The following comments were submitted on February 27, 2019 to elected officials in the Town of Smithtown regarding updates to the town’s comprehensive plan, the first such update since 1961. The letter was reprinted as an op-ed by the Times of Smithtown on March 9, 2019. You can read the piece here.
To Town Supervisor Edward R. Wehrheim and members of the Smithtown Town Board –
My name is Richard Murdocco, and I am writing to share my thoughts regarding the recent efforts to update the Town of Smithtown’s longstanding comprehensive plan, which was first adopted in 1961.
As part of the research process for its award-winning body of analytical and reported work on Long Island’s land use and development issues, The Foggiest Idea regularly reviews the planning efforts that directly impact communities throughout Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
Located in the heart of western Suffolk County, Smithtown was at the forefront of the post-WWII suburban developmental boom, experiencing rapid suburban expansion up through the 1980s. In recent years, the town finds itself needing to balance its suburban landscape with the economic, environmental, and social needs of the 21st century.
As policymakers, it is critically important to be cautiously skeptical when it comes to the ambitions and motivations of those who will seek to use this process to transform the town. As you’re well-aware, Smithtown has gone unchanged for decades. While partly due to political inertia, there is some merit to the municipality’s longstanding maintenance of the status-quo – From the planning perspective, the town has been essentially built-out for decades.
In 2015, I argued this point on the pages of Long Island Business News, writing that “…with its road network overburdened, water quality declining, and limited vacant open parcels that would allow for transformative development, Smithtown isn’t so much the “town that time forgot”, but rather, the “town that has reached its limits.”
Community-based plans should be driven by policy solutions that are both data-backed and grounded in public input, not shaped by those who have something to gain by advocating for strategies that allow for additional growth. It is my hope that the document eventually adopted reflects the realities Smithtown faces, as well as some of the still-relevant recommendations that were made in the 2015 Draft Town of Smithtown Comprehensive Plan Update that was never formally accepted.
Smithtown’s latest road map will be an opportunity to strike the right balance between maintaining the community’s quality-of-life, while charting sustainable and viable solutions for the area’s future.
I applaud the municipality for undertaking a renewed comprehensive planning effort, and look forward to following the progress that is made in the coming months.