Last Tuesday's Brookhaven Town Hall meeting entailed a crucial meeting to consider the rescission of zoning of land parcels in East Patchogue slated for construction of a Walmart retail outlet.
The meeting was a continuation of a 2009 Town Board meeting in which numerous residents held a heated debate over building a Walmart on the property. The land is located on the northeast corner of the intersection at the Sunrise Highway service road and Hospital Road. The land is currently zoned for a J-2 permit, but the Town would change that designation after being put to a vote by members of the Town Board.
Several people in attendance at the Town Board meeting held yellow signs which said, "Stop Walmart East Patchogue" along with the website of the protesting group. Before the public comments section of the meeting began, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko emphasized that the meeting was not about whether or not a Walmart should be built, but about whether or not the zoning of that land should be rescinded. This means that comments were to be restricted to whether or not the area would be appropriate as a commercial zone. However, public comment did not typically abide by that rule. Residents that spoke against the rescinding cited benefits of additional tax revenue and more affordable products that would become more available to residents. Residents supporting the rescinding voiced numerous concerns including increased traffic on the Hospital Road bridge, the affect Walmart would have on small businesses, and questioned the safety of the neighborhoods surrounding the retailer if the store is constructed.
"Any box store will stop retail in downtown, coming soon Patchogue has Artspace, local organizations, a new YMCA, and local businesses coming to Main Street. The businesses want to continue," said Gail Hoag, Executive Director of the Patchogue Chamber of Commerce.
The Town Board was unable to vote on the motion to revoke that particular zoning that night because the rescission plans were pending approval from the county. However, residents urged the town to press the county for approval so it could be voted upon.
AW Realty, the owner of the property in East Patchogue, owns the La Bonne Vie apartment complex and the land in question. According to attorney Linda Margolin, who represents AW Realty, the owner is doing a ground lease, in which Walmart has put in a site plan application and AW Realty has already rented the property to Walmart pending approval of the application.
"If the property is resolved, they will build a 98,000 sq ft store," said Margolin. "If not, then they will build a 108,000 store or slightly larger."
AW Realty has had plans to build a retail store on the property for over 35 years, when they initially acquired the property.
"The owner got a 105 acre parcel in 1972 which contained segments zoned for apartments, condos, and the rest for commercial retail," said Margolin. "A small parcel (3 acres) was set up for offices, and that zoning was called A-4. Around 1995-1996, the owner concluded that there was already enough office space and no significant market would happen. They went to the rezoning board to change the 3 acre parcel so it wouldn't be used for retail."
If the area is in fact re-zoned, according to Margolin the Town of Brookhaven would refund the $250,000 to the owner as it was outlined in their contract.
"When the owner got the rezoning, a condition was that they would pay $250,000 upfront and the rest would be paid when it was approved," said Margolin.
Margolin went on to state that AW Realty feels that "ultimately there are more people that would favor the Wal-Mart than opposed."