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Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington recently held its annual meeting, which featured a presentation of a report commissioned by Residents to study "sustainable" development on the Port Washington Peninsula.

The group that conducted the study, Land Ethics which is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, reviewed the four open spaces on the peninsula, for which develop or redevelopment is currently being contemplated.

In the report, Elizabeth Brabec, president of Land Ethics, defined sustainability as creating a sustainable environment that involves balancing social needs such as affordable housing, transportation, business and recreation opportunities, with environmental needs such as reducing demand on the peninsula's drinking water sources to ensure long-term fresh water availability. She adds that the concept of sustainability comes from a desire to identify the human issues that impact the quality of life for local residents and the extent to which the natural systems can support human activity.

She notes furthermore that undeveloped land in Port is a scarce commodity, and thus is in high demand for development. She explains that while the tax benefits of adding new industrial and commercial development are appealing to local governments, it is important to also evaluate undeveloped land for its value as an open space amenity within the community.

The following is a review of the four properties studied by Land Ethics, and its findings:

* 1 Thypin Steel-This is the 11 acre site which is located on the largely residential Manhasset Isle. It is the subject of a residential development proposal for 88 units that is now before the Village of Manorhaven. Land Ethics recommends a residential development that maintains public access to the Manhasset Bay for this site.

* 2 Morewood/Harbor Ridge Senior Housing. This is 42 acres within the 458 acre Harbor Links/Harbor Ridge development. According to Land Ethics, the 675 units yield approximately 1,270 residents. Their principal concern with the development, as it was originally approved, is the groundwater demand associated with 1,270 new residents. They claim that the state of New York sets groundwater use limits for each water district and these caps led the Port Washington Water District to revise their estimates to commit only 20 million gallons of water per year to the Harbor Ridge development. Based on this revision, the senior housing units are allotted 54,000 gallons of water a day, which is enough to accommodate only 540 new residents, less than half the number estimated by Land Ethics. They recommend that the project be cut back to 540 new residents.

When asked to comment on this Land Ethics' finding, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor May Newburger replied, in terms of groundwater use, that five years ago when the project was being proposed, the town spent two years in solid discussions with the Port Washington Water District. After the water district set its limits, the town entered into a contract with the Manhasset-Lakeville-Water District so that the project would not take more water than it was allowed. "It was no secret then (five years ago) and no secret now," asserted Newburger, adding, "I applaud the people at the water district. They're very tough."

She also pointed out that the town created and installed a pump and treat system which pumps water from under the landfill, treats it and then uses it to irrigate the golf course. "As a matter of fact," says the supervisor, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) commended the system, calling it one of the most innovative creations it had seen for the use of groundwater."

She added that the town has been out in the open and above board with all of the state, federal and environmental approvals that were all obtained before the project was signed off on. "The number of possible residents hasn't changed. Nothing has changed. They've known this from the beginning. I don't know where they were," remarked Mrs. Newburger.

* 3 Dallas Realty-41 acres. Land Ethics reports that the Village of Port Washington North, where this parcel is located, needs an additional 20 acres of local parkland to meet the NPRA (National Park and Recreation Association) standard of 9.6 acres of local parks for every 1,000 residents. This reflects the need for 27 acres of local parkland for the current population of 2,708. (Note: currently, a proposal for senior housing units is being considered by the Village board, which has asked the developer to reduce the number of units to 320, which they originally requested.)

* 4 Lewis Oil/Delco Plaza- This site, also in Port North, consists of two sites: one on the east side of Shore Rd., and the other, a smaller piece directly on the Manhasset Bay waterfront, west of Shore Road. Land Ethics reports that a complication of the future redevelopment of this property is the high probability of required environmental clean up on the site.

Port North Mayor Tom Pellegrino attended the meeting and responded to this statement given in the report. He said that after two years of negotiations, Lewis Oil is now willing to give its entire waterfront parcel to the village, with all of the buildings, pipes, etc removed. In addition, Lewis Oil is working with the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation,) to remediate any contamination from the oil tanks. "They can't build anything until everything is cleaned up, noted Pellegrino.

Mayor Pellegrino also informed the audience that the village is in contract to buy another parcel of waterfront property within its boundaries. It is the parcel of land opposite the Mill Pond and Diwan Restaurant on Shore Road.

At the suggestion of Land Ethics, Residents is now in the process of forming a committee, composed of various elected officials, civic leaders and residents, that will decide ways to implement the report's recommendations.

Hank Ratner suggested that a moratorium on building be put in place until the impact of the Harbor Ridge Senior Care Facility is assessed. He feels that this project is a "done deal."

However, one new member of Residents disagreed with him feeling that steps could still be taken to reduce the scope of the project.

Residents has appealed to the Marriott Corporation, which will be the operating manager of the facility, once it's established, to reduce the size of the project. Marriott refused to speak to them, albeit because Residents is in litigation with the owners. (Residents lost its first round in court to stop the project. However, they are currently appealing that decision.)

The Port News recently spoke to one of the Harbor Ridge owners and developers, David Pearson, who is also president of Harbor Ridge Associates. He said, "We're a bit puzzled because the whole project went through public hearings in 1997, and if the Residents had a concern they should have voiced them at these hearings...but they were silent." He added. "There was plenty of time for comment back then."

He asserted that "water usage is not an issue. It's been trumped up."

Summing up, he said, we have no intentions of changing our plan. The courts have agreed that water is not an issue and the approval process we went through in 1997 was all legal. The New York State Supreme Court said that our company and the town did everything right."

Ratner, a Port North resident, also said that he is opposed to the projects under consideration in his village and complained that "no one shows up" at village meetings when these projects are being discussed. He fears that "a rush to judgment" will occur.

Countering Ratner's remark, Port North Village Trustee Ross Altman, who attended the meeting, noted that the village has been negotiating with the Lewis Oil/Delco people for over two years. "We've fought hard for concessions and gotten them," said the trustee.

Nancy Cowles criticized the study for not including in its evaluation the school district's 110 acres, some of which is recreational space. She feels that the district shoulders the responsibility of these facilities and fields and the rest of the community should share the burden with the district.

She also noted that while the planned housing for senior citizens will provide an opportunity for our seniors to stay in town, it also opens up the possibility of young families purchasing those homes and adding to the already overburdened school system.

While no one spoke about the Thypin Steel development in Manorhaven, one resident criticized the site of the Hamlet Homes condos which are currently being constructed on Shore Road, because of their location.


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