Written by Doug Finlay Wednesday, 01 January 2014 00:00
Oxford and Simpson Real Estate Services—a firm hired by the Island Trees School District Board of Education—are currently reviewing proposals for the development of an 11.3 acre property that currently houses the Geneva N. Gallow and Stephen J. Karopcyc schools on Farmedge Road in Levittown.
“We are still in the process of settling on a developer, so nothing has been determined yet,” Island Trees Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Murphy said, regarding selling the property to help stablilize the local tax base. “The board will not rush into this, because whatever is decided has to be the right decision for the neighbors and the community... This is land we will never get back.”
Integral to the sale was a Facebook survey, called the FarmEdge Vision, which was conducted by Oxford and Simpson to address concerns from the community about what they would like to see—or not—on the 11.3 acres.
Dave Penetta, a principal at Oxford and Simpson, previously told The Levittown Tribune that the survey was “unprecedented” in its scope and would help residents understand the various interests being reflected within their community regarding the land’s use, and also help developers understand what the community is expecting, or hoping for.
The survey, which was executed by Oxford and Simpson in September, asked people in the surrounding area 11 questions to gauge their opinion of the potential development. Of the respondents, ninety-five percent are residential property owners.
Eighty percent said they utilize the services of the district, while only 20 percent said they did not. In addition, 64 percent of residents surveyed said they frequently use the Island Trees Public Library—which currently occupys a portion of the Karopcyc building—33 percent said they sometimes use the library and three percent said they never use it.
When asked what residents felt was a higher priority—housing for seniors or young adults—64 percent said offering limited housing to seniors was a priority, 36 percent said offering limited housing to young adults was a priority.
Peter Ray, a former Island Trees school board president who several years ago attempted to gain the interest of the board in developing senior housing on the Gallow property, said he hoped “the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome” would not be prevalent in the community, if developers presented otherwise sound ideas for developing the land.
As an example of NIMBY in Island Trees, Ray cited a prior board decision to allow a small field in front of J. Fred Sparkes elementary school, to be developed into a parking lot for parents to pick up their children. That project was later halted by several neighbors along Condor Road as being an inappropriate use of the land.
On the question of what was the most important issue facing residents with the sale of the property, 42 percent of respondents indicated that helping maintain and improve services for the rest of the school district was a priority, while 39 percent said keeping taxes and other costs low was a priority. Nineteen percent wanted to see open space maintained.
Forty-five percent said they would like to see a residential development of the property that generates modest tax revenue to the community and school district. Seventeen percent said they could live with an outside school or religious use of the property and eleven percent responded to commercial use of the property to generate the highest tax revenue to the community and school district. Only 13 percent of residents polled said none of the above.
When given suggestions for commercial development, the vast majority of people polled said they would prefer not to see the schools be commercial at all. At the suggestion of residential development, 35 percent said they would prefer single-family homes be built, and 31 percent suggested senior residences. Meanwhile only 15 percent liked the idea of cluster townhouses, five percent liked multi-family rental, and 15 percent like none of the suggestions.
Participants taking the poll also responded to some suggestions surrounding educational, relgious, and recreational services on the property. Thirty-six percent were in favor of a special needs school, 25 percent were in favor of a charter or private school, 38 percent responded positiviely to a community center and 25 percent said they would prefer a sports complex.
Although, The Levittown Tribune, previously reported, on Nov. 14, that the bids were due by the end of the month, Superintendent Murphy said he still feesl comfortable with the process and is not setting any deadlines as to when the right bid would be determined. He added that he was not concerned at the annual cost of $100,000 to maintain an unoccupied Gallow just yet.