As the Village of Great Neck's mayor and trustees prepare to delve into studying the application to rezone a parcel of land, known in zoning terms as a flag lot or a pork chop, that is tucked behind the Mill Brook Apartments on Middle Neck Road and homes on Clover Drive, many people are wondering about the history of the land and the neighboring parcel where the Versailles Apartments are located.
Since the application for the Versailles Apartments was reviewed by the Village of Great Neck Board of Zoning and Appeals 10 years ago, the Record requested on Dec. 21 that the records be brought out of storage and be made available for inspection under the Freedom of Information Law. The complete file with transcripts of the public hearing, the environmental assessment forms and reports, and pertinent letters from interested parties and agencies is a towering stack.
The public hearing began on Sept. 5, 1996 and was concluded on March 6, 1997. There was a supplemental and brief review on Nov. 6, 1997 to verify that the applicants had in fact purchased a "gore" from Nassau County, a 900 square foot strip of land. They submitted proof of the acquisition that had cost them $8,500.
The people who served on the zoning board at that time were Jerome Reisman, Mark Birnbaum, Herbert Reimer, Edwin Anderson, Steven Tell and Jon Mostel. (Mr. Mostel was not on the BZA for the duration, as he went on to serve on the board of trustees.) Counsel for the board was John Farrell. The principals were Frank Lalezarian, Morris Mehraban and Harold Mullin. Chris Coschignano represented them.
This parcel was already zoned for multi-family usage; it was "as of right." A number of variances were being sought for height requirements and setbacks.
In reading the transcripts, there were two major topics that were addressed at length by board members. One was drainage and the other, no surprise, traffic.
The flooding problems on the corner of Old Mill Road and Middle Neck Road were well-known by all parties involved, except notably Nassau County, the entity responsible for maintaining the storm basins in that area. In fact, Mr. Mehraban informed the board that he and his partners had asked the county for permission to install another catchbasin at their expense, but the county refused saying that they had nothing on record about a problem.
The engineers for the village, H2M, noted that it was unusual to build a parking lot over the drainage pipe that runs under Middle Neck Road and into the property, but they raised no strenuous objections.
The number of units originally proposed was 50, but the applicant reduced the number to 42. Traffic studies had been based on 50 units. The traffic firm, Eschbacher, was used by the applicants, then and now. At the time, according to their counts, during peak traffic times, 30 cars would be going in and out of the apartment building every hour. The count for cars, going north on Middle Neck Road, making the left turn onto Old Mill Road, in 1996 was 150 per hour.
Then, as now, neighbors turned out to voice their concerns. Ms. Soormaghen, who lived next door to the proposed units, explained that because of the elevations on Old Mill Road, there was a poor sight line for making turns. She said, "On paper, maybe it's right, but it is not safe." Other neighbors concurred saying that making a left turn from nearby side streets onto Old Mill Road was a risky business.
There was a long and pivotal discussion that turned into a major safety concern for the children being dropped off for religious school at Beth El. It was this factor that played a part in the decision to block further development in the area by restricting access to the back property through the Versailles.
The board required the developer's traffic consultant to perform a supplemental study on the pedestrian patterns at peak times on Saturdays. The count was 78 pedestrians between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Peak time for pedestrians was between the hours of 11:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.
Mr. Lalezarian said that he remembered that the board had placed the covenant to "control the development...to see what the impact of 42 units would have on the area" before allowing more development to occur.
(Editor's note: For more detailed background about this issue, three articles are available online at www.antonnews.com in the records archives for the dates Dec. 1, Dec. 15 and Dec. 28.)