“Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.”
Well over 100 residents from across St. James and the surrounding hamlets filled the second-floor meeting room of the St. James Fire Department on Route 25A to voice their concerns. Their concerns pertained to a Fort Salonga developer’s plans to build a 97-bed assisted living facility on the site of Bull Run Farm.
The farm is one of the last vestiges of the area’s rich agricultural heritage, much of it swept away by development in the late 20th century.
Mills Pond Group LLC’s attorneys conducted the meeting as a “voluntary” informational meeting prior to the town board meeting on their zoning exception in April.
The attorneys themselves admitted that “most, if not all” attendees opposed the project being pursued by the Mills Pond Group’s owner, Frank Amicizia.
The proposed facility would develop approximately 20% of the 9.2-acre site, leaving 80% either untouched or landscaped— a figure some residents were reluctant to accept.
Amicizia owns one of the three parcels that make up the site. The remaining two parcels are owned by members of the Elderkin family, who once farmed the land. If the deal is approved, then he will purchase the remaining parcels. “We want to make sure that the grounds are preserved, but we also have concerns about the sewage treatment plant,” said Joy Cirigliano of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, also mentioning the pharmaceutical waste, the fertilizers used in landscaping and the loss of habitat in her question to the lawyers.
One attorney, David Moran, tried to assuage these concerns stating that the facility would be built in compliance with all state and local codes. Many shared her concerns, but still, many more had quality-of-life concerns related to increased traffic and nostalgia for the site.
“I don’t want the problems; I don’t want the noise; I don’t want anything to do with it,” said one resident whose property borders where the proposed sewage treatment plant would be.
Another speaker questioned the rationale behind choosing this site in a zone that “still maintains its rural character” and is amongst the least densely populated places in the township.
Despite the long engagement, neither residents in attendance nor the property owner seemed phased. With pressure mounting and even grumblings of protests at St. James’ St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the future of this site is hardly set in stone.
Also mentioned were previous attempts by Suffolk County and the Peconic Land Trust to purchase the grounds, an option most residents would seem to prefer.
Those opposed to the development came out in force to the March 7 meeting of the Smithtown town board to speak against the project. Supervisor Ed Werheim assured residents that no determinations had been made on the project and that any public hearing for the proposal would occur in the evening hours.