MOHEGAN LAKE, N.Y. – Traffic congestion on Route 6 quickly became the focal point of a public hearing held by the Town Board on Tuesday, Dec. 18, on a developer’s request to rezone about an acre of property at the Mohegan Avenue intersection from office use to commercial use.

The parcel is part of a four-lot subdivision which, unlike its counterparts—and despite its characterization as having “the most attractive” location—has failed to draw interest after a downturn in the market forced a bank to abandon its plans to develop it. According to the rezoning petition submitted by Celestial Route 6 Associates II LLC, the property “has remained vacant and underutilized” for more than 10 years.

The zoning change would provide Celestial with greater flexibility in marketing and bring the property into conformity with its surroundings, as Route 6 is predominantly zoned for commercial uses, according to the developer’s petition.

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Attorney Daniel Richmond of Zarin & Steinmetz said that while Celestial has “diligently” sought to market the office use of the property, “There is not a market for that.”

“Meanwhile, it has been forced to turn down multiple expressions of interest from retail and restaurant uses in this property, so we are requesting that it be rezoned to commercial,” he told the board.

Richmond noted that “significant traffic mitigations were done, though, in connection with this project,” and told the board that either a 7,000-square-foot retail center or 2,600-square-foot fast food restaurant with a drive-thru “would actually have less traffic” and “would actually improve traffic conditions on certain intersections.”

Brian Dee of Shrub Oak begged to differ. He said that he and his wife, both of whom work in Peekskill, pass the site “about 500 times a year,” claiming “traffic on this corridor has always been an issue; is always going to be an issue,” and that adding a commercial use that would generate more traffic “is crazy.” He argued that those who drew up the master plan zoned the property for office use for a reason.

At this point, Councilwoman Alice Roker asked Planning Director John Tegeder to step to the microphone and through questioning, received the confirmation she was seeking: “The zoning designation did not come about because people who do that kind of work for a living said it should be [office use]; it was two council people who thought it should be [office use].”

Tegeder also pointed to improvements the developer had made, including “a lot of mitigation that was done toward some of the impacts on traffic, not only to what this project would impose but also a lot of the existing things that were deficient out there.”

“The traffic situation there, although still terrible in terms of the volume and the capacity of the two-lane road we have there, Route 6, is much better than prior to this development,” Tegeder said of the four-lot subdivision.

After Supervisor Ilan Gilbert read into the record comments the board received on the rezoning request from the town and county planning boards and the town’s conservation board, he indicated a resolution would be prepared for action at the governing body’s regular meeting in January.