There were a number of heated exchanges between the mayor and some of the individuals giving comments at a recent Manorhaven village meeting regarding a proposed amendment to the village code to create an "Enterprise Waterside" (E-2) Zone. At one point the police were summoned, but no police action became necessary, and they remained unobtrusively in the background. The overflow crowd included many civic leaders, local residents and business owners and Town of North Hempstead Council Member Fred Pollack.
The purpose of the proposed E-2 Zone, which Mayor Nicholas Capozzi termed an "overlay" district, is "to encourage the maintenance of boat slips and moorings at existing marinas for the public..., to ensure that values of waterfront properties are preserved, and to allow for the redevelopment of properties that are currently developed with uses that are incompatible with their location adjoining surface waters and/or wetlands." The legislation permits (and implicitly encourages) the development of residential units along the waterfront, stipulating a minimum number of slips to be included with any residential development. Another stated intent of the legislation is to reduce the proportion of absentee landlords, and "encourages" that all units developed within the E-2 be owner-occupied or governed by a condo board and/or homeowners' association. The proposed legislation further states that "it is the intent of the board to protect and enhance views of Manhasset Bay...from public roadways through...the establishment of view corridors." The legislation provides that a re-zoning application can be made either by an individual or group seeking to develop the property, or by the board of trustees on its own motion. Capozzi emphasized that this is not a re-zoning; that applications for re-zoning within what he referred to as a "floating zone" will be considered individually.
The exact boundaries of the E-2 Zone were the subject of some discussion at the hearing, but the map provided in the handout shows the area to be to the south of Toms Point Lane and Matinecock Avenue on Manhasset Isle, continuing easterly to Sheets Creek. Village Clerk Ronnie Shatzkamer said that, to avoid any possible confusion, the final language of the legislation will include exact Section and Lot Numbers. This area is currently zoned C-1 (commercial).
Planner Terri Elkowitz, who has been working with the village on the creation of the "floating zone," presented a summary of the purposes and requirements of the new legislation. She pointed out that any application for re-zoning that is approved under this plan will have to go to the architectural review Board. Mayor Capozzi followed with a presentation showing 15 pictures of the area in question as it is now. He talked about the lack of water views in the areas he showed, and pointed out the shabby nature of some of the buildings. Later in the meeting, Capozzi described the neighborhood as "looking like bombed-out Berlin 1945."
Among the major opponents of the new legislation have been those who live on "floating homes" (which they prefer to the term "houseboat") and their supporters. Although the language that would prohibit these floating homes has been eliminated, these residents expressed concern because the current legislation does not specifically mention them as permitted, and therefore does not give them what one resident referred to as "solid legal status."
A number of residents feared that the development of more residential units would exacerbate Manhasset Isle's traffic problems. One resident said, "We have the Thypin Steel proposal that will generate a couple of hundred people. We have a hard time now getting on and off Manhasset Isle. If we have an emergency, we only have one way out of Manhasset Isle." Mieke Bloomfield of Pequot Avenue said, "There is too much traffic already on Manhasset Isle. Please do not allow more condos on Manhasset Isle." She added, "I am presenting the petitions with the signatures of 40 individuals who agree with this position. The petitions presented to the board say, in part, "Most of Matinecock Avenue is fine as it is and we like to keep it that way....Please, do not change the existing zone and do no allow the building of condominiums on that street or any other street on Manhasset Isle....So much traffic already!...Please say no to the E-2 zone."
Dan Donatelli, co-president of Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, said that the organization did not want to express a formal opinion, but that they had concern about the process. He said, "The town went through a visioning process and there is a visioning plan. We are concerned that the other villages and Residents and the town have had no opportunity for input." Donatelli added, "As of this morning the supervisor had no knowledge of this plan." Donatelli acknowledged that the village has the ultimate responsibility for the zoning within their jurisdiction, but he encouraged the Manorhaven mayor and trustees to present the plan to the visioning committee for their input. He pointed out that these decisions can affect economically marine-based businesses in other areas of Port Washington like West Marine. Mayor Capozzi seemed resistant to the idea, saying, "This has nothing to do with the other villages." Capozzi asked rhetorically, "When have the other residents ever been concerned with Manorhaven?"
Steve Lapham, president of the Greater Port Washington Business Improvement District (BID) said that the BID's major concern is taxes. Lapham pointed out that taxes are structured so that commercial enterprises pay 20 percent of school taxes regardless of the number of businesses. He said, "Every time you put residential units in, you are taking away commercial property and making it harder for us to survive. Please give serious consideration to not putting in residential units." James Preston, an attorney representing a number of other Manhasset Isle businesses, including Dejana Industries, raised some concerns that his clients have about the proposed legislation. He questioned whether the stated intent comes through when you look at the specific features of the district. (A few residents echoed this feeling.) Preston said, "It is a gimmick to call it an overlay and say it is not a change of zoning." He continued with the question, "How does this preserve the character of the village?" Answering his own question, he said, "I submit that it does not. It does the opposite. It encourages the building of high-end condos by outside developers." Preston concluded by saying, "This [district] is diametrically opposed to the C-1 district and, in fact, encourages spot zoning." Peter Dejana himself also raised a number of questions and concerns about the proposed E-2 zone.
Another concern expressed by various residents was that the legislation, as written, empowers the mayor and trustees to add properties to this overlay zone without further public input. Others worried that there could be fewer, not more, marina slips for the public. A number of individuals and business owners pointed out that the proposed "view corridors" allow for parking and landscaping, and therefore might not really allow for a clear view of the water. They also wondered about how waterfront access could be guaranteed if high-end residential units are to be developed, pointing out that currently there is public access through the marinas and other commercial properties. Other residents questioned the need in the first place for this kind of legislation. Their position, paraphrased, was, "If it's not broke, don't fix it." Some opined that the E-2 zone seems to benefit developers at the expense of the residents and the existing businesses.
Guy LaMotta, Manhasset Isle marina and restaurant owner, testified on behalf of the legislation, saying, "I want to commend you for what you are doing. The marinas have to survive. It is hard to stay in business." He added that if he has development rights, he can go to a bank for a loan. LaMotta commented about traffic concerns, "I need traffic. Give us what we need and we will stay in business."
Trustee Rita DiLucia echoed a number of concerns that had been expressed by the community at the public hearing. She said, "I think that we should keep the public hearing open because it's not quite there yet." DiLucia, along with trustee John DiLeo, who has publicly expressed a number of concerns about the E-2 zone, voted against the motion to close the public hearing. The motion passed, with trustee Carolyn Weber, who some have suggested might have a conflict of interest, and trustee Barry Balcourt, who recently was appointed to replace James Tomlinson, voting in favor.