resolution when it is brought up for a vote in June.


The reason for an "emergency meeting," rather than just presenting the amendments at the Board's regularly scheduled meeting in April, was to keep an accelerated hearing schedule - to force the Resolution to a Town Board vote in June.  The sponsors did not want to push the Resolution back by even one month.



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