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Oak Tree Dairy: Elwood Has Two Options

Dairy says it will go to 24/7 full output if condo project doesn't go through.

Elwood residents can either accept a condominium development at the Oak Tree Dairy or watch it go to 100 percent output, Oak Tree President Hari Singh said at a packed Huntington Town Board meeting Tuesday.

"We could easily produce a million gallons a week in the facility we're running that gets distributed out with about 200 tractor trailers a week," he said. "We can't put those on our property, but we've already discussed alternatives with the town over the years. The solution is to shuttle vehicles on and off our property. It's perfectly legitimate."

If Oak Tree leases to out-of-state dairies, it would become a 24-hour operation working at double its peak production. Because the dairy is restricted to storing only 20 trucks on its property, Singh estimates that the additional tractor trailers and tankers would need to make about 600 round trips per week along Elwood Road, each requiring about 45 seconds to make a left turn.

"The traffic will be profoundly more, the sound, the noise, and the impact," he said. "We wanted to avoid that alternative."

The third alternative--selling the Oak Tree Dairy for development at current zoning--is not financially viable, said Singh. At its current zoning, a developer could build about 30 homes on one acre lots.

Related: Elwood Residents Organize Against Proposed Condos l Elwood Residents Speak Out Against Oak Tree Development l 482 Condos Proposed at Oak Tree Dairy

"We've been spending the last three years working on this alternative of this development," said Singh, "which from our perspective was extremely thoughtful. [Developer Engel Burman] mitigated a great deal of the externalities and we thought that the government would recognize that this development addresses so many of the potential downsides while removing the dairy. We thought that it would be a no-brainer. And, frankly, it's a simpler alternative and it's slightly more profitable."

A zoning change from R-40 to R-RM is required to build the proposed 444-unit, 55+ age-restricted community. Though the request is still under review by the Town Planning Board and has yet to be scheduled for a public hearing, Preserve Elwood Now (PEN), a group formed in opposition to the development, came out in full force Tuesday to preemptively voice their concerns. They were met with equal vigor by proponents, including over 200 local carpenters.

Opponents held up signs issued by PEN reading "Stop the Downzoning of Oak Tree Dairy" and "No More Traffic on Elwood Road." Proponents, concentrated in one section of the room and lined along the back, held up handmade signs emphasizing the project's financial impact on the school district.

Engel Burman promised to ante up $1 million dollars to Elwood School District the first year and increase the school tax by $2 million per year thereafter, though some aren't impressed by the offer.

"Why should you be allowed to downzone and get things because you want a certain return?" said one woman opposed to the project. "People want certain returns on their homes, and if this goes through, their property values are going down and they're not going to get their return and they'll be no developer coming in saying, 'I'll give you a million bucks here and a free park there.'"

Residents who spoke against the dairy at the meeting did not seem aware of Oak Tree's plans to go to full scale production should Engel Burman Group's zoning change request fail, resulting in increased truck traffic on Elwood Road. Should the zoning change request pass, Engel Burman Partner Steve Krieger said his company will spend $1 million to synchronize the traffic lights along Elwood Road and provide a left turn lane into the development.

"Right now, if there's a truck going north and making a left into the dairy, the traffic is backed up all the way to Cuba Hill," he added.

In response to environmental concerns, Engel Burman said that any and all requisite studies would be completed.

"A lot of people lose sight of what's there now," said Scott Burman, a principal with Engel Burman Group. "You've got an industrial use with an open-air sewage treatment plant that this would take the place of. If it doesn't, you're going to be stuck with that type of use. It's not like we're taking a pristine property that's undeveloped and turning it into a residential community."

Goin' Commando December 29, 2012 at 03:06 AM
The Oak Tree Dairy/Engelman Burman development plan doesn't need any more distortion than is already out there. Since my wife and I haven't been sent a copy of the Silverman/Engel Burman letter, could Patch post a PDF as an attachment for this thread?
palmwood January 03, 2013 at 06:34 AM
I guess Oak Tree Dairy/Engelman Burman got all our addresses from the school. How nice to blanket the area with non facts on the development. They left out that it would be 444 units. Oh, that's probably about 888 new residents. Have a happy day on Elwood and Larkfield Roads.
Dad of Three January 03, 2013 at 05:16 PM
For palmwood, under the Freedom of Information Law, anyone can obtain from a public entity, such as a school district, data which is regarded as public information, such as a list of residents of the district. However, as noted in the Dec 27th post by Allie's Grandpa, that Silverman/Engel Burman letter is not addressed to "Residents of the Elwood School District", but instead to "PTA members, Booster Club and affiliates". I very much doubt that the District has a list of members of the various PTA's (a separate legal entity from each school district, and a 501-c-3 under the NY State PTA charter), and I am almost certain that they would not have a list of the members of the Elwood Booster Club which is also a separate legal entity. So, if Engel Burman has a list of PTA members, or Elwood Booster members, my question would be "How did you obtain the PTA list and the Elwood Booster list, Ms Silverman?" Whether or not the development would be net positive, or net negative, is something we still don't know, and I am not making a judgment, yet. But, whether or not something improper has taken place in the way in which Engel Burman sent out the letter is a matter which interests me, and concerns me.
Linda Otta January 03, 2013 at 06:59 PM
Now they are bribing everyone to get a free dinner at Mill Pong if they speak in support of this project at the next Town Board meeting. I am also very concerned how they got their hands on the PTA list. That is private. Is the PTA list now a hit list available for developers?
Leah Bush (Editor) January 03, 2013 at 09:13 PM
Linda, can you email me? Leah.Bush@patch.com
Jason Molinet January 11, 2013 at 01:49 PM
Here's the latest: http://northport.patch.com/articles/oak-tree-increasing-output
palmwood January 24, 2013 at 06:05 AM
The developer can at any time change the Covents and Restrictions (so can the Homeowners Association that will be formed) to change it to NO RESTRICTIONS ON AGE if they wish. Check the legals they do it all the time. Elwood could be stuck with 444 APARTMENTS with NO RESTRICTIONS ON AGE. So where would the asset to the school be? Wake up they are selling a litigators dream in the Covenants and Restrictions. We all faught against Pulaski Road and Elwood Road, and that was not in our school district. Well,, this BIG project is. We don't want it. We will fight against it the best we can. I just wish more prople would understand what they are selling is not written in stone and can be changed. Palmwood
Long Island Lover January 24, 2013 at 03:41 PM
First, the whole notion that 55+ are considered "seniors" or "retired" is the most ridiculous statement made. The second statement is that because they are "retired", these people only need 1 car to get around. Really? My parents lived to 88 and 90 and they always had their own cars. My in-laws are in their upper 70's and they have 3 cars. And, living here, you need to drive. Also, how many people are retired at 55? Isn't giving money to someone to facilitate your getting something that no one really wants a bribe? Isn't this what Engel Berman is doing to the Elwood School board? Is the Elwood school district that hard up for money that they would screw everyone in the district? So Mr. Singh is threatening to up the production causing more trucks to enter and exit the plant. So what. Put a turning lane in and call it a day. Sewage a problem? What do you think adding anymore than 1 house per acre is going to create? Traffic is a nightmare already and starts at the intersection of Deer Park E. and Jericho Typk. Who knows, maybe Elwood Rd. should be widened to 4 lanes all the way up into Northport Village. That should ease the traffic.
unknownauthor January 24, 2013 at 04:15 PM
Where are you getting your facts from Palmwood? If that is the case, they would there be a covent? If it could be changed at any time!
Dad of Three January 24, 2013 at 05:13 PM
For palmwood, while I deplore the shady tactics being used by the developer and by Oak Tree Dairy, I like to deal in facts and reasoned analyses, rather than wild unsubstantiated charges. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about this project, such as whether or not there is fiscal uncertainty for the school district and its taxpayers, as well as the potential for severe traffic impact, and I have my own concerns about whether a covenant for a 55+ community could be voided by court action or change of law. But you are making a statement as if it was "fact", yet you have provided no basis for that statement. Without a verifiable basis for your statement, your comments seem as unsubstantiated as those of Engel Burman and its representatives. Please provide your basis for those comments, or else please re-phrase what you have written, so that it conforms to definitions of provable fact versus opinions versus unsubstantiated concerns.
Louise January 24, 2013 at 05:34 PM
I live in a non-age-restricted townhouse community in Northport village. It has almost 50 units with approximately 100 residents, 5 of whom are school age children. Parents want homes with yards and family rooms and freedom to live as they wish. Living in a townhouse community is not conducive to family style living. What is more important, in the Oak Tree case, is providing an alternative to our aging population who no longer want to live in large homes but desire to stay in the community. These will not be inexpensive homes and will not appeal to young families now or in the future. Discussions about the Oak Tree development should be based on facts, not fear-mongering, conjecture or hysteria.
Linda Otta January 24, 2013 at 07:36 PM
Dad of Three, why don't you just e-mail the civic group leader for the piece of paper showing this to be true. They have it.....
Dad of Three January 24, 2013 at 11:29 PM
Oh come now, Ms Otta, if it exists, then palmwood can post it! I'm perfectly happy to push for this to be killed, if it has too many risks for the school district and residents. But, when somebody makes such an unsubstantiated contention, it is up to that person, or up to Jim C (who reads and posts here, and has provided a PDF of the Engel Burman dinner invitation), to provide any substantiation available.
Dad of Three January 24, 2013 at 11:39 PM
Louise, you are providing one part of the equation, and you have some valid points. What you have not provided, and what you could not provide (since the facts have not been released, and verified) is an analysis of whether the financial risks for the school district, and whether the safety risk for Elwood's students, are sufficiently small to allow the project to go forward. On Jan 15th, a former resident sent an E-mail commentary to his former community distribution list, as he has followed this issue on Patch; that commentary contained the following caution: As a matter of possible interest for some, here are a few of the issues which I believe that the school district and the residents (hereafter a collective “you’), should be studying: 1. You must be able to insure the safety of the students (both walkers and bus riders) after any development-related changes in traffic intensity as well as any modifications to the crosswalks and sidewalks; 2. You might weigh against that risk, possible improvement for the health of the students from the standpoint of noxious odors and emissions from the milk processing plant, which would continue in operation if the development is turned down; [continuing]
Dad of Three January 24, 2013 at 11:43 PM
[continued from prior post] 3. You must be able to insure that the development could not be changed, either by current law, likely changes to the law, or probable court decisions, from an all 55+ community to any kind of mixed use community, or, worst of all, an apartment complex allowing many units to have school-aged children, thereby imperiling district finances; clearly some people over 55 will have school-aged children (as I did), so it is not possible to assume no increase in education costs, regardless of insuring “no change” in the nature of the development. 4. You would need to assess the benefit of the school tax revenue, and any one-time payments, versus the possible (I think unlikely, for many reasons, but certainly possible) impact of large scale bullet votes against school interests, on the basis that most residents would not have a current interest in the quality and condition of the schools, and many (if not most) residents would never have had such an interest which could overcome shortsightedness in potential school district decisions and votes; you would also need to be assured of the timing of all financial flows. And, no, I would not presume to claim that these are all of the concerns which need to be addressed, but I think they are a reasonable start." The former resident, Jerry Hannon, expressed hope that people presently supporting or opposing this for knee-jerk reactive reasons (my interpretation of his words) would wait for facts.
Concerned Citizen January 25, 2013 at 12:00 AM
There are no assurances that the future homeowners association could not file to change the bylaws of ownership. That said, while I have serious reservations about this project going forward, I cannot tolerate fear mongers on either side. In order for the homeowners association of the future to change the 55+ no school age children covenant (which is legal and binding in the TOH) the association would have to file for the change with the Zoning Board of Appeals and it would be a public meeting and filing. So it is not something that can be done without going through a rigorus process with the town and public hearings.
Louise January 25, 2013 at 12:06 AM
Dad of Three, you have more facts than I do so I can only speak from my own experience. #3 in your message addresses the possibility of the community becoming an apartment complex. I'm not sure how this would happen if people buy their homes. However, homeowners have the right to rent their townhouses if they so desire, depending on the By-Laws of the community. Most 55+ communities prohibit children under 18 years of age. The By-Laws must specify that no matter whether the owner lives in the unit or rents it, no children under 18 are permitted to live in the community. The Management Board must have the right to take legal action against offenders and/or place a lien against the unit in question. Careful review of the builder's proposed Oak Tree By-Laws is imperative. Interestingly enough, I have friends in and around Northport who hope the community is built so that they can downsize and move there. I am happy where I am, so I have no vested interest in Oak Tree.
Jim Cameron January 25, 2013 at 07:50 PM
R-RM is the zoning request being made. That zoning classification in the law of the TOH only requires that ONE resident of each individual unit be 55 or older. To remove the age restriction of one person being 55 would require a zoning change. So to put the Elwood community at ease the developer has stated they will sign a separate covenant with the TOWN that states no school age children will be allowed to live in the community. (originally was going to be 18, but now will say 22) The developer has stated that if school age children move into units they will sue to have those children removed or force the owner of the unit to sell. While the builder is around this is probably a possibility, after the developer leaves the HOA would have to file and pay for such law suits. The developer has also conceded that the covenant could be removed, but they say it most likely would not happen because the people living in the Seasons Community would want to keep it. I am in the process of looking for evidence to find out how the school age covenant could be modified or abandoned. When I find it I will post it.
Jim Cameron January 25, 2013 at 07:56 PM
Louise, There are over 1.1 million students in the City of New York going to public schools and most live in buildings without yards and family rooms. To say that living in a townhouse community is not conducive to family style living, is a matter of opinion, not fact. There are townhouse communities all over Long Island and NYC that have families living in them.
Linda Otta January 25, 2013 at 08:08 PM
Dad of Three, I have been told what you are looking for is on the TOH meeting posted on their website. To save you time and frustration.... I also provided a link It is the town board meeting from last week, the speaker was Karen Alue (sp?) and she speaks at 1:26:46 http://www.huntingtonny.gov/play_video.asp?v=TB-2013-01-08.wmv&t=Huntington%20Town%20Board%20Meeting&s=January%208,%202013 You are welcome.
Ron January 25, 2013 at 11:00 PM
Oak Tree Dairy is now called Cream-O-Dairy on their receipts.
Dad of Three January 25, 2013 at 11:13 PM
Linda, thanks for your assistance, and I had already watched that video (a terrific service to the residents of Huntington, by the way; it was getting burdensome to go to many of those meetings). As to Karen Alu, I am familiar with her from other Elwood events. But what Karen or any other resident may say at a public meeting does not make their statement correct, or incorrect. I was looking for the specific reference in law, and Jim C has posted additional information above at 2:50 PM and states he is himself looking for clarification, as to whether, or under what circumstances, it could be changed. That is the key for risk analysis.
vera charles January 26, 2013 at 03:34 AM
If we find that covenant changes in the future are possible, then this proposal should be denied.
Allie's Grandpa January 30, 2013 at 04:00 AM
Someone posted on one of these related topics about the letter addressed to the PTA, sent by Beth Silverman of the developer. Has anyone been able to find out how such a mailing list could fall into their hands?
Long Island Lover February 01, 2013 at 06:50 PM
I think all of this is a bunch of crap in plain english. This should not be a discussion of anything other than "is downsizing the property legal". The property is zoned for 1 house on 1 acre. That's it - end of discussion. Mr. Singh should either do business or sell the business. Engel Burman wants this to make money and cares less if it's good for the community. I grew up in Elwood and now live in East Northport. Anyone that thinks this would be a benefit in any way should have their head examined. You want to downsize? Go to the EL section or off Manor Rd.. Can't afford that then move to Ridge into Seizure Village. Stop wanting this atrocity that will ruin everyone's way of life because you can't afford to live in the area. I cannot believe this is even being considered. Bribes to B.O.E, bribes to town officials. What's next, the children? Why not put this crap up where Mr. Kreiger lives and let him deal with the traffic.
Louise February 01, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Long Island Lover, the island you love is almost history. It's aging out (and you're not getting any younger either) and older residents don't want to live in their big homes anymore. Keeping an open mind and considering all options, not just the current one, are essential to keep Elwood a thriving community. Rezoning is an option, not an "end of discussion;" it happens all the time. There are quite a few Elwood/East Northport people who are very interested in relocating to this proposed community.
Dad of Three February 01, 2013 at 09:06 PM
To Long Island Lover, I would be OK with reading a general rant like yours (whether in opposition or in favor of the proposal), but you went way over the top when you started with your "bribes" crap. First of all, since you seem ignorant of this fact, your Board of Education has NOT supported this proposal and have asked some very hard questions of the Town before they could take an official position on the proposal. I have read their letter (which you can also read on the District's website, so I guess you failed to do your home work), and it is an excellent reflection of their fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of the district, and their responsibility for the safety and well-being of children. Moreover, LI Lover, the Board of Education does not have any authority either to approve or to disapprove the proposal. That resides solely with the Town Board of Huntington, and even if all five member of the BOE threatened to hold their breath until their faces turned blue, the Town could ignore them if they wished. All the BOE can do is to express their position on the proposal, and Elwood's BOE have indicated what is needed for them to be able to take a position, one way or the other. Frankly, I doubt that their well-expressed and understandable concerns can be satisfied by the developer, or by Oak Tree Dairy, but only time will tell. I would urge you to be more careful and more rational, before making libelous comments about the Board of Education.
Long Island Lover February 02, 2013 at 01:28 AM
You are all spending way too much time on this. If you think for 1 minute this proposal would enhance the community one bit, you should move back to Queens or Staten Island. Between the "magic traffic lights" and the promises of money to the BOE (I was to one of the meetings and that is what their atty said), maybe he phrased it as a gift ie: bribe, this can not be a good idea for ANYONE. This is not so much a rave as it is a reaction to the stupidity of the whole idea. Town officials do take bribes. I know this for a fact. Wake up if you think they don't. You must have a lot of time on your hands to be devoting so much time on researching this proposal. As far as the Board of Ed is concerned, I don't trust their judgement anymore than I trust yours or Louise that thinks this is a "retirement" community made up of old folks 55 and over that don't work anymore so therefore will only have 1 car. What crap! To hear Steve and his attorney speak sounds like they have rescued Elwood by "pledging" $1,000,000.00 to the school and additional $'s to the town while the units are all sold and the town starts to collect taxes. I didn't know Elwood was in such dire straights. Stop analyzing this to death. It makes no sense, will not enhance anyone's way of life and will only be to the detriment of the whole community. I rest my case and am done with this.
Louise February 02, 2013 at 02:08 AM
LIL - go to bed and chill. I don't know what you're talking about and apparently making up lies to justify your case is how you operate. What are you, 18? You talk in circles and think if you shout loud and long enough, everyone will understand and agree with you. Guess again.
Long Island Lover February 02, 2013 at 04:51 AM
Sorry Louise, I took it that you were for this proposed nightmare. L.I. doesn't have to turn to crap just because a developer wants to turn everything to crap. Leave it them and they will fill every empty space with a building or parking lot. What a shame. Shame on everyone who made it this way. Do you see a quality of life improvement? Can you honestly say that your life is better due to the developments and shopping centers that clog our streets and polute our watersheds and air? Are we better off getting rid of the farms and open spaces so that construction jobs can be made? Are we better off that we have to sit through 3-4 lights at Deer Park East and Jericho Typk from 3:00pm on, then sit through multiple lights to make a left onto Elwood Rd. and then again at the corner of Cuba Hill and Elwood? Morning traffic isn't any better. But this is much larger than traffic issues. The people in power to make a difference in these types of quality of life decisions should not allow these types of developments to be built. Unfortunately, the All Mighty Dollar usually wins and I've seen too much to think that they only have your best interests at heart. If I didn't have the knowledge of Town Hall and if I didn't know Mr. Kreiger, I might be starry eyed into believing that they had our poor aged population's interest at hand. But I do. And I know that Mr. Kreiger is only out for his own personal gain and doesn't give a damn about you or anyone who lives in this community.

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