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Town Zoning Board to Library Board: It’s the Parking!

At the conclusion of a three-hour public hearing last Wednesday afternoon, the Town of North Hempstead’s Board of Zoning Appeals directed the library board and its consultants to revise the parking plan for the proposed library expansion to at least keep the present number of on-site parking spaces and strongly suggested that they consider off-site parking for staff to increase on-site parking for patrons. Since the total parking needs hinge on the ability of the library to use Bayview Avenue for overflow parking, the agreement between the library board and the Village of Saddle Rock is key.  Further, the four-member board reviewing the application advised the library board to “add clarity” and understand their agreement with the Village of Saddle Rock regarding parking on Bayview Avenue because any infringement of the agreement would, according to the testimony of Mayor Leonard Samansky, lead to “no parking on Bayview.” Zoning board member Paul Aloe said, “Since this is in the public interest...and would have value in the case record... you would be well served to have a document that is as clear as possible.”

The public hearing portion of the review was closed.

Paul Bloom, attorney for the library, told the Record afterwards that the zoning board would not conduct their follow-up in a public meeting format, but rather by correspondence and administrative proceedings. After the file is complete, with new submissions from the library board regarding parking, a final ruling is required within 62 days of the file completion date.

After a lengthy discussion between zoning board members and library board president Andrew Greene, it was decided that the library will also send a certified copy of their resolution made in regard to parking on Bayview to the zoning board. The village mayor and board had objected to raising the height of the existing building, creating a supplemental parking lot at the Water Pollution Control District location, anything more than vending machines for food service, a sloped floor in the community room and any visible garbage storage. The library board had not conceded to the type of floor to be used in the community room, but had agreed to the other conditions.

The current parking lot at the library does not meet the code that calls for larger parking spaces and in designing a new parking lot that would meet code, six spaces would have been lost. Mr. Bloom stated that the library board had decided that “it would be a stretch” to ask the zoning board for approval for parking spaces that are too small to meet current codes.

There were members of the public present who spoke for and against the plan to expand the library by 8,600 square feet; however, counsel to the zoning board, Gerard Terry, clarified for the audience that the responsibility of the zoning board was to make a determination about granting or denying the variances requested and emphasized that it was not within their purview to assess the need for expansion or direct library policy.

 A number of patrons who testified stated that parking on Bayview, especially on the west side, was not ideal for older residents or families with small children since crossing can be dangerous and there is no sidewalk on that side. It also came out during the public testimony that some of the parking spots on the proposed plan meet newer codes, which require larger spaces, and that some do not.

Ralene Adler stated that the library board has not developed a parking plan that would allow for cut-outs for school busses. Currently, busses park in the fire lane. She said that employees take up a significant number of the on-site parking spaces, some 30 to 40 spots.

Zoning board members carefully listened to these parking concerns from the public and those comments were reflected in their suggestions to the library’s attorney and board members who were present.

Neighbors across the pond have also expressed concerns on the record about the windows facing Udall’s Pond in the proposed construction and the reflectivity and glare that might be created.

The other variances requested were discussed by Mr. Bloom and amplified by the library’s consultants in the fields of architecture, engineering, traffic and environment. The area where the library is located is zoned Residential AA in the Town of North Hempstead. There was a lengthy and lawyerly discussion regarding the zoning complications that exist due to the fact that a public institution legally resides within a residential zone and some of the requirements pertaining to private dwellings do not dovetail with public facilities. The upshot was, “This is an anomaly.”

The plan to retain storm-water runoff from the site would take care of 91 percent of the water, silt, sand and salt that now runs freely into Udalls Pond from the library parking lot. The water that cannot be contained on-site in the proposed plan comes from the roof and in order to completely retain it onsite, the wetlands, protected by the Department of Environmental Conservation, would require considerable grading which would in turn require a special permit. The proposed plan is to have the water from the roof drain into sediment tanks with the filtered water then funneled into the pond. It was described as a significant improvement over the current drainage and run-off situation.

A variance was requested to omit erecting a fence and 15-foot buffer to the adjoining property, the Water Pollution Control District’s pumping station. Presently, the wooded area between the two properties is a designated wetland protected by the DEC. (The downed trees from this summer’s microburst on the site are, according to the DEC, to be left alone because removal of the trees would disturb the site.) Erecting a fence there would require another special permit from the DEC.

The issue of lot coverage, the percentage of building square footage to total lot size, also requires a variance. A maximum of 20 percent of lot coverage is required in the zoning code, but the expansion would raise the lot coverage to 21 percent which Mr. Bloom calls, “de minimis if ever there was de minimis”... a trifling amount. The square footage of the building at issue is 1,610 square foot over the maximum allowed in a parcel which has 134,600 total square feet.

Members of the public who would like to comment on the variances requested in the application may submit written remarks to the zoning board.

If a favorable ruling is made by the zoning board, the application of the library will go before the Town Council to review the site plan. If the library board meets with success from these bodies, the plan to expand and renovate the Main library will go before the public in a referendum where the final decision will be made.