Open Letter to Town Board on Melville Plans

Supervisor Smyth and Town of Huntington Board Members,

My name is Daniel Bryant, and I’d like to start by stating how very grateful I am for the assistance and leadership the Town Board demonstrated in helping our community resolve the Residential Camping matter a few years ago. I am also impressed by the Town Board’s foresight and vision in identifying our changing economic landscape and working with the community towards potential solutions. I am confident that with your same leadership and vision we can work together to come up with a Melville Town Center plan and process that we can all be proud of, and more importantly, one that will add vitality to the region while improving the quality of life of surrounding residents.

By way of introduction, I live in Strathmore Hills within about one mile of the proposed Melville Town Center, with my beautiful wife of nearly 20 years, and our four amazing young children. I am a mergers and acquisitions professional, and my employer’s headquarters is within the General Special Use Permit Area.

I have recently become aware of the plan for the Melville Town Center and I watched the full public hearing on April 30th. I am eager to work with the Town Board to find a workable solution and I am also very happy to take up Supervisor Smyth and all other Town Board members on the generous offer for one-on-one in-person meetings, which I look forward to scheduling shortly. I’m hopeful one day in the not-too-distant future we can enjoy a cold drink together at a hip establishment in the Melville Town Center.

I have carefully and thoughtfully read Amendments 2024-178 and 2024-179
(https://www.huntingtonny.gov/filestorage/13753/13767/27357/20654/325103/03-27-
2024_Adopted_Agenda_and_Resolutions_%28Special_Town_Board_Meeting%29.pdf), and I had the following concerns, questions, and suggestions which I believe will go a very long way towards aligning these amendments with the Town Board’s and the community’s vision for this project.

1. Limitations on Apartments:
a. The amendments proposed in resolutions 2024-178 and 2024-179 have sentences
stating: “the total number of residential units in the Melville Corporate Center and Melville Town Center combined shall not exceed three thousand units”. However,
“Melville Corporate Center” and “Melville Town Center” are not defined terms in
either of the amendments or elsewhere in existing Town code.

b. Likewise due to these undefined terms it is unclear what areas the 400 unit
“pause” refers:
i. Suggestion: Make it clear in the amendment language that both the 400 unit “pause” and the 3,000 unit limit is based on the total combined units between the Melville Town Center Overlay District in 2024-178 and the surrounding area defined in 2024-179, 198-34, F. (5).
c. At the April 30th, public hearing Supervisor Smyth said that the Melville Town Center “has the priority” over the rest of the General Special Use Permit Area, but there does not appear to be anything in the amendments to legally require this priority. As currently written in the proposed amendments there could be absolutely zero mixed use development within the Melville Town Center Overlay District, but heavy development of mixed use residential in the rest of the General Special Use Permit Area.
i. Suggestion: 2024-179 should be amended to prohibit the Town Board from accepting special use applications in the General Special Use Permit Area, until the development of the Melville Town Center Overlay District.

d. The current draft of the agreement says that the Town Board may only “pause” applications to consider the “cumulative impact of the developments on traffic conditions, fire/emergency and educational services”. While important, this is a very limited list of considerations. Property owners could sue to “unpause” if they can hire consultants to show there has not been a negative cumulative impact to these criteria.
i. Suggestion: The list of considerations to “unpause” should be broadened to include the impact on property values, quality of life, noise, safety and crime on the surrounding communities. Additionally, language should reflect that even if the standards are met, the Town Board still has no obligation to “unpause”, if in its determination unpausing is not generally beneficial to the community.
ii. Question: What is the process for “unpausing”? Will the Town Board need to hold a public hearing to pass a resolution to “unpause”?
iii. Suggestion: Add formality in the resolution on a public process to “unpause”.

2. Redesignation of I-1 Light Industrial Zone Height, Area and Bulk Requirements
a. As I understood it, one of the rationales of these resolutions is that too many properties were at risk of being converted to warehouses or storage facilities (as noted in Supervisor Smyth’s Open Letter on April 29th in Huntington Now).
However, 2024-179 doubles the Building Lot coverage for all I-1 light industrial zoning (the zoning for the area in question in addition to other parts of Huntington) from 30% to 60%, and significantly reduces the minimum depth of yard offsets. This seemingly makes it much more attractive and profitable for a property owner to convert office property to warehouse or storage rather than mixed use residential.
i. Question: Why has this change been included, as it seems to run directly counter to the legislative intent of promoting residential, retail and commercial growth over warehouse and storage facility use for the properties in the area.
ii. Suggestion: Remove this change from 2024-179.

3. Patchwork Implementation:
a. As I understand it, each application under 2024-178 and 2024-179 will be viewed as a standalone application. This could lead to a situation whereby only non- contiguous properties are developed, which would not lead to the development of the envisioned walkable Melville Town Center. Furthermore, if one property has converted to mixed use, there is nothing currently stopping an adjoining property from subsequently intensifying it’s I-1 light industrial zoning use, building undesirable light industry directly next to a mixed-use location, and ruining the walkability, enjoyability, and general aesthetic.
i. Suggestion: The Town Board should build in a requirement to the amendments that applications are held until a block of applications covering a minimum area (for instance a contiguous block) are received, and the Board can review and approve or reject this block of applications in its entirety.
ii. Suggestion: The resolution should prohibit any I-1 light industrial permitted new construction or new use within the MTOCD, unless approved by the Town Board.

b. 2024-178, 198-134.1 (E)(7) indicates that areas of the MTCOD that do not front a
main road will not be developed before a main road. However, this could still lead
to one of the larger properties becoming fully developed (22.2 acres in the case of
90-100 Maxess RD) and absorbing most or all of the 3,000 units allowable, before
frontage is added along other parts of the MTCOD.
i. Suggestion: Revise this section with language to make it clear that areas that are not fronting the main roads may not be developed until a certain percentage of frontage along the entire MTCOD is developed.
ii. Suggestion: Limit the number of units which can be permitted under a single application to a formula based on total available frontage for the project. (i.e. 3,000 units/total available Melville Town Center Overlay District frontage)
iii. Questions: Are corner properties allowed/required to front both roads? Should this be made clear in the resolution?

4. Significantly Increasing Density:
a. The proposed resolution 2024-178 allows for 90% lot coverage and 4.6 Floor Area Ratio (a capitalized, but undefined term), and up to four stories with residential usage for the top three stories. This is significantly denser than any current zoning designation in the Town of Huntington.
i. C-6 zoning, which encompasses the mixed-use Huntington Village and other walkable communities within the Town of Huntington, has a three- story maximum and residential square footage over the first floor can be at a maximum of 150% of ground level.
ii. I couldn’t find any Town of Huntington zoning designation which allows for four stories with residential, other than R-OSC, which appears to be largely unutilized.
iii. Furthermore, I couldn’t find any current zoning designation that allowed for 90% lot coverage or 4.6 Floor Area Ratio. (Currently the I-1 light industrial zoned area covered by 2024-178 and -179 allow only 30% building lot coverage)
iv. Suggestion: Our community would love a walkable town center similar to Huntington Village. It would be more acceptable to cap the density in line with the mixed-use requirements for Huntington Village. This would be more in line with spreading the maximum 3,000 apartments over the entire Melville Town Center Overlay District, and not the first few properties to apply. It would also be more in line with creating a walkable town center similar to other successful Long Island villages such as Huntington Village, Farmingdale, Northport, Lindenhurst, Babylon, etc., and not an “urbanized” location similar to parts of Queens.

b. The minimum apartment sizes, especially for two- and three-bedroom apartments
are very small compared to national averages.

(https://www.rentcafe.com/blog/rental-market/market-snapshots/national-average-
apartment-size/)

i. Nationally, the average new two-bedroom apartment is about 1,100 sqft vs. the minimum of 800 sqft in the proposed amendments.
ii. Nationally, the average new three-bedroom apart is about 1,400 sqft vs. the minimum of 900 sqft in the Town amendments.
iii. Nationally, the average size of a new apartment was about 900 sqft.
iv. Suggestion: To reduce the potential for over development, add a requirement that the average apartment size in an application must be 900 sqft, and that the minimum size for two-bedroom and three- bedroom apartments must be 1,100 sqft and 1,400 sqft respectively (or at a minimum, that the average two bedroom and three bedroom apartment size within an application must meet the 1,100 sqft and 1,400 sqft minimum, respectively).

5. Open Spaces:
a. There is a requirement that 15% of each site shall be comprised of public open
spaces (2024-178(E)(4)), but it is unclear if that is 15% based on the ground measurements or the total square footage including building stories. The section further goes on to say that the 30’ setbacks will be considered part of this 15% open space. Using the Village of Huntington as a proxy, most mixed used buildings have a depth of 100’ to 150’. Under these circumstances the 30’ setback would be the only “open space” that would be required (encompassing 23% to 17% of the property) to meet the amendment’s standards. Assuming the 250’ I-1 zoning minimum lot depth applies these special use properties (unclear from my reading of the amendment if it would or not), the 30’ set back would make up 12% of the required Open Space (essentially all of it!). This does not meet the legislative intent of having significant public open spaces.
b. Furthermore, the only parks being provided by the Town of Huntington are “potentially” 3.2 acres of parks or 1.7% of the Melville Town Center acreage or 0.5% of the total General Special Use Permit Area. As a reference point, 14% of New York City is parks, a proxy that is far more urbanized than the goal of the Melville Town Center. In order to create the successful Melville Town Center as imagined, there needs to be the requirement for significantly more “open spaces” in addition to the 30’ setbacks.
i. Suggestion: Do not give credit for frontage setback as part of the 15%
open space calculation. Additionally, significantly increase the 15%
requirement (25%-35%).

6. Sidewalks:
a. I love the Town Board’s vision for 30’ sidewalks, which will allow for outdoor dining and ample enjoyable space. I was very concerned on my review of the document that there is only a requirement for a 30’ setback, not a 30’ sidewalk. There is in fact no requirement for a sidewalk at all! From my review of the Town Code there would also be some ambiguity if parking would be allowed in the 30’
setback, similar to a strip mall.
i. Suggestion: Require that front setbacks require 30’ of sidewalk. Revise language to make it clear no parking is allowed in the 30’ setback.

7. Parking:
a. Currently there is no public parking within the properties comprising the Melville Town Center Overlay District or the General Special Use Permit Area.
b. As I understand it, currently Huntington Village has a major shortage of parking. However, as written, the amendments require significantly less parking for the Melville Town Center Overlay District’s mixed-use properties (1 space per one bedroom unit) than is required for Huntington Village mixed use properties (1.5 spaces per one bedroom unit).

c. Additionally, it is not clear what standard would be applied for extra parking
spaces for the commercial and retail space.
d. From a satellite view, the General Special Use Permit Area looks to currently be 50% or more private office parking today. It would be a major mistake not to require a plan for adequate public parking as part of these Amendments.
i. Suggestion: At a minimum Melville Town Center should require the same amount of parking as the mixed-use C-6 zoning requires, if not more.
1. In line with the suggestion to consider a block of applications, there should be a requirement that a block of applications includes an adequate amount of public parking for retail use in the combined area.

e. From my review of the resolutions and the Town Code, there is some ambiguity if
the mixed-use buildings would be required to abide by the parking offset
requirements in I-1 (198-34(C)).
i. Suggestion: Clarify all on- and off-street parking requirements in the amendments for properties under 2024-178 and 2024-179.

8. Reversal of Use:
a. It would be devastating to the contiguous nature of the Melville Town Center if one of the property owners decided the mixed use was not profitable enough and reverted back to a I-1 light industrial use. As written, there is nothing stopping a property owner from receiving a special use permit for a contiguous plan, and then not following through with developing the property, or alternatively, developing the land for mixed use, but subsequently reverting back to I-1 light industrial use if the special use permit proves not as profitable as desired.
i. Suggestion: Require special use applications to commit to a timeline to convert their properties and also retain a bond, which would cover the cost of converting the property if the property owner either couldn’t or didn’t want to develop the property in-line with the special use permit. Furthermore, the amendment should dictate that if an application is granted, the property may never be reverted to I-1 light industrial use without approval of the Town Board, at the Town Boards sole discretion, after public hearing.

9. Special Use Permit Approval:
a. I learned from my experience with the Residential Camping matter, that it is very difficult for a Zoning Board (and assumedly a Town Board) to legally reject an application for a special use permit that meets the prescribed criteria. General dissatisfaction with an application is not sufficient to reject a special use permit. There are dozens of New York Court of Appeals rulings as legal precedent. The amendments contain language that the Town Board can reject a consultant’s findings, but the New York Court of Appeals will certainly take these findings into consideration. Unless there are revisions to the current amendments, after the resolutions are passed the Town Board will effectively lose control over whether an application is granted as it will ultimately reside with the New York Court of Appeals, which appears to have a basis for special use permit applicants.
i. Suggestion: Before the resolution is finalized Town Board should seek a 3rd party legal opinion, from an independent nationally recognized law firm, with expertise in the space, to confirm that if for any reason the Town Board in its sole discretion did not want to move forward, the Town Board would not be legally required to approve a plan that the applicant could show met the requirements in the resolution.

Revise the Amendments as necessary to ensure the proper treatment.
ii. Suggestion: The language in the amendment should have a one-way bias for the Town Board to be able to reject an application at its sole discretion, regardless of whether the application supposedly met the prescribed criteria. The language in the amendment should make it clear the Town Board cannot grant a special use permit unless the plan meets all the prescribed criteria.

10. Town Board Approval Process:
a. It is unclear from the Amendments what the Town Board approval process will
be, and there also appears to be a difference between 2024-178 and 2024-179 on
approval process language.
i. Question: Will there be a public Town Board approval hearing similar to a Zoning Board Special Use application hearing? Will a stenographer take minutes of these hearings, and will the minutes be publicly published? Will the Town Board have access to the same technology and experts the Zoning Board uses to electronically reference and broadcast documents during the hearing?

ii. Question: Will applications be required to alert neighbors to the public
approval hearing?

b. The requirement to only notify neighbors within 500 feet of the project is insufficient for a project of this scale, and there will be few if any residential neighbors within 500 feet for most of these properties.
i. Suggestion: There should be a requirement that all residences in Melville receive a mailing 60 days in advance of any Special Use Permit hearing whether by the Town Board, Planning Board or other body.

c. During the Residential Camping matter, I was disappointed that the applicant’s experts were not required to submit reports in writing to the Zoning Board and some of those reports that were submitted in writing came in within a few days of the Zoning Board hearing. One of the applicant’s key outside consultants only gave verbal testimony on his analysis of traffic and environmental impact, which did not give residents time to absorb or refute any of the findings.

i. Suggestion: Any reports from the applicant to be considered by the Town Board or Planning Board as part of a Special Use Permit under 2024-178 and 2024-179 must be submitted and entered into the public record 60 days in advance of any hearing.

11. Special Use Permit Requirements.
a. A Special Use Permit has general requirements that must be met under 198-66
(A):
(1) Will be properly located in regard to transportation, water supply, waste disposal, fire protection and other facilities.
(2) Will not create undue traffic congestion or traffic hazard.
(3) Will not adversely affect the value of property, character of the neighborhood or the pattern of development.
(4) Will encourage an appropriate use of land consistent with the needs of the Town.
(5) Will not impair the public health or safety and will be reasonably necessary for the public health or general welfare and interest.
In 2024-178, 198-34.1 (5)(B) the Board lists other requirements:
(1) Is of high quality and visually appealing from adjacent streets and surrounding areas, with an emphasis on building placement and orientation that complements adjoining properties.
(2) Has an appropriate mix of uses as defined in the Permitted Uses Schedule
(C) of this Chapter.
(3) Has open spaces, parking areas, pedestrian walks, signs, lighting, landscaping and utilities that are well related to the site and arranged to achieve a safe, efficient and contextually sensitive development.
(4) When appropriate, contributes to a central public gathering space that may be used for community events.
(5) Shows high inter-connectivity between proposed uses and adjacent areas to the rear and all sides.
(6) Promotes walkability, pedestrian scale lighting and ground floor activity among business and residential uses.
(7) Properties greater than five (5) acres may be required to be subdivided in such a manner as to allow for a diversity of ownership,

b. Question: Will applications be required to meet both sets of requirements or only the requirements for 2024-178?
i. Suggestion: Make the language clear that applications must meet requirements under both the requirements of 198-66 (A) and the requirements of 198-34.1 (5)(B).

c. We heard in the April 30th public hearing meeting that some of the potential
applicants have a very poor reputation as property managers.
i. Suggestion: Add a requirement that the Town Board must consider the reputation of the applicant.

d. There are numerous horror stories of urban developments that were abandoned
halfway through when the owners financial situation or the economy changed. Even one such case would be a disaster for residents of the Melville Town Center Overlay District and the quality of life of surrounding residents.
i. Suggestion: Add a requirement that applicants show financial ability to complete the development required under their special use permit. Applicants should be required to post a bond for the cost of the development, so that the work can be completed if the applicant becomes insolvent, or no longer wishes to continue the project.
There should be a requirement for a committed timeline. Once started, if an application is not working in good faith to complete the project, the Town may repossess the property and use the bond to finish work on the project.

e. Developers/owners use shell companies to submit applications to hide ownership
and limit liability.
i. Suggestion: Add a requirement that all applications publicly disclose
parent ownership all the way to the ultimate individual level.

12. Transparency:
a. I am deeply appreciative of Supervisor Smyth’s deep commitment to transparency. However, I have some recommendations for improvements when it comes to this process.
i. Suggestion: A link to Melville Town Center Facts is prominently displayed at the top of the Town website. Along with this link, there should also be a link to the actual resolutions to make them easy for a lay person to find.
ii. Suggestion: The resolutions are often included in 100+ page documents of the Town Board’s entire agenda. In addition to these agendas, there should be a link to a separate file that just breaks out the resolution/amendments in question for the Melville Town Center.
iii. Suggestion: The resolutions are currently uploaded in a PDF format that is not text searchable. Replace the resolutions with a PDF version that is text searchable.
iv. Suggestion: My understanding is that the ultimate resolution is currently a living document. With each update of these resolutions, the Town should provide a redline against the previous version of the resolutions, so it is easier for residents to understand what has changed.

b. In 2024-178, 198-34.1 (D), there is a requirement for a Planning Board approval
meeting, however, there is no requirement that this meeting is open to the public
and public commentary.

i. Suggestion: Add language to require any Planning Board Meetings required under 2024-178 and 2024-179, be public hearings with the opportunity for public commentary. Furthermore, announcements of these Planning Board meetings should be 60 days in advance, rather than 5 days.
13. Anchor Tenants:
a. While I appreciate the vision of a small walkable Melville Town Center, the area
of Melville South of the Long Island Expressway is devoid of more than just a walkable space and restaurants and retail. We also need to travel 15 minutes to 30
minutes to reach a grocery store, performing arts venue or hospital. I’m concerned
that with the patchwork application process, there is not an ability to develop a
plan for anchor tenants.
i. Suggestion: Consider finding a way through either these resolutions or follow-up planning to add a Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or similar high-end grocery; performing arts center similar to the Paramount; or even a hospital, which could dramatically increase the desirability of this location and the surrounding area.

14. 20% Affordable Housing:
a. At the April 30th public hearing, several speakers mentioned a “20% affordable
housing” law on new construction. I’m not familiar with that law, and I don’t see
it incorporated into the amendments.
i. Questions: Is there such a law and what impact will it have on the potential new constructions?
ii. Suggestion: As part of the Town Board’s presentation, the Town Board should educate the public on this requirement and its impact.

15. Drafting:
a. In my experience with the Residential Camping matter, I found that special
interests insert seemingly innocuous text into resolutions, and then interpret any ambiguity as aggressively as they possibly can (i.e. one tent per two acres is taken to mean a 140-acre property can place 70 tents in a tight cluster as close to surrounding residential as possible). I have found instances where this insertion of language only benefitted one property in the Town of Huntington and in practice reversed the stated intent of the code. It is vitally important for such an impactful project that there is no ambiguity, loopholes, or room for interpretation.
i. Suggestion: The Town Board should hire an independent nationally recognized law firm, with expertise in these matters, to review the amendments for any ambiguity, loopholes, and room for interpretation, which would allow an applicant to skirt the Town Board’s stated intent. Revise the Amendments as necessary to ensure
the proper treatment.

b. There are a number of inconsistencies between 2024-178 and 2024-179. It is
unclear if these are deliberate or drafting errors. These should be cleaned up so
the differences themselves do not imply how to interpret the amendments.
i. 2024-178 198-34.1 (E)(3) vs. 2024-179 198-34 (1)(3) “excluding
structured parking”
ii. 2024-178 198-34.1 (D) gives application instructions, while there is no
such section in 2024-179.
iii. 2024-179 198-34 (1)(8) has a minimum lot area but 2024-178 198-34.1
(E) does not
iv. 2024-179 198-34 (1)(10) has a parking requirement for office space
(although missing the word “parking” in the first sentence), but 2024-178
198-34.1 (E) does not
v. 2024-178 198-34.1 (B)(7) calls for subdividing properties over 5 acres,
while 2024-179 198-34 F. (5) does not.
vi. Numbering in 2024-179 does not appear consistent.
vii. Melville Town Center is an undefined term.
viii. Melville Corporate Center is an undefined term.
ix. Floor Area Ratio and other terms are not defined.
Suggestion: Similar to the suggestion above, The Town Board should hire an independent nationally recognized law firm, with expertise in these matters, to review the resolutions for consistency with each other and the rest of the Town Code, to ensure there is no ambiguity, loopholes, or room for interpretation, which would allow an applicant to skirt the Town Board’s stated intent. Revise the amendments as necessary to ensure the proper treatment.

c. In 2024-178, 198-34.1 (G) (4), there is a reference to applications being made to the Zoning Board. This was confusing, because the rest of the document referred
to applications being made to the Town Board.
i. Question: What role will the Zoning Board have in approving applications?

d. It is unclear what if any restrictions there would be on signage and other
controlled activities.
i. Question: Would applicants be bound by the restrictions for I-1 light
industrial zoned areas?

16. Environmental Concerns:
a. While I agree with Supervisor Smyth’s assertion that this is a developed area
which mitigates environmental concerns to some extent, it is a concern that we are
going from 30% building coverage to 90% building coverage. I have also heard
concern from many residents on the impact the intensified use of residential
would have on sewers and water tables.
b. Furthermore, Supervisor Smyth made the assertion that each application would
need a SEQRA environmental assessment that considers the surrounding properties as well. Supervisor Smyth did not say if a Full Environmental Assessment Form or a Short Environmental Form would be required by applications. I cannot find anything in Amendments 2024-178 and Amendments 2024-179 that codify this assertion by Supervisor Smyth that applications will need a SEQRA environmental assessment that considers surrounding properties as well.
i. Suggestion: Both amendments should clearly indicate that a Full Form Environmental Assessment is required for applications, and that these assessments must consider surrounding properties.
c. At the April 30th public hearing Supervisor Smyth said: “… you have 87,000 gallons of excess capacity here which translates into approximately, and Tony Alosio can correct me on this, translates to 320 residential units. So until the sewers are upgraded here, you can have any proposal you like but until sewers are available it’s not going to get developed.”
i. Question: Does this mean applications for the first 320 units will not need to make any improvements to sewers, while all subsequent applications will need to make improvements to sewers?

Again, I look forward to meeting with you, and finding ways we can ensure the proposed code amendments meet the vision the Town Board has proposed.

Best regards,
Daniel Bryant

2 Replies to “Open Letter to Town Board on Melville Plans”

  1. Daniel,

    I live in Stratford Park, a homeowners association community that is contiguous with the proposed town center. You clearly put a tremendous amount of work into your open letter. I commend you for your effort and well thought out questions, proposals and suggestions. I hope the board will, indeed, meet with you, take your proposals seriously and address them.

    Barbara Kupferman

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