Critics are coming out of the woodwork in the St. James hamlet of Smithtown after a planning board approved the subdivision of a 75-acre property.
The Smithtown Planning Board voted unanimously for the preliminary subdivision of the property, Newsday reported. Gryodyne, a commercial property manager founded in 1946 as a helicopter manufacturer, wants to carve the property into eight lots, which could be used for hotels, medical offices and more.
The subdivision approval could help develop the property, which the former defense contractor has been trying to find a use for since revealing its intentions in 2017 to sell and unwind assets. No applications to develop the site have been filed and a buyer backed out of a deal for nine acres last year, according to Newsday.
Still, the approval from the planning board drew consternation from critics who fear the environmental impact of its development. Joe Bollhofer, a member of St. James-Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, told Newsday there were “significant legal deficiencies in the environmental review.”
Bollhofer claimed a traffic study done as part of the environmental review ignored testimony given a decade ago by a Gyrodyne expert about increased volume, as well as the impact of development near Stony Brook University.
A lawyer told Newsday the traffic expert’s testimony was about land in a different town; St. James is most accessible by car, as it was when critics of Gryodyne’s ambitions moved there.
Assembly member Steven Englebright blasted the Smithtown Planning Board for “a lack of apparent objectivity, or even interest in what members of the community wanted them to pay attention to.” Englebright hopes the state can preserve the land through a proposed environmental bond, but Gyrodyne doesn’t need to accept a purchase offer.
Gyrodyne, based in St. James, said it would mitigate environmental concerns by creating a vegetative buffer on North Country Road and banning left turns in and out of an entrance to the complex.
In 1975, a few years after making its last helicopter, Gyrodyne began converting its St. James facilities for industrial rental. It became a publicly traded REIT in 2006 and began to focus on health care–related real estate.
[Newsday] — Holden Walter-Warner