Written by Michael Scro Friday, 12 April 2013 00:00
In a 4-2 vote on Wednesday, March 27, the Glen Cove City Council adopted a resolution guaranteeing that no zoning changes will take place during the re-development of the controversial project to re-develop the city’s waterfront.
The city council has held numerous public hearings on this proposed amendment. But City of Glen Cove attorney Michael Zarin said the amendment is “not a guarantee,” and serves as a partnership between the City and the project’s redeveloper, RXR Realty.
Zarin explained that the only thing that is called “vesting” says is that this council and future councils will not change the zoning in the middle of the project. But if the project is not pursued diligently, the council has the “absolute right to explore a syndicate.”
The decision was not met without tension from residents attending the meeting, as well as on the city council itself. Councilman Reginald Spinello and Councilman Anthony Gallo Jr. voted against the resolution, and earlier in the meeting, Spinello proposed to table the vote for two weeks in order to review a “revised resolution” that Spinello said they received only a few days prior to Wednesday.
Following comments from a resident urging the city council to table the decision, which Mayor Ralph V. Suozzi did not favor, Gallo Jr. intervened, saying “Mayor Suozzi, you have referred to the council as a team, and this evening, two of your team members have asked to table this resolution. Why are you denying them that ability?”
“We meet for hours on end on hundreds of topics, and five minutes after the meeting, you want to table things constantly. I don’t understand why,” Suozzi responded.
The motion was voted down with an identical 4-2 result.
“I don’t agree with some of the language, its very pro-developer,” Spinello said. He referred to 19 additional clarifications that had been added to the amendment.
Suozzi originally attempted to exclude public comment on the resolution, stating “we have had plenty of public discussion on this already,” which ignited the first spark of controversy at the meeting. Suozzi then permitted anyone to speak on the matter.
Numerous residents stood behind Gallo Jr. and Spinello’s position to table the vote, which Suozzi, after hearing their rationale, stated, “This vote is going to occur tonight.”
Glen Cove resident and attorney Paul Meli turned the city council meeting into what could have been a scene from a televised trial when he addressed Suozzi about the council meeting “behind closed doors” in an executive session on March 19.
“I’m shocked that after a public hearing was closed, after the public was told ‘you have no more right to speak on the record about this issue,’ that this council would meet behind closed doors at a meeting that the public was prohibited from attending, let alone not given any notice of, where you discussed the very issue that was the matter of the public hearing,” Meli said. “You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
Suozzi stated that the meeting was a pre-council meeting, which the public is always invited to attend, and justified the executive session as “to discuss details and pertinent information with the redeveloper to answer questions that any council members might have.”
Zarin stated that the proposed law has not changed for the past “two or three public hearings,” and that following the first public hearing, additional clauses were inserted to “strengthen it in response to various comments that were made - otherwise there has been absolutely no change.”
“The whereases are the findings of the council’s majority sentiment,” said Zarin, who also stated that he has attended many hearings on similar resolutions, and “seldom do we have three public hearings with as much good discussion as we’ve had.”
The vote took place two hours into the meeting, with each member of the council speaking on the resolution before its fate was decided.
“The vesting right will freeze our zoning for more then a decade, and I will be approaching 50 years of age by the time we can rezone,” Gallo said before voting no. “It takes away the city’s right of re-zoning, and we need that right because a lot can change in 12 years. I cannot, in good faith to the taxpayers, freeze our zoning for the next 12 years.”
Councilman Tenke continued the comments by Gallo by stating: “Is 12 years reasonable? I don’t know. When you’re talking about a billion dollar project, and multi-phases (four to five phases of build-out) I don’t think that 10-12 years is unfeasible.”
ouncilman Tenke continued the comments by Gallo by stating: “Is 12 years reasonable? I don’t know. When you’re talking about a billion dollar project, and multi-phases (four to five phases of build-out) I don’t think that 10-12 years is unfeasible.”
Councilman Famigletti echoed DiLeo’s sentiments by saying: “Vesting rights will allow this developer to go forward, and that’s what I want to see happen. I view this as a public/private partnership, and it’s incumbent on us to support our partner in this project.”
Councilman Spinello concluded his opposition to the vesting rights by stating: “I’m trying to protect our investment here, which I believe the city has about $20 million investment here - I’m trying to protect the city.”
Spinello read two “whereases” that were added, one which stated, “Whereas the city council finds that this vested rights regulation would not cause or result in any prejudice, downside or cost to the city.”
Spinello responded with: “I don’t know that, I haven’t seen the numbers.”