Residents and neighbors of Port North braved the subzero wind chills on Jan. 27, eager to hear the report by JAC Planners, whom the village hired to analyze various uses for two substantially sized and undeveloped parcels of land: the Dallas Realty (40.9 acres) and the Lewis Oil (7.8 acres) properties. In studying Port North, JAC joined forces with Eschbacher and Associates -- for traffic analysis -- and Planistics -- for planning analysis -- and determined that there are two additional parcels of land whose development might also affect the peninsula: the Thomson Industry parcel (4.7 acres) and the waterfront property on the west side of Shore Road (4.2 acres). On these four properties, which make up 18.3 percent of the village JAC, Eschbacher, and Planistics presented their report to mixed reviews by the listeners.
Jim McAllister, vice president of JAC Planners, began the presentation by introducing his panel and turning the microphone to Heiko Folkerts from Planistics. Mr. Folkerts discussed the history of Port North, most significantly, how the land was primarily sand pits, pointing out that the Dallas property is actually the last undeveloped sand pit in the village. In his study, Mr. Folkerts used figures from the 1990 census with projections from 1998. Mr. Folkerts compared these figures with those of the Town of North Hempstead and Nassau County. He found that the village has more senior citizens today than in 1960 and that the median age of the village is 39.
Mr. Folkerts also stated that the trend in coastal communities is to protect and enhance waterfront property often with parkland and recreational facilities. When preserving the waterfront, the village must follow environmental and FIMA standards. He stated that the village only dedicates 1.3 percent of its land for recreation: the standard recommendation by planners for such use is 3 percent. Again, Mr. Folkerts compared these percentages with North Hempstead (10 percent) and Nassau County (20 percent).
The village, which has more industrial-zoned land than other communities, needs to decide how high a percentage it wants to devote to industry while bearing in mind that the landowner has the right to develop property under the existing zones.
Beginning with the Dallas Realty property, which is zoned Economic Development A. Mr. Folkerts touched on the following: Independent housing for seniors has the advantage of additional tax dollars for the school district and no additional school-age children burdening the already crowded schools. Parkland has the disadvantage of lost tax dollars, however, the village would gain recreational facilities. A new school building at this point is a moot point since it is not in the district's current plans. A cemetery would mean lost tax dollars. An office building, which the property is currently zoned for, may not be marketable considering the village's vacancy rate at 29 percent compared with the local rate of 10 percent. Industrial uses may negatively affect local infrastructure and services.
The Lewis Oil property, although currently zoned Economic Development A, is currently under proposal to merge with the Delco Plaza, forming an expanded shopping center to include a brand new Grand Union. Alternative uses include age-restricted condos, assisted living or nursing homes, industry, and office space.
The Thomson Industry property, which is zoned Industrial A and adjacent to Thomson Industry and Publishers Clearing House, allows for additional industrial or office space.
The Shore Road waterfront property (with various zones and owners) lends itself to preservation and enhancement.
Robert Eschbacher spoke about general traffic patterns and the traffic impact of the proposals for land use. For the Dallas property he stated that office development would generate the most traffic while senior housing would generate the least. For the Lewis Oil property, retail would have the heaviest traffic impact and senior housing would have the least; however, if a new retail center had cross access to the Delco Plaza, the traffic impact could be about 25 percent less than speculated. Mr. Eschbacher noted that with housing, traffic flows one way in the morning and another in the evening, but with retail, traffic flows in and out throughout the day.
Planning board member Stanley Ronell asked if on a property this size it was appropriate to mix uses -- such as melding senior housing and rental units -- and if this was seen elsewhere on Long Island. Mr. Folkerts said such mixed use is recommended.
Resident Steve Kaplan stated that this study would have been more meaningful if the report had compared Port North with other villages in Port Washington rather than Nassau County and Town of North Hempstead. Mr. Folkerts replied that he looked at the peninsula as a whole and that the data for each village is not easy to acquire.
Hank Ratner expressed concern over the school board bond, stating that if more families with children move in the bond will increase. He also expressed dismay that the property wasn't used earlier to build public storage, which is currently being built in other parts of town. He questioned how the water district would handle development. Mr. Folkerts stated that the water district would examine alternate parcel use on a case-by-case basis. Barth Healy questioned why anyone would want to expand Delco when there are already vacant offices and stores. Mr. Folkerts stated that there is a market for such expansion. Stretch Ryder stated that the 29 percent office vacancy rate cited in the report was from 1987 and thought the number is dated and not particularly valid, especially since today places on Main Street are filling up.
Marvin Seigel asked the age of the residents in the proposed senior housing, noting that a 90-year-old person wouldn't drive while a 55-year-old would be most likely driving to work. The panel did not offer a specific answer. Mr. Seigel stated that 250 senior housing units would heavily impact traffic and parking at the railroad.
Steve Kaplan stated that there is a company in town with 60 employees that is interested in at least a portion of the 40 acres. He also felt that the specific property's unique geographics would hide industry, and no one would know it was there.
Bob O'Brien said that the 40.9 acres are being used to recharge the water system since the property is unused and the rainwater goes back to the aquifers. He wondered if the mayor could condemn this property. The mayor didn't know about this: Mr. Folkerts said that the saltwater intrusion doesn't allow for that much recharging and that the silt and clay may not be beneficial.
Bob Keane said that the 40.9 acres are not included in the sewer district and wondered if the sewer district could handle industry or 300 houses. Mr. Folkerts said that the sewer district does have the capacity.
Wayne Wink stated that with Nassau County's proposed cuts on the bus lines, the N23 might be cut, and wondered how this might affect traffic. He also wondered if the planners had explored putting in a nine-hole golf course. Mr. Folkerts replied that these are privately held properties that have fair market value; however, he did state that there might be land uses that the panel hadn't considered. Mr. Wink then stated that Mr. Folkerts had mentioned that he had worked years ago on the Dallas property, and thought that the village had requested input from only those planners who had no prior knowledge of the 40.9 acres. But when Mr. Folkerts stated that he had only done an environmental study, Mr. Wink was satisfied.
Peter DeJana urged the board to look into mixing industry and residential. Mr. Folkerts replied that there could be spot zoning as long as there is a market.
Jeff Cantelli thought that the village could still experience economic favorability with senior housing reduced to 60 percent capacity.
Richard Sussman asked what guarantees were in place to prevent the builder of senior housing from, upon hard financial times, switching the development to regular housing and thus increasing the school population. Mr. Folkerts replied that there are covenants for such protection and that there is a strong market for senior housing, adding that when and if the time comes the village should look into imposing a 55-year-old age limit.
Peter Meyer stated that light commercial use will consume less water than residential use. He also stated that with new housing the residents would object to the helicopter at Thomson Industry, which employs 500 to 700 people and is a vital resource to the community.
Trustee Gary Levi thanked the community for its input, calling the discussion a beginning of a longer process.
Hank Ratner disagreed with the traffic study, in which Mr. Eschbacher stated the heaviest pattern on a weekday morning was between 8 and 9 o'clock, adding that no one can find a parking spot at the train after 7 o'clock. Mr. Ratner then expressed concern over the wells, citing a federal study that described saltwater invasion and felt the land should be left undeveloped.
Steve Kaplan stated that the report is missing percentages of Port Washington and that he disagrees with the traffic study; he urged the board not to put so much weight into the report.
Mayor Pellegrino disagreed, calling the document "excellent" while at the same time appreciating the thoughts of the community.