NEWSDAY A plan to preserve a Melville farm, and allow the building of 261 units of affordable senior housing and a Hindu house of worship on another Melville property, will be the subject of a Huntington Town board hearing Tuesday night.

One part of the plan is a request for a zoning change for an 18-acre property on Deshon Drive from light industry to garden apartment. New York City-based Deshon Partners is in contract to buy the property from the Tribune Company, Newsday's former parent, according to Morton Weber, the Melville attorney representing the developer.

Another part of the plan is a request to transfer five acres of development rights from the eight-acre Meyer's Farm to the Deshon Drive property.

The changes would allow Deshon to build a gated community of 261 age-restricted owner-occupied affordable units on 13 acres there. The company would then sell the remaining five acres to members of Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha-Northeast, a Hindu organization also known as the BAPS, so it can build a house of worship.

The Hindu group bought Meyer's Farm in 2003 for that purpose. The town and Sweet Hollow Civic Association since then have been negotiating with the BAPS to find an alternate location that would allow Huntington to preserve Meyer's Farm.

In March, the town board approved the purchase of the eight-acre farm for no more than $1.325 million. It would be used as a park.

"It's a win for all," Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said. "We're able to get the park, provide additional senior housing and the BAPS get their temple."

BAPS attorney Howard D. Avrutine said, "They didn't want to establish their house of worship in the face of community objection."

Simply changing zoning would allow Deshon Partners to cluster the senior housing on 13 acres, but would preclude development on the last five acres. Transferring development rights from Meyer's Farm would allow those acres to be developed. Town code allows 14.5 units per acre for garden apartments.

Town board member Gene Cook blasted the plan. He said he is concerned children could live in the development, impacting the Half Hollow Hills school district. Weber said a covenant on the property would restrict it as "affordable senior housing for perpetuity."

By DEBORAH S. MORRIS, Newsday, May 21, 2012

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