Emotions were high as the latest version of the Cornerstone luxury apartments proposal went before the public in Patchogue Village once again.
The project’s principals are now in their third year seeking a special permit to build along Patchogue River, just north of Oar Steak & Seafood Grille.
Wednesday night marked the Planning Board’s last of three meetings related to the Cornerstone project.
The first saw Terwilliger & Bartone Properties presenting amendments to their prior plans.
The second included a public hearing, and the third was used to add written public comments into record, and offer the applicant an opportunity to respond to the publics concerns.
Stormwater runoff concerns raised in 2019 by the village were also addressed in the applicant’s revisions.
Last night, Kevin Weeks, acting Planning Board chair, closed the virtual meeting with the declaration that members are to formulate their opinions so the board, with the help of council, can draft a letter of their recommendation to approve or deny Terwilliger & Bartone Properties a special permit to the Village Board of Trustees “in a timely manner.”
The Village Board has the final say.
Nearly a year and a half ago, the board recommended village trustees deny the special permit necessary for the applicant to build a residential structure within Patchogue’s “E” industrial zone.
That sent the applicant back to the drawing board to make revisions.
The Village Board hasn’t voted on anything just yet.
They thought it was over
So little has happened in the downtime that many residents were under the impression that the Planning Board had put the kibosh on the entire project, as evident by many of the letters and emails members read Wednesday evening.
Anna Masone, who moved into her Patchogue home from a Queens apartment last October, said she was surprised to see the large public notice signs regarding the recent meetings over Terwilliger & Bartone Properties’ application.
“Before I even moved in the previous owners told us, ‘Oh there was a project but the town said no. It’s not gonna happen. They didn’t approve it,’” Masone, 37, said.
“If i had known they were going to be building an apartment building, I probably wouldn’t have bought this house,” she added.
Several times during Wednesday’s meeting, Weeks had to address the misconception expressed in many of the public comments that the Cornerstone project was denied by the Planning Board.
He explained the Planning Board has had no voting authority in this process. It listened to residents, and the applicant, and made a “non-binding referral” to the Village Board to deny the required special permit.
Wednesday’s proceeding began with Planning Board members reading letters and emails sent by Patchogue villagers, 16 of which expressed concerns and openly opposed the project.
The most common grievance involved the “monstrous” appearance of a multistory structure and the “eyesore” of a parking deck.
“I don’t really think a two-story parking garage belongs in a residential neighborhood,” Masone said “It’s a little weird.”
Terwilliger & Bartone Properties added the parking deck to the previous design before these three recent meetings.
Anthony Bartone, managing partner of Terwilliger & Bartone Properties, told GreaterPatchogue that he was prepared for community disapproval of the structure.
“We have no objection to deleting it,” Bartone said. “But the plan we brought was in response to a formal denial letter that we received citing parking as one of the reasons for denial.”
Bartone needed 154 parking spaces, but only had 124. The proposed parking deck would add 22 spaces to the design.
The company also found room for an additional 10 spaces if they purchased another piece of property, bringing their total to 156 spaces, but residents disapproved of how they would be making space in that respect too.
Those other spots would subtract from what has long been the Oar Steak & Seafood Grille‘s spillover parking.
Absorbing these spots customarily used by the Oar’s diners would cause them to spill onto the residential side streets, residents argued.
This, however, is not the concern of Terwilliger & Bartone Properties or the Village of Patchogue.
“Technically speaking, though it is an issue that has to be dealt with, it is actually not the problem of the developer of this particular property,” Weeks said.
“Once they acquire the property, should they acquire the property, it’s their property.” He concluded that the Oar must design a parking plan “that allows for the parking on that site to be contained fully within that site.”
Differing legal opinions
One crucial aspect of Terwilliger & Bartone Properties’ proposal is their attempt to seek approval for a “zero-variance” design.
The height of both the building and the parking deck fall within the 45-foot maximum laid out in Patchogue’s “E” industrial zone, in which most of the development falls.
However, it also intrudes into the “C” residential zone, which has a height restriction of 35 feet, a tight squeeze for the multi-story structure.
Christopher Bianco, a member of the Planning Board’s council, disagreed with the applicant’s stance that the project does not need a variance.
“The default rule would be that the more restrictive zoning would apply,” Bianco said.
However, Kathleen Deegan Dickson, an attorney representing Terwilliger and Bartone Properties, pointed to Section 435-13 of the Village of Patchogue code, in which it states “the Zoning Board may permit the less restrictive use to extend to the whole or any part of such lot.”
“Yes, we need to go to the Zoning Board for relief,” Deegan Dickson said. “But its technically not a variance.”
A few minutes earlier, Deegan Dickson hinted at the future of the proposal, whether the Planning Board recommends the trustees to approve or deny the special permit.
“We’re still at the very beginning of a long process,” she said.
Top: Rendering from The Cornerstone website. Click here to see more.