Commack residents' concerns about proposed plans for a power plant being built on Town Line Road are nothing but rumor, according to the town's planning director.
Frank DeRubeis said he's received numerous phone calls in the past week from Commack residents concerned about alleged proposal to build a power plans on Town Line Road. DeRubeis denied such plans exist.
Instead, he contributed residents' fears to a misunderstanding started when the town published legal notices for its upcoming planning board meeting on June 6.
"The rumors got started when we posted the advertisement for zoning changes. One thing led to another, as one of the things under these changes is a piece of property that was involved with plans for a power plant eight years ago. People are thinking we're bringing it," DeRubeis said. "The town is not interested in that proposal."
The Town of Smithtown published legal notices May 21 in The Smithtown Messenger to notify residents of public hearings on FB4 Realty's request for a change of zoning from light industrial to heavy industrial, and Carlson Associates' request for a change of zoning from light industrial to wholesale industrial and heavy industrial to be held June 6, in accordance with New York State law.
From this, a chain email began being sent between Commack residents claiming the Town of Smithtown was considering a proposal to build a power plant on Town Line Road.
The email, as forwarded to Patch on May 25, starts:
A formal proposal has been submitted to build a 250 megawatt power plant on Townline Road approximately 1 mile away from Commack High School. The effects of any power plant will be detrimental. The health effects alone could be life threatening.
The community email goes on to call for residents to attend the June 6 Planning Board meeting at 8 p.m. to protest the zoning changes stating:
On the agenda is the review of the request for a zoning change from light industrial to heavy industrial. Without this zone change the power plant can't go forward.
The chain email was not signed when received by Patch, and its initial source could not be traced.
DeRubeis said the individual who started this email has misunderstood the issues at stake during the June 6 meeting. He said the FB4 Realty property, south of Old Northport Road, was once the site listed in a former power plant proposal submitted by KeySpan, before the electrical utility became Long Island Power Authority. However, that project was rejected by the town.
"When we testified on the proposed power plan, we said it was too close to residential neighborhoods and we will not support it on their site," DeRubeis said. "The town board has indicated to me that they have not changed their minds."
LIPA issued a request for proposals approximately 14 months ago, according to DeRubeis, searching to build a new power plant on Long Island. There were 18 locations considered including two in the Town of Smithtown area, one near Carlson's properties in Kings Park. Four months ago, LIPA whittled the list of 18 potential sites down to 6, with a Carlson property still in the running.
"They are currently doing evaluation to whittle that list down to possibly three sites," DeRubeis said. "At this particular time, there is not specific site plan that has been put forth. It's all a conception where this plant may be located."
Mark Gross, a spokesman for LIPA, said the utility company is not ready to discuss any plans being submitted for a power plant at this time, but LIPA will " probably be ready to discuss it sometime this fall."
Meanwhile, the public hearings schedule for next Thursday are an effort by property owner Toby Carlson and multiple others along Old Northport Road and Town Line road, that have multiple violations with regard to industrial activity, to legalize their current use of the land and businesses, DeRubeis said.
Kings Park residents have made coming from several of the businesses run off Old Northport Road in Kings Park.
DeRubeis said he felt the public hearings are important for residents to attend, to gain an understanding of what heavy industrial zoning could mean for the future of that section of Kings Park.
"I've invited anyone who want to come in and look at the applications. Just give us a courtesy call in advance as the files are on someone's desk," he said.
If a zone change is approved to heavy industrial, it would not allow for a power plant to be built on the land, according to DeRubeis. A power plant can be built on any parcel of land because it's a public utility, regardless of zoning, as long as the builders obtain a special permit from the town board.