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Levy: County funds would develop downtowns, possibly Smithtown

Town officials say development is impossible without first expanding sewer capacity

Steve Levy greets people at the Smithtown Chamber of Commerce meeting last week. Photo by Elana Glowatz. (click for larger version)
January 26, 2011 | 04:10 PM
During his annual visit with the Smithtown Chamber of Commerce, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said he is working to ensure "Smithtown is what it deserves to be."

At the Jan. 20 meeting held at the Elks Lodge in Smithtown, Levy said during his speech one of his current focuses is to "make sure that we can keep our business community thriving." One of the ways he wants to achieve this is by funding a capital project to invest large amounts of money into certain downtown areas for transit-oriented development and infrastructure development. Levy's spending bill has yet to be approved by the Legislature, but he said the plan is to take $2 million and split it amongst a few locations, Smithtown possibly among them.

"We're talking about a select few downtowns that would get a large infusion of money to lead to something that is long-lasting," Levy told The Times of Smithtown. Building up an area "leads to a greater sense of identity for the community, higher property values and a stronger economic base," the county executive said.

Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio said he has not heard of any discussion regarding Levy's resolution that could potentially mean development for the area, but said if the county is going to invest in development in Smithtown, they would need to consider expanding the town's overburdened sewer system. Building more sewers in Smithtown has long been a request of many but with no funding for the multimillion dollar project, plans for such have not seen the light of day.

At the chamber meeting, Levy said Smithtown's sewer development is "a ways off" because the money is not yet in place, but officials "haven't forgotten about the project."

But town planning director, Frank DeRubeis, said the downtown development Levy proposed cannot be done without a better sewer system. The system in place now "has stagnated the development in a lot of commercial areas," DeRubeis told The Times. Short-term fixes are in place, such as denitrification systems, which remove nitrates from sewage but are small and expensive to maintain, he said. Another short-term solution is the transfer of development rights, which allows businesses to purchase capacity credits in the town's sewer system. But DeRubeis said without a better sewer system, it would not be possible to build up the downtown, construct affordable housing or increase density in the area.

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