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Winston Developers Want Rentals Instead of Condos

Polimeni International Feels Garden City Is Blocking Development

Representatives from Polimeni International LLC came before the Mineola Board of Trustees last week to request that it amend the special use permit of the function of the future Winston Manor residential complex from condominiums to rental apartments. The village board held a hearing on June 9 to listen to the testimony of legal council for Polimeni and Vincent Polimeni himself. The board concluded that it would decide on the request at its July 14 meeting.

On July 2, 2008, the village board granted the Polimeni group a special use permit for the premises located at the corner of Willis Avenue and Old Country Road in Mineola to be developed into a nine-story, 285-unit condominium complex. Originally, Polimeni wanted the Winston project to function as owned condominiums.

However, in order to build a condominium on that particular plot of land, it would need subdivision approval from a neighboring municipality. Under Nassau County Charter 1610, any municipality within 300 feet of the subject premises has subdivision authority and the authority to pass on the application as a subdivision. In this case, the neighboring municipality is the Village of Garden City.

1610 was enacted when Nassau County still remained undeveloped. The Charter states that its purpose is to, “set forth to promote coordinated and sufficient and sustainable development of the county.”

Polimeni obtained final subdivision approval on Jan. 26, 2009 from Mineola and preliminary subdivision map approval from the Nassau County Planning Commission (NCPC) on Oct. 15 2009. There were a number of hearings held in 2009, which both representatives from Polimeni and the Village of Garden City attended. These meetings were in regard to the scope of the project in terms of size, density, capacity and the environmental aspect of the development.

The matter was referred to the NCPC under general municipal law. The Planning Commission indicated the support to the application because it met the goals of the Mineola Comprehensive Master Plan and Development Incentive Overlay District and provided substantial amenities. Some of those amenities included but are not limited to 36 senior affordable housing units, monetary contributions to Mineola to be used for public purposes as well as streetscape improvements.

Mineola Deputy Mayor Larry Werther was curious as to how the amenities agreed on would be affected if this project were to change to rentals. According to Polimeni legal council representative Peter Mineo, he doesn’t see any intention to change the quality of the project.

Planners came in from adjoining villages to give comment, all of which the Village of Mineola heard. The board made the determination as lead agent in the project since it will be located in Mineola, to refer the matter to the planning board and agreed to subdivide and grant Polimeni the permit to build condominiums. The application went back to the NCPC for subdivision approval and was granted.

Beginning with a March 4 subdivision application to the Village of Garden City, Polimeni representatives stated that it conducted all the necessary environmental reviews and that they were complete. Mineo said Garden City already knew of this and that Mineola resolved all the zoning issues as the lead agent in the project.

The subdivision application that was submitted to Garden City stated the nature of the project, including the raw numbers in terms of units, parking accommodations, and possible configurations of individual dwellings. According to the application, there would be 35 one-bedroom units, 37 one-bedroom units with a den, 169 two-bedroom units and 44 two-bedroom units with a den. The units would range from 835 square feet to 1,900 square feet. The building would also feature a concierge, fitness center and spa, penthouse and a “green” roof area and classic European architecture.

The Village of Mineola conducted the required SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) review, which involved agencies that had subdivision approval and adopted the declaration, which led to the approval. Since Mineola and Nassau County were on board for the project, all Polimeni needed was final subdivision approval from Garden City.

Mineo said that within a week of submitting the application to Garden City, his office received a letter from Garden City Superintendent of Buildings Michael Filippon stating that the applicant [Polimeni] was to submit a $20,000 deposit to, “cover the costs of any expenses incurred by the Garden City Planning Commission (GCPC) in conducting a review of the application.” The letter also stated that any monies not used would be refunded and in the event that the funds prove, “to be inadequate to complete the process, we will require that [Polimeni] replenish those fund accordingly.”

Mineo’s office responded by rejecting the request. He stated there were no expense categories listed and that no extension of the Garden City code cited that it had authority to review the environmental review in any way other than as a subdivision request.

“The environmental review had been completed so that any reimbursable expenses regarding planning, design, environmental engineering, legal notice, stenographic methods which are items under the Garden City code as reimbursable expenses had already been resolved in Mineola,” Mineo stated.

According to letters obtained by the Mineola American, Garden City Village Attorney Gerard Fischberg stated that under Chapter 38 of the village code, “it is appropriate for the Village to require a deposit of $20,000 for the review of the Winston subdivision plans.  We also believe that while Garden City was included by Mineola as an involved agency in a coordinated SEQRA review, no such coordinated SEQRA review was undertaken for the subdivision application.”

The SEQRA process had already been completed by Polimeni with the required lead agent in Mineola. The GCPC is limited in this respect, so it baffled Polimeni as to why the fee is so high. Mineo said common sense dictates that zoning stops at Garden City’s boundaries.

According to Mineo and said documents, during a meeting in April, Vincent Polimeni advised the Village of Garden City that if, “the Planning Commission persisted in its position of considering the project as a de novo application, he would have no choice but to construct an apartment building instead of a condominium.”

If Polimeni were to build Winston Manor as rental apartments, he would no longer need subdivision approval from Garden City. “We’ve run into severe opposition at the meeting with Garden City and they made it quite clear that they intend to delay the project and extract a pound of flesh, so to speak, in any way shape or form,” Polimeni stated last week.

“I think the Village of Garden City has been responsive to Mr. Polimeni’s submissions and I don’t think we’re holding anything up,” Garden City Administrator Robert Schoelle said.

Polimeni has spent $15,553,733 since he bought the property in February of 2000. He said that Garden City has proposed changes to the project. “They also plan on altering the project,” he said. “First, reduce it by two stories. Second, set it back an additional 15 feet, which would destroy the project. We would be building it on Third Avenue. Anyway, why do they want to do this, I don’t know? I constantly see that the whole idea was to delay it and detract whatever they can from getting it approved.”

“The village [of Garden City] wanted to express comments early on in the process and was concerned about the height and the bulk of the proposed project and we thought that by, and I cannot be specific in terms of how many stories and how far back, but were the building to be reduced in height and set back from the street, it would have a lesser impact on the streetscape,” Schoelle said.

Polimeni went on to say that he feels that the property might serve the community better as a rental because of the current economic climate. In another letter dated June 8, Fischberg said while Polimeni has the right to determine the form of ownership of its project, “it would appear that the longstanding designation of this project as a condominium has now been changed to a rental so as to avoid the concurrent subdivision jurisdiction of my client, the Village of Garden City.”

Fischberg stated toward the end of the letter that should Mineola approve the change to a rental, that any attempt to change the building to a condominium once it’s built, “will be met with the closest scrutiny by Garden City, should it appear that the developer’s course of action was undertaken as subterfuge of the concurrent subdivision approval jurisdiction of the Village of Garden City.”

Schoelle said that he couldn’t clarify what “closest scrutiny” meant because he didn’t write the letter. “If he chooses to go rental because of the economic climate, he has every right to do so,” Schoelle stated. “Should he wish to come back at a later time or prior to finalizing his plans to do condominiums on the project, he would have to come before our planning commission.”