Carmans River protection plan
wins support

A revised plan to protect the Carmans River will appease environmentalists and developers by expanding protections for the river and offering developers sites to build on outside the protected area, backers say.

The proposal, the Carmans River Watershed Protection and Management Plan, has been a subject of intense debate in Suffolk's largest town for more than a year. It is designed to steer development away from the river's sensitive watershed.

A previous proposal promised to let property owners sell "development credits" to developers, who could use the credits to build multifamily housing away from the river, with greater density than zoning allows. But developers and some town officials said the proposal did not identify enough areas for such multifamily projects to be built, and the plan stalled.

The new proposal, to be unveiled at a work session Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Town Hall, identifies 35 areas that can receive credits, said Tullio Bertoli, Brookhaven's planning commissioner and one of the plan's architects. The areas are spread throughout Brookhaven and are mostly failed -- or failing -- commercial developments, totaling 540 acres, officials said.

The new proposal also expands the protected area around the river -- it had been about 9,000 acres -- to about 12,500 acres, Bertoli said.  Environmentalists and developers who worked with town officials to craft the plan trumpeted the new draft as a good compromise.  Long Island Builders Institute chief executive Mitchell Pally said the proposal "provides the ability to do the kind of building the community says it wants, in areas the community says it wants it to go."

Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said the proposal is "a marriage of preservation and development."  But the proposal has several hurdles to clear and will likely face much scrutiny from the town board and the public.

Supervisor Mark Lesko said he will ask the town board to set a March 29 public hearing on the proposal. To give it enough time to be advertised, the public hearing would have to be set at Tuesday's town board meeting, he said.  The proposal must be adopted as law by the end of June per state law, Lesko said.

Councilman Daniel Panico said he and the other five town board members will review the proposal at today's work session. He said he is concerned the plan will create residences without fostering job growth.  "We need tax base, we need jobs. Many of these properties are prime commercial real estate," Panico said.