Plans for the Roosevelt Raceway development fall under the classification of a "Planned Unit Development District" or PUD, and will go before the Town Board directly, with the exception of items in the plans which conflict with the Town's zoning codes, such as the plans for the Hilton Garden Inn by Westbury Hospitality, Inc., which have to go before the Town's Zoning Board of Appeals to allow them to construct the facility according to the proposals, which do not meet zoning code regulations. The hearing was scheduled for Aug. 18, but because a lead agency for environmental issue had not been determined in time, the Town granted an adjournment, making the new date in late September.
Residents from Garden City, Westbury, East Meadow, Uniondale, and other surrounding communities have expressed tremendous concerns about any plans for developing the Raceway property, as currently located businesses there as well as on Stewart Avenue have created severe traffic congestion in central Nassau and there are already more hotels and businesses being built now along Stewart Avenue. Residents were not able to speak to the Town yet on the subject, although letters have begun filing into the Town as residents become aware of the proposed construction goals of developers.
The item in question, case #901/1999, before the Zoning Board of Appeals, is also joined by case #902/1999 for a Bed, Bath & Beyond to be built by the hotel. Plans for the retail store seem to have remained relatively constant, whereas paperwork for the hotel refelcts a wide variety of shapes and sizes. In a preliminary site plan submitted to the Town at one point the plans were for a five story hotel with 139 rooms and 141 parking spaces. Another version called for a four story hotel with 123 rooms and 126 parking spaces. More recent plans call for a four story hotel with 141 or 140 rooms, which would be surrounded by a reflective pond, a pool terrace, a service area, a dining terrace, a main entrance area, and a meeting room terrace. According to a May 13 memo sent by Forchelli, Curto, Schwartz, Mineo, Carlino & Cohn, LLP, representing Westbury Hospitality, Inc., "The proposed hotel is to contain four stories and will have an actual height of 42 feet, plus an 18 foot peak to the top of the roof ridge, for an overall height of 60 feet."
The contract of purchase and sale of the land is dated Feb. 24, 1999 between RM Westbury, LLC, a limited liability company from Fairfield, CT and Westbury Hospitality, Inc. with a care of address at Kaplan, Gottbetter & Levenson, LLP's offices in Manhattan. The parcel sold consists of approximately 2.4800 acres or 108.848.42 square feet and is located in the northwest quadrant of the Raceway property by Ellison Avenue and Privado Road. The property was purchased for $3,100,000.
According to Christian K. Miller, AICP, the senior associate/Planning, for Frederick P. Clark Associates, Inc., a Planning/Development/Environment/Transportation consulting company in Rye, NY, Southport, and CT, they reviewed the Full Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) for the property and plans and found it acceptable. Miller did note, "If the special use permit is granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals for this application, a more complete site plan submission would be required. This site plan submission should include more detailed information regarding landscaping, utilities, site grading and drainage, irrigation and appropriate details."
Miller also notes, "We have also reviewed the Applicant's EAF and attachment dated June 10, 1999. The EAF provides a cumulative comparison of the significant components of the Hilton Garden Inn and Bed, Bath & Beyond applications with the previously proposed Bradley's Retail store and restaurant. This application was subject to a Positive Declaration and required the preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in 1995. After a public hearing and comment period on the accepted DEIS, this application received a Negative Declaration based on the limited number of public comments, the analysis included in the DEIS and the mitigation measures proposed by the Applicant."
He concludes, "The Hilton Garden Inn/Bed, Bath & Beyond applications will not result in a significant increase in potentially adverse impacts as compared to those identified in connection with the previously proposed Bradlee's retail store. One notable exception, however, may be the potential impacts to the water supply. It is noted that the proposed hotel may result in increased water demands beyond that which are estimated in connection with the previous Bradlee's application. It is recommended that the Applicant provide additional information regarding anticipated water use and water availability and that the Zoning Board of Appeals consult with the applicable Town and County agencies regarding potential adverse impacts to water supply systems. If potential adverse impacts are identified, additional mitigation measures may be necessary."
According to local environmental watchdog Vicki DeJong in a letter to Town Supervisor Richard Guardino, when the proposed hotel and Bed, Bath & Beyond applications before the Town and the other plans before the Town, not the ZBA, are considered together there is cause for concern. "Taken together these projects involved approximately 99 and 1/2 acres of vacant land in the Roosevelt Center area and the construction of 1.7 million square feet of new buildings including 620,000 square feet of office, 410,000 square feet of hotel space [there's more than one hotel planned for the Raceway], 40,000 square feet of restaurants, a 65,000 square foot retail store, and 575,000 square feet of housing."
She argues, "Because these plans represent the final development in the Roosevelt Center (The Roosevelt Center Proposals) we believe that it is incumbent upon the Town to study the cumulative impacts of all these projects by requiring a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) or a further supplemental to the final generic environmental impact statement and a revised Roosevelt Center PUD Master Plan prior to the issuance of permits for any of the Roosevelt Center Proposals. The DEIS or revised generic environmental impact statement must include the plans for the Hilton Hotel and the retail and restaurant proposals on Privado as well. None of these projects should be permitted to go forward piecemeal without considering all development plans and their impacts on this important location in the Nassau County HUB."
According to Arthur B. Levine, counsel for the Board of Appeals, "The Building Zone Ordinance under Sec. 200, permits a 2-story building not higher than 30 feet, but provides therein that a 4-story, 60 foot high building is O.K., provided the plot contains two or more acres, a depth in excess of 100 feet and as part of the 'site plan process,' the Town Board finds that the height of the building would not adversely affect adjacent residential uses." He then asked the Town attorney's office, "Please advise whether Sec. 200 reserves unto the Town Board sole jurisdiction as to height or whether the Board of Zoning Appeals still has jurisdiction to grant a variance therefore." According to Charles S. Kovit, senior deputy Town attorney, "In my opinion, the Board still has jurisdiction to grant a variance. If an applicant is entitled to over 30 feet under Sec. 200, then no variance from the Board is necessary -- but this fact has no effect on the jurisdiction of the Board to grant variances from the 30 foot requirement."
The question of the need for a variance because of a lack of compliance with zoning rules in the Town is what has brought #901 and #902 to the Zoning Board of Appeals instead of just facing the Town Board as the other plans will. The PUD is replete with plans for new construction and will likely become the subject of much attention in the coming weeks as residents of central Nassau return from summer vacations and learn from neighbors and accumulated back issues of their newspapers the Raceway plans are moving toward reality now. Concerned citizens can find more information in this paper in the weeks to come and can express their concerns to Town Supervisor Richard Guardino and the Board at the Town of Hempstead, 1 Washington Street, Hempstead, NY 11550-5923.