Huntington residents concerned about the downtown and what changes in a zoning law could mean challenged town representatives Tuesday on parking, building heights and apartments in retail areas.
Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, and Councilmen Ed Smyth and Gene Cook announced a plan Sept. 13 to change C-6 zoning, which they said would restrict development density, size and environmental impact in Huntington Village. They said their proposals would address concerns cited by those opposing big developments and their complaints about a lack of parking for those proposals.
However, their proposals have led to more opposition from many who believe the changes would actually allow more dense development. Many residents who attended the session are veterans of previous battles against previous developments, including the Classic Galleries project that would have brought a massive mixed-use project to downtown Huntington.
Complaints about resulting problems with parking again surfaced.
Town attorney and deputy supervisor Nick Ciappetta and Anthony Aloisio, director of planning, took questions from the crowd while Daniel J. Gulizio, executive director of the Community Planning Center, Inc., talked about several topics, including water quality problems resulting from development, the wide range of businesses allowable under C-6 zoning, and parking requirements.
“C-6 allows for lumberyards, car washes and auto sales, not traditionally seen as downtown,” Gulizio said. He noted the loss of shellfishing and the rise of nitrogen in water, saying that developments said be offset with limitations elsewhere in town.
Ciappetta said the proposed changes “do not loosen or eliminate any restrictions currently in the town code. They add new restrictions.”
Aloisio said the proposed zoning changes would reduce density, reduced building heights and made design considerations in an effort to “balance the various competing interests in the village. By putting in more performance standards, we’ll be able to better manage the growth occurring in the village.”
Many of the residents’ complaints turned on their frustration about lack of input, after previous meetings with town officials where they had sought a citizens’ committee that would have a role in zoning law discussions. “We were promised a voice,” one resident said.
Ciappetta said, “We have a lot of committees, some work well, and others don’t. How do you determine composition,” adding that a public hearing where more people can be heard might be more representative of what residents want.
Some residents expressed suspicion of the timing of the proposed changes, seeing a link to Election Day considerations. Many were unhappy with the continued parking problems downtown, which several said had led them to shop elsewhere.
After Ciappetta said that the traffic code had been changed to allow for more enforcement, making sure parking spots turn over more quickly, resident Bob Suter said, “meters penalize people who live here. Why should the people who live have to pay for a problem that was created through town policy?”
Aloisio said the desire to preserve village businesses was behind decisions to allow apartments downtown. “Retailers have struggled, whether it was the malls of the past or Amazon today,” he said. “So the idea of the apartments was always meant as a way of preserving retail.”
Another audience member said, “With apartments downtown. you are destroying our town. You might as well just drive straight to Flushing.”
The Greater Huntington Civic Group sponsored the meeting at Harborfields Public Library.
The zone change proposals will be heard at the next Town Board meeting on Oct. 16.