The recently published letter from Carol Arnold clearly shows that there are a number of misunderstandings regarding the redevelopment of the Lewis Oil property on Shore Road. I would like to take a moment to set the facts straight and, hopefully, ease a few minds.
First, the project will be a vast visual improvement. Although we at Lewis Oil have worked hard to keep our facility presentable, nearly everyone we have spoken with in the last two years felt that the tank farm was not a visual asset to the village. Our proposal to remove the tanks was welcomed enthusiastically.
Second, our research, which was later confirmed by the village's own planning report, indicated that a new shopping center represented the best new use of the land. Other possibilities, including senior housing, were considered and rejected as impractical or unprofitable, and will not be revisited. While some people question the need for a larger Grand Union, the public today simply prefers larger, better-stocked supermarkets. It isn't a question of attracting new customers, but retaining existing ones.
Third, studies have shown that any increase in traffic would be minimal, because the majority of those who would shop in Port Plaza already live or shop on the peninsula. Neither would truck traffic increase appreciably, since there would be no more oil trucks moving in and out of the property.
Fourth, the rezoning is just the first step in the process. We have taken great pains to present design concepts that are as fully-fleshed as possible because we want people to see what a visual improvement it will be. After the zoning is approved by the board of trustees a complete site plan must be presented to the Planning Board for approval. The public will have plenty of opportunity at that juncture to voice any specific concerns about the design of the center. What's more, before any restaurant can be erected another set of plans must be approved by the board of appeals.
Finally, as a service to the community Lewis Oil will turn over to the village 1.6 acres of waterfront property - nearly 250 feet of valuable shoreline. The property has two tenants that the board may choose to evict or allow to remain to provide rental income for the village. It is our hope that the village will use this property as a waterfront park, and we have offered our assistance in identifying grants to help it do so. Constructing and maintaining parks is however, a responsibility for government, not private enterprise.
We have worked hard to consider the needs of the majority of Port North residents in our plan. We have met on several occasions with those homeowners most likely to be affected, and we will continue to do so. In fact, many of their specific ideas, including greatly expanded landscape buffers and less intrusive parking and loading zones, were incorporated into the preliminary plans we presented at the public hearing. There won't be universal agreement, of course. Even the handful of residents on the closest adjacent street cannot come to agreement on such design elements as walls and fences. What's important, however, is that we will continue to listen to all concerns and work to develop compromises whenever possible.
When all is said and done, we at Lewis Oil are just as concerned about the village as any of our neighbors. After all, we've been part of the Port North community for far longer than virtually any living resident. Our plan to exchange old oil tanks for a new, well-designed shopping center, and to donate valuable waterfront for public use, will do far more to improve the appearance of the village than any project proposed over the last 50 years.