An East Setauket-based real estate company is one step closer to changing the face of Patchogue after village trustees on Thursday approved a $100 million development project meant to turn the vacated Swezey’s department store into a 21st century mixed-use oasis.
TRITEC needs only to have a parking variance approved by Patchogue's Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for the redevelopment project to move forward, but the divided vote was still a major win for TRITEC.
The so-called passed by a 4-3 vote Thursday night at a special .
“This was obviously an emotional decision,” said Rob Loscalzo, TRITEC's chief operating officer, adding that he was excited to get started on the project.
TRITEC plans to construct 291 apartments, along with more than 46,000 square feet of retail space and 18,000 square feet of office space in the Four Corners section of the village. The project will also include a parking garage with more than 500 spaces.
Patchogue mayor Paul Pontieri and trustees Jack Krieger, Lori Devlin and Joseph Keyes voted in favor of the project. Trustees Gerard Crean, William Hilton and Deputy Mayor Stephen McGiff voted in opposition.
Because TRITEC needs to seek a variance from the ZBA for a 9-foot-by-18-foot parking spot that is used in the plans, Crean made a motion to postpone the village board decision until after the ZBA meets next Wednesday.
“If we continue this evening, we will not be the last and final word on the application,” Crean said. “At this particular point in time without the zoning board opinion on this I think it is premature and would in effect leave the ultimate and final decision to their board.”
Pontieri has been hesitant to wait much longer,"I don’t know if waiting here for 10 years is what we want to do and that’s what I wrestle with."
Should the ZBA deny the variance, the process would have to restart anyway, McGiff said. However when put to a vote, the motion was denied, 4-3, as the approval could be given by the board pending the next decision.
During closing comments before the board’s final vote, McGiff voiced his concerns.
“High density, rental apartments do not work here,” McGiff said, referencing several existing apartment unit developments in the village. “I hope history proves me wrong.”
Hilton said that there are serious parking deficiencies in the project. He cited that several of the parking spots are placed in areas that are inadequate to turn. Hilton, a former member of the Planning Board and the ZBA, added that the plan places parking spots on Lake Street, which is often used by the fire department.
“[Lake Street] is not wide enough for parking and for safe passage for an emergency vehicle,” Hilton said.
Krieger compared this decision to previous big decisions made by village boards in the past, which led to the creation of a park region near the Great South Bay.
“The impact that this project will have on the village is significant and we all know that,” Krieger said.
The original plan for Four Corners called for a mixed-use development that included a hotel, but Loscalzo told Patch in January that there is "no financing in hospitality right now."
Approximately 40 people attended Thursday night’s meeting, with mixed reactions to the vote.
“We have to hope for the best,” resident Don Wachsmuth said of the project. “There are plenty of examples around that dictate we shouldn’t do what we are doing.”
Resident Joel Peck said he was hopeful that it would be a successful project, and that there are examples of similar projects that have worked in other areas.
Next Wednesday’s Zoning Board of Appeals meeting will take place at Patchogue Village Hall at 7:30 p.m.
Krystle DiNicola contributed to this story.