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‘Village Bath Club’ Neighbors Stunned At Re-Zoning Outcome

Public hearings underlined everyone would never be on the same page

The May 29 town hall board meeting began in much the same way as the May 8 meeting. Paul Bloom, attorney for the developer of the old Village Bath Club property, addressed the board enumerating the concessions made to the neighboring community to gain their approval to rezone the vacant space behind the Daffy’s /Apple stores at 1900 Northern Boulevard to parking from residential. The Belanich family owns the property; the father has recently passed away and it was said that the sons were interested in selling the parcel, to anyone. Key elements discussed between residents and the developer at both May meetings were the buffer zone with adjacent homeowners, the potential of future expansion of commercial space, enforcement of restrictive covenants, traffic and safety concerns.

This time around though, the outcome was different. After emotional arguments reminiscent of the earlier meeting, the two communities closest to the proposed development, Strathmore Village Civic Association and South Strathmore Civic Association, lobbied for a denial to rezone the property or, at least, a decision to once again postpone any decision, giving them additional time to present their case to the greater community, which they felt abandoned them.

After listening to the community make their case, Supervisor Kaiman informed the residents that based on what he was hearing it is what every community requests—don’t allow a developer to build more floorspace that generates more traffic and creates added congestion. The problem here, he continued, is that is not what is before us. He said they had just spent several hours, the board received letters, emails, held several public hearings, in addition to dealing with this property for decades. “Anytime,” Kaiman said, “we deal with the obligation to be safe, the problem is, if that’s the case, it is clear how we vote, because the way you deal with traffic is put parking on site. That’s what you do.” That way, he said, cars are not circulating or crisscrossing roads. So, if that’s the challenge the answer is simple. Otherwise he continued, “you’re asking us to ignore all the history before this—because you believe it will create more traffic when all before this indicates it won’t.” He said he understood there were different points of view.

Kaimen said the community was asking the board to vote to restrict future development and that the Belanich sons would sell one way or another. If this plan is rejected a house of worship had been mentioned and it might be a bluff, he said, but they could not control it. Not ever.

The meeting had begun around 7:30 p.m. and at 9:30 p.m. a vote was taken to grant a permit to rezone the property from residential to parking and construct 90 additional parking spaces. Only four yes votes were required for the proposal to pass. Dwyer was absent; Di Georgio voted “no,” and after Ferrara, Kaplan, Seeman and Russell voted “yes” it was over.

Twenty or so had spoken at length during the meeting, most passionately, most against the proposal, making the actual decision appear all the more swift.

Prior to the town’s public hearing on May 29, e-messages were flying in Manhasset, both pro and con, each with its own proposition for signatures, unfortunately some straying from the concrete issues, becoming personal attacks on those on “the other side of the aisle.” So much so that it prompted one resident, disturbed by “the level of discourse regarding the proposal on the rezoning of the Village Bath Club” to recount topics discussed at her child’s college graduation that she felt also applied to the members of the civic associations in close proximity to the proposed development.

One speaker, her email stated, “spoke about the importance of community and a feeling of kinship with our neighbors and those who may have an opinion or experience that is different from our own.” Another speaker at the graduation cited “the lack of healthy debate and discussion in our nation’s Congress and the impact of this lack of discussion and respect for the right of individuals to have an opinion different from our own on our nation’s ability to move forward.”

She simply asked that people respect the right of others to have an opinion different from their own and agree to disagree respectfully.

All authors of emails did encouraged residents to attend the May 29 meeting at Town Hall to voice their own opinion.