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Residents Pack Town Hall for Hearing on Sweet Hollow Park

Council members consider zoning change to preserve land at Meyer's Farm in Melville.

Hundreds of Half Hollow Hills residents flooded Huntington Town Hall Tuesday night for a public hearing on a plan to create a new park, an affordable senior housing complex and a house of worship on two Melville properties. 

“We want a park, we want a park,” chanted nearly 200 residents from outside the main chamber, which overflowed with local civic groups, community members and families requesting a zoning change and transfer of development rights for an 18-acre property on Deshon Drive, which would allow for the creation of  “Sweet Hollow Park” on the site of Meyers Farm. 

The plan is nine years is the making, said Alissa Sue Taff, president of the Civic Association of Sweet Hollow. The local group began their efforts to create a park for the Sweet Hollow community in 2001 when members asked the town board to acquire the farm from the Meyers family who was looking to sell the property. However, the family sold the land in 2003 to members of Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha-Northeast (BAPS), a Hindu organization, who wished to build a temple on the property, instead. Still wishing for the creation of a community park, the association made an agreement with the BAPS, who said they would not yet build on the site, as long as the civic association could find another suitable place for the temple. After nearly a decade, a location has been found.

The plan is for the temple to split ownership of an 18-acre parcel of land on Deshon Drive, currently owned by Newsday’s former parent, the Tribune Company, with a 261 unit affordable age-restricted senior housing complex. Deshon Partners, developer of the complex would own 13 acres, and the BAPS would have the remaining five acres. The decision would free up the Meyers Farm plot to create Sweet Hollow Park.

The plan was called a “win, win, win” Tuesday by several proponents of the plan who see a need of a park for Sweet Hollow area families, affordable senior housing and a home for the BAPS. 

“I would like to have this park for my grandchildren,” Mindy Simon, vice president of the Tuxedo Hills organization said.

“There is no park within the Sweet Hollow community,” added Robert Sands. “We have to put our bikes in our car and drive around to find a park to play in…It’s time we have a park in Sweet Hollow.”

Several children also spoke during the hearing, and asked the town board to approve the plan so that they could have a place for sports and to play.

In order for the plan to go through, the Deshon Drive property must be rezoned from light industry to garden apartment. The transfer of five acres in development rights from the farm to the Deshon Drive property must also be approved.

Opponents of the plan expressed concerns that the transfer of development rights would set a precedent for high density housing in the Town of Huntington.

Steven Spucces, president of the Greater Huntington Civic Group called the transfer of development rights a “Pandora’s box” to unlimited growth in the town. 

“The transfer of development rights is a cliff we don’t want to go off,” Nancy Gamby added.

Councilman Gene Cook sent an email to leaders in the Half Hollow Hills and Huntington communities May 8, stating that if the zoning change is passed, the complex could bring approximately 284 additional children to the school district. The Sweet Hollow Civic Association said that Cook’s statement is false since the complex is age-restricted to seniors. A resident requested that Cook be removed from the vote for demonstrating “partial” feelings against the zone change before the public hearing. Cook responded that he will be voting and said that while his email was “certainly not loaded,” he does have “major concerns of transferring rights.”

Councilman Mark Cutherbertson disagreed that the change of zoning would set such a precedent since the circumstances of the transferring rights "are unique" to the Melville properties and called the plan a “tremendous opportunity” for the area.

Taff said that the transfer of development rights in this case, would create more open space in Melville, not less, since for every square-foot of density from the 5-acres that would be transferred, 1.6 square-feet of open space will be created at Sweet Hollow Park. The Town would also be able to buy the farmland at a reduced price, she said, since five acres of the farm sit on a special groundwater protection area, and would become passive parkland.

“This is a very rare opportunity. Melville is under-served in recreational space,” Scott Alford said, adding that the park will “provide a central location for the neighborhood kids to meet."

lauren May 24, 2012 at 12:56 AM
These people are being blindsided. Sad they don't even realize it. They just want a park. Then build a park! Oh you tried that and can't? Why? Because the the developers won't get what they want. What do they want? MONEY of course. People are going to become very rich if this zone change goes thru. 20 units per acre will pave the way and you will find more high density housing going up in other parts of Huntington.
lauren May 24, 2012 at 01:01 AM
WAKE UP SWEET HOLLOW HILLS. Google transfer development rights. Get educated before its too late!
Alissa Taff May 24, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Those commenting surely have not done their homework. The Open Space that was commented on is West Hills County Park - horse trails, a doggie park and unusable preserve land full of ticks. We don't have that many horses. Maybe you want to bring your children there, but we don't think it's safe for family use or for those with disabilities. The BAPS are a world wide organization with ample resources. They take care of their own and lots of others. The developer of the much needed affordable senior housing is not paying for their house of worship. Shame on anyone who says anything negative about the BAPS. They have worked with this community since 2003 and share our respect for community and family. For every 1 acre from the transfer, 1.6 acres of parkland is being created and protecting a Special Groundwater Protection Area. If our community is successful, perhaps you should learn from what we do instead of being ignorant of the facts and negative to any other group that works for the betterment of their community. If you hate it here so much, move. No one will miss you! Alissa Sue Taff
Concerned Resident May 24, 2012 at 03:55 AM
You have not addressed the issue of the rezoning --20 units per acre and R3M! That should be the concern of EVERY resident in Huntington (except for developers and some politicians, of course). Why did you make this inaccurate, inappropriate, and obnoxious comment--"if you hate it so much here, move."? These people obviously love it here. They are trying to preserve what you and others are gladly letting slip through your fingers--a suburban community with private homes and good schools. We like that. Don't you???
Alissa Taff May 24, 2012 at 07:21 AM
The density is based upon the 18 acre parcel, with the 5 acre transfer of Meyer's Farm for the use of 5 acres for the BAPS religious facility, which can never exceed 60,000 square feet, much less than the 5 acres. TOD code 119-118.2 allows discretion, over density, for the preservation of open space and environmentally sensitive areas. In this case, creation of parkland and protection of a Special Groundwater Protection Area, extremely difficult to replicate. The senior homes will be clustered on the 13 acres instead of the 18. The cumulative acreage is the factor you are missing, and the 8 acres that are open space forever. There is a core of disgruntles who continuously gripe, but offer no solutions. Rather than work with other civics, they dis them. When civics disagree, they should understand the situation of those who live in the area and what they are trying to do, since they live there. This Resolution has no way of harming any other area since the circumstances can't be repeated. Our school district received 2000 new students in a 5 year period, from many high density, various income level developments and paid for two major bond issues for our schools. No one in our area dumped on you. We have been sensitive to all groups, and learned to organized to protect our future. We didn't insult, attack or use profanity in print, all of which we have been subject to! I noticed you didn't use your name - I did- Alissa Sue Taff
disgusted May 24, 2012 at 10:45 AM
Alissa, you are one obnoxious and arrogant bully. I am glad that I don't live in your area and have to be subjected to your empty rhetoric or pomp. Shame on you for thinking that you know it all. You have the unique ability to offend a large mass of people with your snarky comments.You are the ignorant one!
Linda Otta May 24, 2012 at 11:34 AM
If you don't like it move?????? You Ms. Taff are an arrogant self serving bully! You want 5 acres of park but are willing to sell out the other 220,000 residents of this town to higher density and your answer is if "you don't like it move"? Your 840 acres of park doesn't count because of ticks? Will the measly 5 acres have anti tick retention powers? Too bad more people don't understand all your connection down at the Town of Huntington with elected officials and how you are doing this just to get higher density introduced in this town. It is not about a park nor a BAPS center. You are a sell out! And where you speak that people in other parts of town should stay out of matters in your neck of the woods? This zoning change has ramifications on the ENTIRE town. Didn't you speak out about Avalon Bay in Huntington Station? Because that isn't your town and you spoke up about it. To tell people if you don't like it move? They like it here just fine the way it is! Leave our zoning laws alone and stop working with the powers that be to change them for your own self serving needs. Bottom line, you are selling out 220,000 town residents for 5 acres of park when you have 840 acres of open space all in the name of seeing if this can get around our current zoning laws. Nice job. I hope you are proud of yourself.
matt harris May 24, 2012 at 01:14 PM
As I clearly stated on Tuesday night, this sets a very dangerous precedent. With the exception of Whitman coop, at 17 units per acre, built by NY State HUD, NOT ONE SINGLE HOUSING PROJECT BUILT IN HUNTINGTON SINCE R3M/RMM WAS PASSED IN JUNE 1969 EXCEEDS 14.5 UNITS PER ACRE! That is a fact we all need to understand. The Webber Group has many more projects lined up that exceed 14.5 units if this passes. Huntington is at a crossroads, and the TOD was just another shot across the bow, just as TDR is now. Please do not mis-understand me. I am not opposed to creating a park at the old Meyer Farm. It should have been done years ago, when the Meyers put it up for sale. But the facts are this. There is a huge area that is a special groundwater protection area, not just the area surrounding the Meyer farm. The Deshon Dr. project is 20 units per acre. You can't argue that. Even Newsday is concerned about that level of density right next to their plant. Think the developer will spend hundreds of thousands of more dollars to put in sound deadening sheetrock and windows? Then of course there is the matter of where does the money come from to pay BAPS for the property? And just for the record, I am not part of any civic group, and to say that NO ONE in Dix Hills dumped on me for wanting Avalon Bay 4 blocks from my house is patently absurd. And, I do sign my name. Matt Harris, Huntington Station
PTA mom May 24, 2012 at 02:19 PM
We are proud to have Alissa living in our area and as president of our Civic Association. Alissa does know it all when it comes to Half Hollow Hills. Few have invested the years and effort to have factual information communicated to it's residents as she has. Sweet Hollow Civic Association never goes out of its way to harm another area's interests; we have come out in support for other areas when asked to. We are all part of the same town; the Town of Huntington.
A.P. May 24, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Why is it R3M instead of RMM ? A park sounds like a good idea.
Jack White May 24, 2012 at 09:51 PM
@ Alissa Sue Taff. I take offense at some of your statements, especially the last line of your first post. We are trying to protect the ENTIRE town from over development, not just one little piece. You use terms such as "cumulative acreage", as if someone is going to buy into that. With that theory, if we took New York City and combined it with the cumulative acreage, of all of New York state, then somehow, New York City is not as dense as it really is? Repeat that over a few times and let me know how that works out for you. That is, what you are trying to convey? My favorite line - "West Hills County Park - horse trails, a doggie park and unusable preserve land full of ticks. We don't have that many horses." When you bought your house, did you do research of the area and see that it is located smack in the middle of horse land? It is a beautiful area, I'm sure you paid a lot of money for it and your taxes must be staggering. There is a school of horsemanship right there on Round Swamp Rd. If I'm not mistaken, you live near a street called EQUESTRIAN CT. No? I'm not positive, but I think EQUESTRIAN, has something to do with horses. With 840 acres of preserved park land, you cannot come up with a plan to clear 5 or 10 acres for a new park, that your neighborhood so desires. Not buying it. How did the Baps buy the land in the first place? It was never listed? The Meyers family were Baps? Not buying that either. Looks like you missed your opportunity and then cried foul.
Jack White May 24, 2012 at 10:02 PM
@ Alissa, You also state - "Circumstances can't be repeated". Well I'm staring into a map of your "special groundwater protection area", and it encompasses a lot more than what you are telling people. Your entire neighborhood all the way up to Rt.108 in C.S.H. as a matter of fact and about a mile wide. Are you telling everyone that if a church is built there it will harm all of that land, more than the thousands of homes that occupy it? Of course not. So what are you saying? "If our community is successful, perhaps you should learn from what we do instead of being ignorant of the facts and negative to any other group that works for the betterment of their community." #1- You have not stated ALL of the facts, just the ones that suit your needs. #2- If we all "learned" from you, we will look like Hempstead in a few years.
felix May 25, 2012 at 12:16 AM
So I live on a quarter acre in Huntington Station that the Town says is "underdeveloped." Half my yard is listed as vacant land that really should contain a second house. Could I and my neighbors sell our development rights to someone who wants to build apartments near the horses in Half Hollow Hills? It might work.
Laura May 25, 2012 at 05:39 AM
I read all the emails. They are the reason I also NO to the T.D.R. I can add Agenda 21. It will control the way we LIVE, eat. Communicate and learn. Agenda 21 will take all of your rights away. Look it up. Angry Alissa needs calm down. Choose your childrens future. Tell Town Board No to T.D.R. Laura
matt harris May 25, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Two things to add. If this area is a special groundwater protection area, why was the The Knowls built, and without access to a sewer line? Also, the R3M zoning instead of the proper RMM zoning allows for only one member of the household to be 55 or older. This project with 261 units could conceivably still end up with 50 or more children living in it. Residents of HHH...think carefully about this.
Alissa Taff May 26, 2012 at 07:31 AM
Knolls has a sewer line to Nassau County - it's on the border
Ranger Sewer May 26, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Sewer lines do not "Protect" ground water BUT Take water away and dump it into the Ocean. If you want to protect Ground water, YOU must install Septic Tanks with Advanced Treatment Systems to clean up the water and return and recharge the ground water. Septic Systems are Eco Friendly, Sewer Systems are not. There are places for Sewer Systems, like where Ground Water is 10 feet down or less and something MUST be built there. Read: " How much are you willing to pay for water". Patch has it. If you want to clean up the Environment, Stop Illegal Dumping of Haz Mat waste, that MANY who are call themselves "Environmentalists" Refuse and at this time I can say ENDORSE Illegal Dumping of Haz Mat waste. This Haz Mat waste is getting into Wells all over and somebody is DRINKING IT.
Linda Otta May 26, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I bet Nassau County residents are not even aware they are paying for Suffolk County excrement. Most people to too bust working to realize where their hard earned dollars are going. Just like this Meyers Farm deal. With only 27% of the people voting it's a wonder if they even know what is going on. The truth that lies beneath the surface. Look at the players and connect the dots. It's just the Dems 2012 party platform of Demonize, Distortions, Distractions and Diversions (DDDD) to push thru a hidden agenda.
Clifford Sondock May 28, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Government purchases of private land simply stifles the real estate market and places more valuable developable land under Government control or sterilizes it in perpetuity at taxpayer expense. Stop the insanity and allow Long Island to adapt and grow.
Goin' Commando May 29, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Gee, Cliff, you're suggesting the equivalent of why not let things run amuck; that's brilliant! Let's allow our lives and the quality of life to go totally down the toilet, all in the name of libertarian manure. At least you're consistent in espousing selfishness and greed.
Clifford Sondock May 30, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Hey Goin' Commando (is that really your name?) What I suggested is not to "let things run amuck" just allow the market to operate and enable property owners and developers to compete and produce housing, retail and restaurants and offices, warehouses and other properties that future residents want.. Markets work better without communal control or Government planning. Apple computers and cell phones were not produced by civic associations or Government beaurocrats. Most of the regions that are attracting Long Island's young talent and companies do not have village and town zoning...or public hearings to determine the opening of a 7-11 or confiscating residents' hard earned wealth to create more Open Space. Your idea of fascist, authoritarian control of private property has contributed to the "muck" (the rising cost of living and doing business on Long Island) that is influencing people and companies to leave Long island.
Clifford Sondock May 30, 2012 at 12:40 AM
A land use system that discriminates against children is flawed. Also, there is no need for a "special ground water protection area." All that is needed is sewers.
AH June 05, 2012 at 11:46 AM
If the park is approved, does anyone know if the traffic will be rerouted? Trucks and cars speed down the intersection of Round Swamp Road and Old Country Road all the time. Does anyone know if a safety study has been conducted?
Laura June 06, 2012 at 12:38 AM
We do not need another STUDY. It is just an excuse waste tax payers money. Raises our taxes higher. Take walk. Try to cross the street. You just did a study. What did you see? A lot of traffic. The plan is less car,take train. Buy a bike park it at the train station. What do you think? Laura
AH June 06, 2012 at 01:35 PM
I asked IF a study has been conducted, not to conduct another study. We are all well aware of the traffic on these roads. My concern was for the children in our community. Should they want to ride their bicycles to this park. will they have to maneuver pass all the trucks? Some streets in Melville have banned trucks in residential areas, only allowing local deliveries. We ALL pay more than enough taxes, we certainly do not need more of it to go to fixing the roads that are not well equipt for tractor trailers in residential areas. Just this morning, I saw a construction truck going into the Northern State?? Were is the enforcement?
Clifford Sondock June 10, 2012 at 03:12 AM
no need for a study and no need for another park.
Jack White June 10, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Kinda hard to conduct a study on traffic when all we have are blueprints for about a bazillion new affordable housing pending projects in some shape or another all still in the planning stages. When it hits all at once maybe some of the supporters of this will finally get it.
Laura June 10, 2012 at 11:02 PM
I agree...no need for a study or a park. Forget the T.D. R. Also. Laura
matt harris June 10, 2012 at 11:37 PM
And yet...there's more. With a TDR, the 5 acres being "swapped" must remain as is, no park, no playground, no ballfields. That leaves just 3 acres for any type of parkland development. Is there money in the Town budget for this?
Pat & Erin June 19, 2012 at 01:49 PM
What a bully you are Alissa Sue Taff!! Anyone want to join me in taking up a collection to send Ms. Taff to charm school? Geez,...your kids must be mortified by you, grow up and play nice with your neighbors!

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