Oak Tree Dairy: Elwood Has Two Options

Dairy says it will go to 24/7 full output if condo project doesn't go through.

Elwood residents can either accept a condominium development at the Oak Tree Dairy or watch it go to 100 percent output, Oak Tree President Hari Singh said at a packed Huntington Town Board meeting Tuesday.

"We could easily produce a million gallons a week in the facility we're running that gets distributed out with about 200 tractor trailers a week," he said. "We can't put those on our property, but we've already discussed alternatives with the town over the years. The solution is to shuttle vehicles on and off our property. It's perfectly legitimate."

If Oak Tree leases to out-of-state dairies, it would become a 24-hour operation working at double its peak production. Because the dairy is restricted to storing only 20 trucks on its property, Singh estimates that the additional tractor trailers and tankers would need to make about 600 round trips per week along Elwood Road, each requiring about 45 seconds to make a left turn.

"The traffic will be profoundly more, the sound, the noise, and the impact," he said. "We wanted to avoid that alternative."

The third alternative--selling the Oak Tree Dairy for development at current zoning--is not financially viable, said Singh. At its current zoning, a developer could build about 30 homes on one acre lots.

Related: Elwood Residents Organize Against Proposed Condos l Elwood Residents Speak Out Against Oak Tree Development l 482 Condos Proposed at Oak Tree Dairy

"We've been spending the last three years working on this alternative of this development," said Singh, "which from our perspective was extremely thoughtful. [Developer Engel Burman] mitigated a great deal of the externalities and we thought that the government would recognize that this development addresses so many of the potential downsides while removing the dairy. We thought that it would be a no-brainer. And, frankly, it's a simpler alternative and it's slightly more profitable."

A zoning change from R-40 to R-RM is required to build the proposed 444-unit, 55+ age-restricted community. Though the request is still under review by the Town Planning Board and has yet to be scheduled for a public hearing, Preserve Elwood Now (PEN), a group formed in opposition to the development, came out in full force Tuesday to preemptively voice their concerns. They were met with equal vigor by proponents, including over 200 local carpenters.

Opponents held up signs issued by PEN reading "Stop the Downzoning of Oak Tree Dairy" and "No More Traffic on Elwood Road." Proponents, concentrated in one section of the room and lined along the back, held up handmade signs emphasizing the project's financial impact on the school district.

Engel Burman promised to ante up $1 million dollars to Elwood School District the first year and increase the school tax by $2 million per year thereafter, though some aren't impressed by the offer.

"Why should you be allowed to downzone and get things because you want a certain return?" said one woman opposed to the project. "People want certain returns on their homes, and if this goes through, their property values are going down and they're not going to get their return and they'll be no developer coming in saying, 'I'll give you a million bucks here and a free park there.'"

Residents who spoke against the dairy at the meeting did not seem aware of Oak Tree's plans to go to full scale production should Engel Burman Group's zoning change request fail, resulting in increased truck traffic on Elwood Road. Should the zoning change request pass, Engel Burman Partner Steve Krieger said his company will spend $1 million to synchronize the traffic lights along Elwood Road and provide a left turn lane into the development.

"Right now, if there's a truck going north and making a left into the dairy, the traffic is backed up all the way to Cuba Hill," he added.

In response to environmental concerns, Engel Burman said that any and all requisite studies would be completed.

"A lot of people lose sight of what's there now," said Scott Burman, a principal with Engel Burman Group. "You've got an industrial use with an open-air sewage treatment plant that this would take the place of. If it doesn't, you're going to be stuck with that type of use. It's not like we're taking a pristine property that's undeveloped and turning it into a residential community."

Louise February 01, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Long Island Lover, the island you love is almost history. It's aging out (and you're not getting any younger either) and older residents don't want to live in their big homes anymore. Keeping an open mind and considering all options, not just the current one, are essential to keep Elwood a thriving community. Rezoning is an option, not an "end of discussion;" it happens all the time. There are quite a few Elwood/East Northport people who are very interested in relocating to this proposed community.
Dad of Three February 01, 2013 at 09:06 PM
To Long Island Lover, I would be OK with reading a general rant like yours (whether in opposition or in favor of the proposal), but you went way over the top when you started with your "bribes" crap. First of all, since you seem ignorant of this fact, your Board of Education has NOT supported this proposal and have asked some very hard questions of the Town before they could take an official position on the proposal. I have read their letter (which you can also read on the District's website, so I guess you failed to do your home work), and it is an excellent reflection of their fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of the district, and their responsibility for the safety and well-being of children. Moreover, LI Lover, the Board of Education does not have any authority either to approve or to disapprove the proposal. That resides solely with the Town Board of Huntington, and even if all five member of the BOE threatened to hold their breath until their faces turned blue, the Town could ignore them if they wished. All the BOE can do is to express their position on the proposal, and Elwood's BOE have indicated what is needed for them to be able to take a position, one way or the other. Frankly, I doubt that their well-expressed and understandable concerns can be satisfied by the developer, or by Oak Tree Dairy, but only time will tell. I would urge you to be more careful and more rational, before making libelous comments about the Board of Education.
Long Island Lover February 02, 2013 at 01:28 AM
You are all spending way too much time on this. If you think for 1 minute this proposal would enhance the community one bit, you should move back to Queens or Staten Island. Between the "magic traffic lights" and the promises of money to the BOE (I was to one of the meetings and that is what their atty said), maybe he phrased it as a gift ie: bribe, this can not be a good idea for ANYONE. This is not so much a rave as it is a reaction to the stupidity of the whole idea. Town officials do take bribes. I know this for a fact. Wake up if you think they don't. You must have a lot of time on your hands to be devoting so much time on researching this proposal. As far as the Board of Ed is concerned, I don't trust their judgement anymore than I trust yours or Louise that thinks this is a "retirement" community made up of old folks 55 and over that don't work anymore so therefore will only have 1 car. What crap! To hear Steve and his attorney speak sounds like they have rescued Elwood by "pledging" $1,000,000.00 to the school and additional $'s to the town while the units are all sold and the town starts to collect taxes. I didn't know Elwood was in such dire straights. Stop analyzing this to death. It makes no sense, will not enhance anyone's way of life and will only be to the detriment of the whole community. I rest my case and am done with this.
Louise February 02, 2013 at 02:08 AM
LIL - go to bed and chill. I don't know what you're talking about and apparently making up lies to justify your case is how you operate. What are you, 18? You talk in circles and think if you shout loud and long enough, everyone will understand and agree with you. Guess again.
Long Island Lover February 02, 2013 at 04:51 AM
Sorry Louise, I took it that you were for this proposed nightmare. L.I. doesn't have to turn to crap just because a developer wants to turn everything to crap. Leave it them and they will fill every empty space with a building or parking lot. What a shame. Shame on everyone who made it this way. Do you see a quality of life improvement? Can you honestly say that your life is better due to the developments and shopping centers that clog our streets and polute our watersheds and air? Are we better off getting rid of the farms and open spaces so that construction jobs can be made? Are we better off that we have to sit through 3-4 lights at Deer Park East and Jericho Typk from 3:00pm on, then sit through multiple lights to make a left onto Elwood Rd. and then again at the corner of Cuba Hill and Elwood? Morning traffic isn't any better. But this is much larger than traffic issues. The people in power to make a difference in these types of quality of life decisions should not allow these types of developments to be built. Unfortunately, the All Mighty Dollar usually wins and I've seen too much to think that they only have your best interests at heart. If I didn't have the knowledge of Town Hall and if I didn't know Mr. Kreiger, I might be starry eyed into believing that they had our poor aged population's interest at hand. But I do. And I know that Mr. Kreiger is only out for his own personal gain and doesn't give a damn about you or anyone who lives in this community.


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