The Town of Smithtown is considering the adoption of a local law that would allow residential uses as part of mixed-use developments in the Hauppauge Industrial Park.[1]  The proposal follows on the heels of an April 2019 report commissioned by the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency (“SCIDA”) which called for the park to position itself to become a regional economic hub that fosters the growth of key industries by, among other things, creating a more dynamic live-work-play environment that will attract and keep workers.

According to HIA-LI (formerly Hauppauge Industrial Association), the Hauppauge Industrial Park is the second largest industrial park in the nation, topped only by California’s Silicon Valley.  It is comprised of approximately 1,400 acres of land and is home to over 1,300 companies which employ about 55,000 people.  The 13 million square feet of construction, manufacturing and service industry space in the park generate approximately $13 billion in annual output or about 8% of Long Island’s gross domestic product.  While the Hauppauge Industrial Park plays an important role in Long Island’s economic development, many of its industrial occupants have closed their facilities in recent years.

The SCIDA report noted that while 39% of Long Island’s population over 25 years old have Bachelor’s degrees, many young adults do not work on Long Island.  Instead, college-educated millennials are attracted to more urban environments that offer walkable communities, with a variety of restaurants, bars and other social venues, and more diverse and affordable housing options.  Moreover, it is now widely recognized that employers go to places where employees want to live.  Thus, the report specifically calls for local zoning authorities to amend their zoning regulations to allow new mixed-use buildings in portions of the park fronting on major thoroughfares.

The Town of Smithtown has answered that call by proposing amendments to the Hauppauge Industrial Park Overlay District regulations that apply to the Light Industrial zoned properties in the Hauppauge Industrial Park.  The most significant amendment authorizes the Town Board to approve mixed-use buildings in certain areas of the park as a special exception if it finds that the proposed use is desirable and compatible with the surrounding area and the proposal satisfies certain minimum conditions.  For instance, in order to be eligible for a special exception, a proposed mixed-use building must be located on a lot that is at least seven acres in size that has frontage on Motor Parkway or on Old Willets Path south of Rabro Drive, or within 500 feet of certain designated intersections.  Approximately 13 parcels would be eligible for mixed-use development, which could result in the construction of as many as 1,000 apartments units within the industrial park.

Within a mixed-use building, a minimum of 50% of the ground floor must be occupied by active uses. An “active use” is defined in the proposed local law as “a use that generates daily public patronage, including . . . bars, commercial entertainment, restaurants, museums, retail (sales and service), personal service, offices, and similar uses, and a use which provides an amenity for building residents.”  Mixed-use developments must provide off-street parking that meets the parking requirements of the sum of the parking stalls required for each use within the building.  Lastly, at least 20% of the residential units shall be affordable workforce housing units and comply with the Town’s Affordable Workforce Housing Policy.

The Town Board held a virtual public hearing on May 21, 2020 to consider the proposed zoning amendments, and was sharply criticized by opponents of the law who argued that scheduling a public hearing on such an important proposal at 2 p.m. was “offensive” and that the virtual Zoom format lacked transparency.  Opponents of the law included residents of Hauppauge and the surrounding areas, and the president of the Hauppauge Board of Education, who claimed that mixed-use buildings would bring congestion and increase demands on public services like fire, police and schools.  Not surprisingly, the Town Board heard from a number of local developers and builder’s organizations who expressed support for the legislative proposal and see it as a catalyst for attracting new companies and industries to the park.

The public hearing was closed on May 21st, but the record was held open for 20 days for additional comment.  The Town Board formally closed the record on June 11th, and is expected to act on the proposed zoning amendments as soon as it completes its review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).

[1] The Hauppauge Industrial Park is in the process of being rebranded as “The Long Island Innovation Park at Hauppauge.”