Huntington officials weigh in on Indian Hills future

By Raymond Janis

The Indian Hills Reservation, a planned retirement community along the Indian Hills Golf Course in Fort Salonga, is seeking approval from two Huntington City Boards.

The Preserve is run by Jim Tsunis, a managing member of Hauppauge-based development company The Northwind Group. Applications to the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board must be approved before construction can begin.

“We are building an extraordinary community on over 150 acres of property,” Tsunis said in a phone interview. “In addition, we are preserving over 120 acres of the golf course. It’s a win-win situation for the people of Fort Salonga.

According to Tsunis, 74 townhouses will be built, along with the renovation of the clubhouse and the construction of a fitness center. Under the Huntington Code, a golf course cannot be operated in a residential area without a special use permit from the ZBA. With this approval, The Preserve at Indian Hills can legally operate as a golf community.

“Because they are changing the location and size of the clubhouse in their plans, they are required to appear before the zoning board to seek continuation of their use permit to have a golf course on the premises. “said ZBA President Jerry Asher. a telephone interview.

The app has drawn opposition from some landowners in Fort Salonga. The Fort Salonga Property Owners Association is a civic group that formed to resist the redevelopment of Indian Hills under the current plan.

“We want to make it clear that we are not against the development of the golf course,” FSPOA Chairman John Hayes said in a telephone interview. “But this plan with 74 homes, plus the expanded golf club, will have a detrimental effect on the community in the short and long term.”

The FSPOA’s objections to the project include its size and scope, proximity to surrounding neighborhoods, potential for environmental damage, and diminished property values ​​of neighboring property owners.

“A number of neighbors got their assessments and [the existing homes] can, in effect, lose 10% of their values,” Hayes said. “The neighborhood is extremely worried. We don’t understand how they plan to move forward with this.

By keeping the existing golf course intact, Tsunis believes the project will preserve, rather than disrupt, the natural and historic character of the land and its surroundings.

“Everyone who lives in the area refers to Indian Hills Country Club for its location,” he said. “There would be single-family homes two or three times the size of my townhouses built all over the area if I didn’t preserve the golf course.”

Critics are demanding greater initiative from the ZBA in a last-ditch effort to impose greater restrictions on development while the project remains in the planning stages. However, Asher says the ZBA has narrow jurisdiction over this issue.

“The only [jurisdiction] the zoning board is whether or not we will grant them a use permit to run a golf course,” Asher said. “We have no jurisdiction over anything else. The Planning Board has jurisdiction over all other things.

The Planning Board will hold its own public hearing on February 16 without a vote, contrary to recent misinformation that a final approval vote will take place on that date.

“I’ve read those reports and it’s inaccurate,” Planning Council Chairman Paul Ehrlich said. “We won’t be making any decisions on the 16th. It’s really fair for the board to hear the feedback.

Andy Rapiejko, a resident of Fort Salonga opposed to the project, denounces the decision of the Planning Board to hold this hearing without the ZBA having first granted the special use permit.

“In many stages, the process doesn’t make sense,” Rapiejko said. “Why would they have a hearing without a vote? Wouldn’t you like the community to have the information on what the ZBA determines? »

Aware of the importance of its forthcoming decision, the ZBA called in
outside help.

“We are hiring [a consulting firm] called H2M to advise us on how we should resolve the request presented to us,” Asher said.

The ZBA is not expected to hold a final vote on the special-use app until early April.