Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto has asked the Taubman Co. to revise its proposal for a million-square-foot mall on the 39-acre former Cerro Wire site in Syosset in such a way that the project would not rely on the construction and expansion of roadways located on town property.
While Jericho's Birchwood Civic Association - Taubman's greatest adversary - has claimed this as a victory in its campaign against The Mall of Oyster Bay, both Venditto and a spokesperson for the Taubman Co. confirmed that the supervisor's request did not eliminate the possibility that the town would eventually grant permission to use its own land.
The supervisor issued the directive because Venditto wants to see if the project would still be feasible without the town's permission, but this does not mean the town is inclined to oppose the road construction.
Taubman's current plans call for the extension of Gordon Drive south from Jericho Turnpike, as well as construction of a new perimeter road running parallel to Gordon - all on town property. These two roadways would help disperse traffic by offering additional parking lot ingresses and egresses for drivers. Impact on traffic is one of the most significant items to review when the town board determines whether it will grant a special use permit for a development project.
Without the two new stretches of road, Taubman would only be able to place ingresses and egresses along Robbins Lane and the service road of the LIE, according to the BCA. "I would presume that that's insufficient," said Howard Avrutine, BCA attorney and Jericho resident.
According to Taubman spokesperson Gary Lewi, the BCA's self-proclaimed victory is "musings on the part of NIMBYs."
Even if Taubman was not granted permission to build on town land, "We're looking at a number of transportation options for the site, any number of which would be appropriate to move traffic in and out," said Lewi.
Venditto said that his request to Taubman should not be mistaken as a judgment on the mall proposal. "We're saying to the applicant: Show me the project within the four walls of your property." Any inference beyond that, said the supervisor, is inappropriate.
Until Taubman's application comes before the town board and a hearing takes place, the supervisor will not prematurely support or oppose the project publicly. "People are looking to the town to prejudge this...That's not going to happen. We're not looking for the town to make a prejudiced decision," said Venditto. "We obviously can't be for it or against it."
Venditto said that both sides have been pressuring the town to reveal its stance on the prospects of a large-scale mall in Syosset. "We're not going to be bullied...into making a decision right now. We're declaring a moratorium on lobbying efforts," the supervisor stated.
It was during a recent BCA meeting that Venditto announced to local residents and civic leaders that Taubman was asked to revise its plan; however, said Venditto, the mall controversy was not the main reason he attended the meeting, nor was it the only matter that he discussed.
At a previous BCA meeting in September of 1998, Venditto had announced that the town was going to revise many of its antiquated zoning ordinances. One of those changes would have hindered Taubman's plans to build a mall, though Venditto said at the time that that was a coincidence.
But the town reneged on that particular zoning revision for two reasons, said Venditto - it would have affected more landowners than originally believed, and, "Regardless of all the verbiage that it was not directed against Cerro Wire, [Taubman] probably would have perceived it was." And that, said the supervisor, would have likely led to an "ugly piece of litigation."
According to Lewi, nothing is more ugly than the Cerro Wire property in its current state of decay. "Change has to come to this site," he said.
BCA members have said that they are not against developing the abandoned and rundown Cerro Wire property; however, they believe a mall would be severely detrimental to the community's quality of life.
Avrutine said that Taubman's plan from the very beginning to include town-owned land as part of its development project was "something I have never seen in all my years as a zoning attorney."
"It was quite presumptuous of Taubman to submit plans using town property and to assume that the town would approve it that way," said Avrutine.