Smithtown zoning change to allow apartments in industrial park

Smithtown zoning change to allow apartments in industrial park

Apartments could be allowed at some parcels at

Apartments could be allowed at some parcels at the Long Island Innovation Park at Hauppauge. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

Smithtown will permit apartments on some parcels in the Long Island Innovation Park at Hauppauge in a zoning code change that will balloon the potential value of eligible properties, according to a memo by a town official.

The change, approved by a 5-0 town council vote on Aug. 11, permits developers to apply for a special exception for mixed-use buildings incorporating ground-floor retail or restaurants with apartments and offices above. Much of the park is now zoned for light industry. 

Only 13 parcels of seven acres or larger in certain parts of the Innovation Park, like the Motor Parkway corridor, are eligible for the special exception.

Some of the eligible parcels are owned by limited liability companies connected with developers including Tritec, Rechler Equity and others. At full build-out, the assessed value of those parcels could increase by as much as 40%, David Barnes, the town’s environmental protection director, wrote in an Aug. 6 memo to the council.

Town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said the town chose locations with existing buildings that are on major thoroughfares and distanced from single-family homes. Officials did not consider current ownership of the parcels, she said. 

Town Supervisor Edward Wehrheim has said the zoning code change will allow developers to build as many as 1,000 apartments in total, though Garguilo said the actual number is likely to be lower. Some parcels are occupied by tenants or are owner-occupied, and Garguilo said only one or two redevelopments are likely in the near-term. 

Apartments would “fill a void desperately needed in the community” for housing options beyond single-family homes, Garguilo said. About 89% of the town’s housing stock falls into that category, compared with 84% in Suffolk County overall, and many of the town’s existing apartments are scattered and attached to homes.

In a statement emailed by a representative, Terri Alessi-Miceli, president of HIA-LI, the association that represents businesses in the park, said the change will “boost Long Island’s long-term competitiveness by providing housing that helps the region attract and train young professionals.” Mixed-use zoning will lead to enhanced profitability for employers in the park now concerned about attracting skilled workers, she said. 

But a longtime opponent of the change, James Bouklas, a lawyer who is president of the civic group We Are Smithtown, described it as a concession to developers that would alter the town’s character. “Developers have been subjecting Smithtown residents to death by a thousand cuts for generations,” he said. “People wanting to move to a nice area and shop locally — they’ve made that all but impossible.” Innovation Park apartments combined with 9,000 units planned for Heartland Town Square in nearby Brentwood would create something akin to Co-Op City in the Bronx, he said.

Barnes’ memo addressed some of the concerns that Bouklas and others voiced at an online hearing this spring. Traffic may increase “incrementally” but at least some vehicle trips by new residents would be confined within the park, and residential instead of industrial uses would mean fewer truck trips on area roads, Barnes wrote. Town staffers estimate the apartments could introduce 138 new children to Hauppauge public schools, but district enrollment is down by 621 students since 2012, he wrote; and staffers do not anticipate a significant increase in demand for emergency services. 

The zoning code change grew out of a 2019 effort by government and private industry to re-imagine the Innovation Park as a 21st-century regional economic hub. Some of the park’s original industrial occupants have left and some property owners have said it is growing harder to find tenants.

While the park produces $13 billion in goods and services annually, supporting 55,000 jobs, about 60 parcels are vacant and 314 are used for warehouses or storage.