At a public meeting held Feb. 28 at the Jeanne Rimsky Theatre, the Board of Trustees of the Village of Port Washington North voted unanimously 5-0 to accept the findings of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). These findings state that the project will not have a significant negative impact on the environment and indicate what measures need to be taken to mitigate any negative impacts the project creates. This action completes the environmental (SEQRA) review process for the proposal, which had been modified by Sandy Hollow Associates, the developer for the project. (These changes are outlined in a page one article in our Feb. 21 issue.) The next step is for the members of the board of trustees to vote on the rezoning of the 40.9 acres, from Economic Development A to a new Senior Housing District. This vote could take place at the monthly Board of Trustees scheduled for Monday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m.at, for this month only, Sousa Elementary School.
Immediately following the board's acceptance of the FEIS findings, a public hearing on the rezoning of the property was held. As the Port North Board of Trustees already held a meeting in December on the Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS), Port North Mayor Tom Pellegrino asked that questions or comments made at that meeting not be repeated to give everyone who wanted to speak a chance to do so.
The public hearing basically aired the same sentiments that were heard at the DEIS meeting from those who oppose the project. Concerns about increased traffic, additional strain on the infrastructure and emergency services and loss of open space in general were expressed.
The businesses adjacent to the property, specifically Thomson Industries and Franklin Steel voiced their concerns about placing a residential community in the middle of an area zoned industrial. They fear that the homeowners will be complaining about things like truck noise, pollution, night shift annoyances. Thomson Industries' Stretch Ryder stated that the businesses intend to sue if the board rezones the property.
Others like Barbara Newman felt that the developer adequately addressed residents' concerns in the revised plan which reduced the scope of the project. (However, one speaker said the developer planned to build fewer units all along.)
In an effort to help the village with preserving open space, Sandy Hollow Associates, as part of the plan, will donate $875,000 to the village open space recreation and park fund to help the village move forward with its waterfront park and bay walk, which the village is currently developing.
The abiding feeling of the meeting was that local citizens favored people, especially our seniors, over industry on the site. The desire to keep our local senior citizens in the area was mentioned several times, and this particular project looked upon by speakers as a good "opportunity" to do so.
However, an opponent of the project, Port North resident Marvin Siegal suggested that those people interested in downsizing should stay where they are.
Bob Weitzner reminded the audience that two other residential projects had been strongly opposed by some local residents.
However, another speaker pointed out that the first two proposals were for regular housing, which places much more of a burden on local resources, particularly the school system. The speaker also noted that if the site was to be developed as currently zoned, the property could have a three story building and 2,000 plus parking spaces, which would have a large portion of the property asphalted over. She compared this to the senior housing complex that would have "500 parking spaces, a windmill, tennis court and pool."
Opponents of the project claim that supporters of the plan who point out what could happen under the current zoning are merely using "scare tactics." They also stated that industrial development isn't always "factories."
Some speakers commented that they would prefer to see a park on the site, but most stated that this was not realistic. "Development is inevitable" said Beverly Hazelkorn. "Given the choices, this is a good one." However, she added that she would like to see more buffers and a further reduction in the number of units.
Bob Keane also weighed in on the topic of buffers. He wants to see ones even deeper than the proposed 50 foot ones. They should also be solid.
Homeowners on Mill Pond Road voiced strong opposition to the project. They believe that the traffic on their road will increase 20 percent not 10 percent as predicted, especially if Stop & Shop opens.
Generally speaking a supporter of the project categorized the opposition to the housing as NIMBY (not in my backyard) in nature.
Also some people remarked that they resented the marketing attempts being done by the developer. Others feel that it's Sandy Hollow Associates' right to do so, calling it free enterprise.
If and when the rezoning is approved by the board of trustees, it is still subject to review by the Nassau County Planning Commission.