A group of Elwood residents are forming an organized opposition against proposed senior condominiums at the current site of the Oak Tree Dairy on Elwood Road.
The proposed 'Seasons at Elwood' development would place over 450 condos, with age-restricted ownership of 55+, on the 37-acre parcel. The land, which is currently zoned R-40 residential but has a variance for commercial use, would require a zone change to R-RM. The zone change application is currently under consideration with the Town Planning Board.
"The Oak Tree Dairy development is something that concerns me because it affects my home value," said one-year resident Jim Cameron at an Elwood Taxpayers Association meeting Thursday. "Traffic is obviously secondary, but I bought in this area for the school district and that's something I need to protect as best I can."
Cameron passed around a petition against the development Thursday night and said he will soon start a letter-writing campaign to town hall. He also filed a FOIL request to obtain the zone change requested by the developers. The Elwood Taxpayers Association did not take an official position on the development.
"The biggest thing here is networking," Cameron said, adding that he will seek procedural advice from Greater Huntington Civic Group, which has an active law suit against the Town Board regarding the Avalon Bay development in Huntington. GHCG President Steven Spucces was present and spoke at the meeting.
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Virtually everyone who attended the meeting Thursday night opposed the project and voiced concerns about traffic and school district impacts to town councilmembers Mark Mayoka, Mark Cuthbertson, and Gene Cook.
"We're going from zoning for 37 families to 450, or thereabout, with 600 more cars a day on Elwood Road," said 30-year resident Tom Van de Merlen, who pressed Cuthbertson for an independent traffic study of the proposed development. "If you come here at night, you can't even get off Deer Park Avenue onto Jericho Turnpike to make a left to go up here as it is."
A resident later asked the town board members if the nearby Matinecock Court development on Pulaski and Elwood roads, yet to be build but approved by the town, will be taken into account for an impact study. Cuthbertson replied that any local developments should be considered under the proposed development impact statement required by SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) for a project of this size.
"It [the condo project] is so out of character with the community, it's so overly dense," Van de Merlen continued. "I don't think anyone's opposed to some type of development there...we need to know as a community how we communicate our opposition to this in the most effective way."
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Residents also voiced concerns that the school district would suffer as a result of the project, both because of increased traffic and because the senior community would have no vested interest in passing the school budget.
"What you have to look at is a block of people who want to do one thing, and that is to keep their taxes as low as possible...," said the man. "What happens to the residents of the central community who have children in the schools? Our properties then become devalued because what you're going to have is a situation where there's going to be contention on every annual budget..."
Elwood Board of Education President Joe Fusaro was present at the meeting, though he did not take a stance on the project. The developers offered to pledge $1 million to the district, he said, and were willing to reserve some land connecting Elwood Park, the development, and the middle and high school campuses.
The Elwood BOE will hold a meeting on the proposed development on Oct. 18. The Town must hold a public hearing if the Planning Board moves the developer's zoning change application in front of the Town Board for consideration. Opposition organizer Jim Cameron is still collecting signatures. Those opposing the project may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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