What better way to allow Home Depot shoppers to enjoy the natural wonders of Long Island than to locate a huge building supply store next to a National Wildlife Refuge? Apparently town officials are contemplating allowing the Home Depot to move in next door to the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, and within 500 feet of the scenic Carmans River. The Home Depot case is tied into a 10 year old lawsuit on the parcel that involved a strip mall that was blocked by the town, and an angry developer who took Brookhaven to court. Under the latest plan for the parcel, 19 acres would be rezoned for Home Depot. The company would toss in $300,000 to create a business improvement district, and give the town back two acres nearest to the river banks. “If you have to develop the site,” the town’s attorney said, “this is about the best you could hope for.” But some Brookhaven residents think a Home Depot is about the worst thing you could hope for next to a wildlife refuge. The head of the Pine Barrens Society hammered Home Depot for wanting to locate on the environmentally sensitive site, saying the project represents “an intensity of use that would be excessive at such a site”. The Society said the project would “be a point source of pollution with stormwater runoff flowing directly into the river — and runoff is the single greatest cause of water pollution on the Island.” And the refuge manager at the Wertheim Refuge, which is run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told town officials that construction of a 145,000 s.f. Home Depot and its 639 space asphalted parking lot could displace wildlife and lead to flooding in the area, and pollute the river. “We have a natural area that does absorb precipitation,” she said. “To remove that then you are..increasing erosion and water quality problems,” the refuge manager told Newsday newspaper. The ultimate absurdity of this latest Home Depot “Refuge” store, is that the area already has 2 Home Depots only 5 miles away from this site. The land Home Depot wants has been zoned residential for 10 years.
Hello? Is the US Fish and Wildlife Service at home? How come the only person speaking out against this outrageous rezoning request from the federal level is the local refuge manager? Perhaps the natural sounds of the 1400 acres refuge will mingle well with the sound of forklifts backing up. And the bright lights from Home Depot will allow tourists to see the birds and other wildlife in Wertheim even at night. This will stimulate a new generation of “evening tourists”, which will bring in hundreds of new jobs and tax revenues to Brookhaven. Yellowstone and Mesa Verde, can Home Depot be far behind?