That’s the word Sayville business owners have used repeatedly, according to Sayville Chamber of Commerce President Bill Etts, when discussing a proposed mixed-use development on 136 acres of land in Holbrook.
“Scared that all our retail business will be sucked out of Main Street,” Etts told the Islip Town Board during a three and a half hour public hearing last Thursday on the Islip Pines project.
Serota Properties is proposing 250 one and two-bedroom housing units, more than 400,000 square feet of retail space, a movie theater and a 1.3 million square feet of industrial space, which would include a hotel, on the land at the northeast corner of Vets and Sunrise highways.
The project was first proposed in 2008, but stalled following the death of Nathan Serota in 2010. Now back on the town’s agenda, Serota attorney Bram Weber said Thursday’s public hearing was “28 years in the making.”
“Serota Properties has paid more than $10 million in property taxes over the 28 years it has owned this property without ever seeing a penny in return,” Weber said. “If approved and built as proposed, the Islip Pines property would increase from the $500,000 in annual property taxes it pays now to $6 million per year in property taxes at current rates and would provide permanent jobs for 2,600 people.”
More than 100 people packed into the Town Board meeting room for the public hearing with dozens more watching on a TV screen outside. There was some debate over the makeup of the crowd, with many union workers, poised to benefit if the project is approved, in attendance, but when it came to public comment, the opinions generally swung in one direction.
“I bought a house 36 years ago in a quiet community and now coming into my community will be a five-story hotel,” Lenny Camarda, who lives on Glen Summer Road in Holbrook, told the Town Board. “Have some mercy on the people.”
Rick Ammirati, president of the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce, urged the board “to look at this project very closely.”
“When you enter Holbrook from 495, it says Holbrook, a great place to live, work and shop,” Ammirati said. “To live work and play concerns me. The word play is the word that concerns me. We’re playing with peoples’ lives. We’re playing with businesses’ futures. We’re playing with a lot here.”
The retail area of the project is “not intended to compete with local store owners,” said Weber, listing an Apple Store, Men’s Warehouse, Gap, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Dick’s Sporting Goods as potential tenants for the space.
The Town Board will accept written public comment on the project through April 2, but it will still be a while before the board votes on the rezoning needed to allow the project to move forward.
Town Board members raised questions over traffic impacts in the area (namely with regard to an already congested area near Costco) and the layout of the project.
“Would you consider clearing the slate, starting all over again?” Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt asked Robert Yuricic, an architect working for Serota.
“We would certainly look at other options,” Yuricic said, adding that Serota would like to maintain the current proposed percentages of residential/retail space. “Certainly the layout and location can be discussed and investigated.”