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Town of Huntington ZBA Chairman issues statement on Indian Hills report and public comment period

Business by: Chrissy Ruggeri, August 16, 2022

A rendering of a “luxury living” residence at the Preserve at Indian Hills, a proposed 55 and better community located within the Indian Hills Golf Course at 21 Breeze Hill Road in Northport. Image via Facebook.

On August 11, Town of Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) Chairman Jerry Asher issued a public statement regarding the opening of a written-only comment period on the report prepared by H2M Architects & Engineers on the Preserve at Indian Hills application.

In his statement, Chairman Asher explains that the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association requested a comment period pertaining to the consultant’s report posted by the Town of Huntington last month, in addition to a public hearing on the report. In response to the request, the ZBA will allow for a ten-day comment period (which began August 12) for members of the public who wish to comment on the consultant’s report in writing. At the close of the ten-day period, the ZBA will afford the applicant a three-day period to submit any comments relative to the report or public comment regarding it. At that juncture, the record will be formally closed and no further public hearing will be scheduled.

Below is Chairman Asher’s full statement:

The Zoning Board of Appeals has received the Report of the Consultant, H2M; in the above matter. As per the Board’s prior directive, the report has been uploaded to the Town website for a 30-day review period which will conclude on August 11, 2022. Pursuant to the Town Code, the Board is not bound to accept any findings or recommendations in the Report. A Consultant’s Report is simply a mechanism that the Board may consider as part of the analysis of the application. Since the report has been uploaded, the Board has received correspondence from an attorney representing the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association which seeks to request both a comment period as to the Consultant’s Report and a further public hearing; citing the holding in a case Cilla v. Mansi No 3563-02, 2002 WL 1275122, a Suffolk County Trial Court level Decision, not a Decision from an Appellate level Court; for the proposition that further comment and a further public hearing is mandated relative to the Consultant’s Report.

We have carefully reviewed the Cilla matter and respectfully disagree with the conclusion drawn by counsel. More particularly, the Cilla matter was not a case involving a report from a consultant. Rather, the case involved a situation wherein the applicant was permitted to make a substantive submission in support of their application to the Board that members of the public were not permitted to comment upon. It was solely on that basis that the Court referred the matter back to the Zoning Board for a further hearing. The Consultant Report is distinguishable as it is not a submission of an applicant. There is also no case law nor Code Section that requires a further Public Hearing on the Consultant’s Report, and none will be held. The Board, despite the fact that our rules enable us to limit the duration of public inquiry during a hearing, did not impose any time limits on members of the public who wished to be heard during any public hearing on this matter. In fact, there was a lengthy five-hour hearing on this application on January 13, 2022, and no one was limited in the length of time of their presentation. The Board is cognizant of our responsibility in the handling of an application and committed to allowing interested parties to participate in the discourse. Accordingly, while not required to do so, the Board will open up a ten-day comment period for members of the public only who wish to comment on the Consultant’s Report in writing only and will include same as part of the record. At the close of the ten-day period, which will commence on August 12, 2022; the Board will afford the applicant a three-day period of time to submit any comments that they may have to the Board relative to the Consultant’s Report or public comment thereon. At that juncture, the record will be formally closed.