A plan to raze a vegetated lot in South Setauket Park to expand an existing park is drawing criticism from some who say it will only create problems and praise from others who say it will enhance the quality of life in the community.
The South Setauket Park Advisory Board, which created the plan, is calling for a 230-foot by 170-foot grassy lot with picnic tables that would serve as a great place to "throw a frisbee, fly a kite, play soccer etc. with your children and grandchildren," according to a letter to residents published on the board's website. The park area, which would amount to just under one acre, would be located behind the current park area that features a gazebo and some benches along Strathmore Village Drive.
According to its letter, the Advisory Board downsized the plan from a previous proposal of a 300-foot by 150-foot area based on feedback it received from some community members. The plan includes the preservation of natural buffers around the park, and does not include plans for athletic fields or parking lots. The South Setauket Park Special District has a budget of around $14,500 for projects outside of routine maintenance, landscaping, irrigation, and administrative costs; the district has an annual budget of approximately $40,000, which is funded by a $59 fee each South Setauket Park household pays each year.
The plan for a park has angered some nearby residents.
"The people [on] Strathmore Village Drive will have to contend with the increase of noise and vandalism," said Gail Casano, a resident of Strathmore Village Drive for 38 years.
She said she is concerned that to use the park area, residents will likely park on the street in an already heavily trafficked part of the community where stop signs are often ignored. She cited past vandalism to the gazebo as another reason why she said the expansion is a bad idea. And, she said, "There’s no promise that only residents can use the park."
Another neighbor, Richard Harrison, said he also objects to the park.
"I think we have enough parks in the area that we don’t need to destroy what should be considered a wildlife sanctuary," he said. "We don’t live in apartment buildings. We all have large enough properties where we can picnic and barbeque in our own yards."
However, not everyone is opposed to the idea.
"It would be a good idea that would maybe bring the community closer together," said Larry Perlmutter, who has lived in South Setauket more than 30 years.
Nearby resident Edward Good called the park a great idea. "It would have multiple uses," he said. "Right now it's just wasted land."
Harrison noticed town workers clearing the lot in May, and said he had not received any prior notices from the Advisory Board regarding the creation of parkland out of a vegetated lot. He called the town, which then stopped clearing the land.
"We got a temporary cease over here, but this is the beginning of a fight," Harrison said.
Armin Olivieri, a member of the South Setauket Park Advisory Board, said in an email to Patch that the community's 671 households were notified at least once in May – some as many as three other times since then – and said the board received a negative response from less than 1 percent of those households.
The South Setauket Park Advisory Board is a group of nine board members appointed by the Town of Brookhaven. According to Olivieri, it was created by town resolution in 2000 in order to advise the town board of the residents' needs and desires, guide the special district's expenditures, and determine new projects within the special district.
Over the years there have been other attempts to create a park at this site, most recently in 1999, when a community vote was held. Olivieri said the community voted in favor of the park at that time, but said the plans were never carried out because the actual cost would have been much higher than the projected cost and the community did not want to incur any additional expenses.
"Since the current plan is simple and basic, falls within the limitations of the advisory board responsibility and operating budget, we do not believe it warrants a community vote," Olivieri said.
Brian Beedenbender, the town's deputy chief of staff, said those on both sides of the issue are currently canvassing the neighborhood with petitions.
"We’re holding off until we get a clear understanding from this community," Beedenbender said. "We’ll move forward if a majority of people want it done."