By Carolyn Gusoff

ST. JAMES, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Decades of debate come to a head this week when Suffolk County decides whether or not to greenlight a development on the North Shore that opponents call a sprawling commercial park.

They say they’re trying to save a historic corridor.

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As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reports, once a flower seed business, then a helicopter plant, 75 acres are at the heart of a heated battle over one of North Shore Long Island’s largest undeveloped tracts of land. The land is owned by Gyrodyne, now a real estate company, that wants to sell it off as a possible hotel, medical offices and assisted living.

Opponents are rallying against what they call a mega-development.

“It’s a two lane, windy, wooded road with farmland on both sides,” said Cindy Smith, founder of United Communities Against Gyrodyne. “People move to the three village Smithtown corridor area for the sense of character that it has, the historical nature that’s here. Once that happens we are never going to get that back.”

The property sits on scenic Route 25A, where George Washington traveled.

A stone’s throw from Stony Brook harbor, the plan includes an on-site sewage treatment plant to handle the waste.

“The plan is classic overdevelopment,” said Assemblyman Steve Englebright, who is a scientist. “They’re putting 200,000 gallons of treated sewage into the harbor everyday from this point forward. It’s just an unthinkable insult to the environment.”

“This is a project, the size and scope of the Smith Haven Mall right here on 25A,” said James Bouklas, president of We Are Smithtown.

But Gyrodyne officials say they’re also locals who want to preserve the environment and claim state-of-the-art sewage treatment will improve water quality.

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“It’s going to safeguard the harbor for generations to come,” said Gyrodyne President Gary Fitlin. “Post development, there is less nitrogen leaking into that harbor than what leaks in today under its current use.”

And bring in tax revenue.

“Smart economic growth is what allows us to keep school taxes and residential taxes down,” said Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim.

Enabling businesses to hook up to much needed sewers.

“It will allow for restaurants, bars, et cetera, to come in with much lower up front costs and allow them to be profitable,” said business owner Michael Strahl.

Richard Smith, the mayor of Nissequogue, is a 10th generation descendant of Smithtown’s founder, is on the Gyrodyne board.

“This property will be developed in a very attractive, campus-like setting with an abundance of green space. And couple that with the economic benefits, I view this as a win for the community,” he said.

The Suffolk Planning Commission will vote on the application Wednesday, but nothing is being built yet. All future site proposals will require Town of Smithtown approvals.

But opponents fear as goes Gyrodyne, so goes the whole historic corridor, as farmers see profit potential in selling.

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The matter will come before the Town of Smithtown in June, if it is approved this week by the Suffolk County Planning Commission.

Carolyn Gusoff