Heather Ross, Elwood Resident:
Letter Of Support
Huntington Planning Board,
With regards to the Elwood Orchard/Villadom Project: I am a homeowner down the street from this proposed project, am a parent of four children in Elwood public schools, am actively involved in our district and am educated on our financial situation. I am in full support of this project. My reasons?
1. That land absolutely will be developed. It is unrealistic to think that plot of land will sit untouched. The owner has shown his desire to develop and the town has shown their willingness to support zoning changes. If it's going to be developed, I want to make sure it's developed in the way that will be best for our community. The previous proposal for HUNDREDS of apartments (aka high-density housing) would put a huge drain on our school district and hurt our property values. The other option I've heard people supporting is 1-acre homes. The 1-acre homes at the end of my block pay $27,000 annually in property taxes. A house assessed at $4,100 in Elwood pays approximately $2,000 more annually than our neighboring district, Half Hollow Hills. I cannot think of a single person who would purchase a 1-acre home on Jericho Turnpike and pay higher property taxes to live in a school district that is labeled in "final distress."
2. Traffic has been questioned. The number of accidents at that location on Jericho Turnpike has been questioned as well. Those are both valid concerns. However, that stretch of Jericho Turnpike from Manor Road to Warner Road has a speed limit of 40mph. I drive it multiple times a day and I would say the usual speed is 60-65 mph. THAT is why there are so many accidents. The proposed traffic light pattern will help the flow of traffic and will create a system where, if people drive the speed limit, they will hit all green lights. This will actually improve traffic safety at that spot. In addition, if traffic wasn't a concern for the Town of Huntington with regards to Oak Tree and placing 300 apartments on Elwood Road, I cannot imagine that will be a concern on Jericho Turnpike. The developer paid for a traffic consultant. He then offered to pay for a second traffic consultant chosen by the community. None was ever given to him so he chose. Part of his approval will require him to pay for a third consultant through the town.
3. ELWOOD IS IN DESPERATE NEED OF CORPORATE TAX REVENUE. As mentioned, we are in "financial distress." We are one of only 2 districts on Long Island to have failed budget votes. This community is already overtaxed compared to neighboring districts due to the lack of commercial tax base. We have been deficit spending for years and are proposing to continue that in our current budget. Basic math will show that you cannot continue to deficit spend forever. The money will run out at some point. I urge Elwood residents to attend CF/BAC (Citizens Finance Budget Advisory Committee) meetings and get informed on Elwood's finances. We are not in a good place. Our district has already met with surrounding districts in the past to explore consolidation. No one was interested. We cannot continue down the path we are on. The information that the developer has been approved for $18.8 million in tax breaks is 100% false. He will not receive tax breaks. He will be paying 100% of the taxes. 100%. While it is true that the approximately $3 million in taxes will not go directly to the district to increase our spending, it will go towards our tax levy. We have a current tax levy of about $60 million dollars. If their $3 million goes into that pot, we can't raise the tax levy to $63 million BUT that $3 million reduces the burden on everyone else to $57 million, which WILL result in a small decrease in taxes or, at the very least, a decreased increase in taxes. Elwood residents have spoken. They cannot continue to pay these taxes. If we want Elwood to even exist in the future, we need change. If we want to preserve Elwood, that means making sure Elwood is not completely dismantled, which is a very real possibility at some point in the future.
4. This developer has reached out to the community numerous times. He has attended many meetings and has changed his plans due to community feedback. I met with him this week to ask questions and he sat with me for 2 hours. He is willing to provide community benefits based on our needs and wants. He has spoken with the Elwood Library several times about providing a space on the property or helping towards a new building. I would much rather work with a developer who is willing to work with the community than one who will not (as we have experienced with Oak Tree Dairy). He is a respected, experienced developer and his properties are immaculate. His landscape team is among the top in Long Island. His tenants are long-term lease tenants (i.e. 20+ year leases) which avoids turnover. The POSSIBLE tenants include medical offices, which would bring professionals into the area, LifeTime Fitness (with a facility similar to the family-based one in Syosset) and a high-quality grocer SIMILAR TO a Whole Foods or Wegmans. This is not a "shopping mall" like Walt Whitman.
5. The developer is focused on synergy within his property and with surrounding properties. The PathMark shopping center across the street is not in disrepair because of him. Elwood Orchard is not even approved. If community members have an issue with that shopping center, they should address those with the town and the owner. I live down the street from there and would avoid PathMark in favor of other grocery stores because it was in such horrible condition. Building this property and improving our current strip malls are not mutually exclusive. This property will not compete with a hobby shop or a nail salon or a local pizza place. That's not what's proposed at all.
Elwood is in a very bad place financially. We cannot continue down this same road for long. Over the next three years, it will be virtually impossible to pierce the tax cap and residents cannot afford these increases. If we cannot increase revenue there, we need to increase it elsewhere or drastically cut costs. Drastic cuts in our district will result in a diminished educational experience for our children and lower property values. I send my kids to public school and want to continue that. My youngest is entering kindergarten. I want to ensure that Elwood not only exists for the next 13 years but adds programs for our students, further raises our reputation and increases our property values while reducing the burden to taxpayers so young families can afford to move here and older residents can afford to stay here. I fully believe this is the best option for us as a community.
40 Timber Ridge Drive
Huntington, NY 11743