Town Council member Fred Pollack, Supervisor Jon Kaiman and the other members of the Town board are using the Port Washington shared vision plan to guide planning and implementation of public and private projects proposed for the peninsula.
Port Washington's representative to the Town of North Hempstead, Council Member Fred Pollack, updated the Port News about the progress that has been made on the Port Washington Shared Vision Plan and other matters of concern to Port's citizens.
Pollack said that the town has formally adopted the visioning document as an official planning document. Sponsored by Pollack, this measure provides that all of the town's departments will use the goals set by the community in making any decisions affecting the Port Washington peninsula. Pollack said, "When a project is being considered, we will look at the visioning plan and ask, 'Does this fit?' If it doesn't fit, there has to be a very good reason to approve." He gave as an example a hypothetical waterfront proposal. He said, "Since the town owns the bay and much of the adjoining land, as we make our plans we will look at this document and ask, 'How are we going to deal with this?'"
Similarly, the town has amended the site plan review law, which will affect private developments. For any significant project, the town board must do a site plan review. Under the new legislation, regarding any proposal in a community for which the town has adopted a visioning statement, the applicant will have to state whether, in their view, it conforms to the visioning plan. If it does not, the applicant must justify why they believe the town should approve.
"Over the last 18 months, we have invested a great deal of time, talent and money in developing a plan for our community that reflects the desires of those who live here," Councilman Pollack said. "These town board actions, which I am proud to have authored, are designed to ensure that this effort will yield real results in the months and years ahead." He added, "What is unique about the plan for Port Washington is the size - nine square miles, seven municipalities (the town, the villages of Baxter Estates, Flower Hill, Port Washington North, part of Plandome Heights, Manorhaven, and Sands Point), and multiple special districts."
Pollack said that because of our current fragmented governmental decision making - lamented over and over in the community meetings that were held as part of the visioning process - they are urging the villages to adopt similar legislation to ensure that new developments within their jurisdiction conform, insofar as possible, to the vision plan. He said, "It is important that villages adopt this. Once it's in the law it's part of the process." He added, "In every way except governmentally, we think of ourselves as one community - for example, Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, the Community Chest, the Chamber of Commerce, the BID, and so forth all serve the entire Port Washington community. We [the governments] can at least start thinking and acting on a peninsula-wide basis." Pollack pointed out that traffic and water don't stop at the village line. He quipped, "You can't teach underground water to read a map."
The Port News asked Pollack's view of the idea that has been expressed by some community leaders that, ideally, Port Washington should be one governmental entity. He said, "I don't think it will happen, and I am not sure that - in terms of commonality and financially - that it should happen." He added, "If we had it to do over, would we create this kind of structure today? No. But rather than trying to change the structure, I think we need to spend our energy on making it better - on making the system work." He gave a positive example of what could happen in spite of fractionated decision-making. There is a proposal before the Baxter Estates BZA for a building at Shore Road and Main Street. The town persuaded the village to submit it for non-binding review to their planning department, which recommended turning down the plan as it currently exists because of insufficient parking. It is not yet known how the village will rule, but Pollack was optimistic about the process. He said, "In the past, the response [of the villages] was typically 'It's none of your business.' They now understand they have to take a broader view." He added, "It's exciting. We are at least talking and listening to each other."
Pollack delineated other areas where the town is working to address the issues raised by the community during the visioning meetings. It was very clear that maintenance, improvement and enhancement of the waterfront is a high priority with Port's residents. In this regard, Pollack said, "Certain areas of Manhasset Bay have to be dredged. We have to make it happen. We have to figure out where the areas are that have to be dredged and what it will cost and how to do it in a way that is financially feasible and environmentally sound." He pointed out that a major issue is to find ways to dispose of the material that is dredged. The town's Solid Waste Management Authority has hired a consultant who is reviewing the options and will make recommendations.
Pollack said that the town is providing support to the villages for waterfront beautification, open space, and other areas of concern to Port's residents. For example, the town is awarding a grant of $50,000 to Manorhaven for planning of the wildlife preserve and worked with the village on developing the rfp (request for proposals). They also promised a grant to Port Washington North for the Bay Walk (on Shore Road), to match up to $150,000 whatever funds they get from the Nassau County Environmental Bond Act.
Another issue that came up during the visioning process was parking. Pollack said that the town has hired an engineering firm to look at parking issues. The goal is to maximize parking without taking more space. He suggested that the villages also need to study this issue.
In addition to the items mentioned, Pollack said that for 2006 a priority is to find a way to better protect our trees. He said, "When the town takes down a public tree, we need to give notice. When we do public works projects, sometimes trees have to come down, but we need stronger tree protection on public property."
Pollack said that another priority is to improve the reliability of our electric service on the peninsula, in view of the frequent outages that we experience. He said, "We are working with LIPA to improve electric service. I have met with Kessel [Long Island Power Authority Chairman Richard M. Kessel]. They have admitted the service is not what it should be. They said we have outages much more frequently than other parts of Long Island." [See related article in the Jan. 5 Port Washington News] As a result of this initiative, Pollack said that LIPA is doing improvements all over the peninsula. Following up on a previous interview with a LIPA representative, this reporter asked, "In view of the previous comment about tree protection, what about LIPA's emphasis on tree removal to improve reliability?" Pollack responded, "I don't buy the business about the trees. We don't have any more trees than the rest of Long Island, but our service is much worse." He added that, in the long run, we need to be looking at alternative sources of energy.
Pollack encouraged his constituents to call or e-mail ideas. He said, "That is what local government is designed for. Some of my best ideas have come from my constituents." Use firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the town web site - www.northhempstead.com - and click on the link. The town's telephone number is 869-6311.