Crowd Fills Auditorium for Look at Melville Plan

Many Huntington residents got their first real look Tuesday night at a plan to transform part of Melville into a vibrant area of mixed-use properties.

The crowd that packed the auditorium of West Hollow Middle School Auditorium heard first from Supervisor Ed Smyth, while the rest of the Town Board listened as about 30 speakers came to the microphone to express their views or ask questions. Of those who spoke, a clear majority seemed in favor of the plan; others seemed supportive but wanted to hear about ways the plans could be adjusted; another group expressed clear opposition.  The auditorium normally holds about 700 people and at one point, nearly every seat was occupied while others waited outside to get in.

While many of the comments involved housing, the plan is much more extensive. Supporters compare the idea to the reclamation of downtown Patchogue or Farmingdale.

The Huntington plan, to allow for up to 3,000 apartments that would be built over retail and commercial space, turn the area along Maxess Road into a walkable downtown, and create green spaces, while eliminating some of the unused spaces left by empty or near empty corporate centers. Known as the Melville Town Center, the downtown area would have 30-foot-wide sidewalks to accommodate patrons from restaurants or other stores.

Part of the vision, Smyth said, is  to strengthen the tax base and reduce complaints  about the increase the growth of warehouses in the area, as well as the use of parking lots for pop-up parties and auto racing.

Many opponents raised the arguments brought against other projects: fear about overcrowding, overwhelming the local public safety organizations, traffic and crowding schools. But the pro-building speakers, including many in their 20s and 30s, argued that they needed more affordable opportunities to rent so that they could move back to their hometowns or move here for jobs that awaited them. A handful of employers and recruiters made the same argument.

Several people connected with construction or real estate spoke in favor of the plan; the opponents fear that the change in code that would allow for the development could extend into nearby areas and harm their single-family properties.

The debate will continue. Another public hearing is scheduled for the Town Board meeting on Tuesday at 2 p.m. and a third at the 7 p.m. Town Board meeting on June 12. Any changes in the resolutions currently under consideration would lead to more public hearings.

These are the two resolutions that on March 27 were approved for public hearings:



2 Replies to “Crowd Fills Auditorium for Look at Melville Plan”

  1. The forum was for the Board to hear community voices. It wasn’t set up as a debate. The speakers weren’t strictly for or against. It was not a group of people in favor of housing vs. people against housing. Far from it. There were people who showed unqualified support for the concept, but had no specific questions or concerns. Then there were actually MANY speakers in favor of the downtown w/apartments part of the plan — it can have many benefits for the community — but who are not in favor of the 640 acre overlay out of concern that the scope of the combined projects would compromise their success. In addition, many people are concerned about the Board taking sole jurisdiction for this entire massive project — the largest in Long Island — without a professional planning firm to ensure its success, and without incorporating it into our Town’s Comprehensive Plan, which provides continuity for future Boards. Many knowledgeable people shared relevant factors to consider — for example, a planner from Smithtown had many expert suggestions to make. There is a multitude of considerations when seeking to integrate an entire new downtown into the wider community. It is irresponsible to characterize the discourse around this issue as Young people and realtors vs NIMBYs. The reality is more complex, and more interesting.

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