The Village of Port Washington North Planning Board conducted a public hearing on a subdivision of property on Valley Road near Radcliff and Glamford Avenues, adjacent to Mill Pond Acres. The subdivision clears the way for a 44-unit private development on the site, to be called "The Oasis." The prospective developer is Shree Ganesh Realty. An overflow crowd packed the village hall (perhaps dangerously) to listen and comment. At the end, the resolution was approved unanimously by the board.
First, a little history. This project is essentially an "exchange" for approximately seven acres that the village intends to acquire on Shore Road (the "Danaher" property, formerly home to Thompson Industries). In lieu of the original plan for Mill Pond Acres, which was conceived as a community recreation area, the village intends to permit development on that site of the aforementioned 44 housing units on eight acres that had been given to the village by the Mill Pond developer. In a previous interview, Mayor Robert Weitzner said that he felt that the site along Shore Road was more desirable for a village hall and for a recreational area. Weitzner said, "In order for it to work, the entire package has to go through. I believe that the entire package works for the community and the businesses."
The majority of residents who testified were from Mill Pond Acres and were opposed to the development of the site, which was originally to have been recreational. Their attorney, Michael F. Cohen, said, "The residents of Mill Pond Acres strongly oppose this application. We were led to believe that this parcel would remain undeveloped." Cohen pointed out that when they marketed the project, they told buyers that they would be adjacent to open space. He said, "This was in promotional materials. People bought their homes believing that there would be adjacent open space, and I believe that the village proceeding is patently unfair to the residents." He added, "Legally, the village could be stopped from going forward with the sale of this property."
One resident, echoing Mr. Cohen's testimony, added that there are enough other recreational facilities in the community; therefore he believed that the plans for the Shore Road property are redundant. Another said that, if the village is going to put a village hall, playing fields, a clubhouse, and/or a pool on the Shore Road property, it then would not officially qualify as open space.
The planning board members and the village attorney, Anthony Sabino, indicated that they understood the residents' concerns, but that the planning board's authority was restricted only to approving the subdivision or not. Sabino said the residents' concerns were more appropriately expressed to the board of trustees. He pointed out that the board of trustees did have a meeting about this approximately two years ago, to which residents from Mill Pond Acres were invited, and that there was no opposition expressed at that time. Cohen and others pointed out that, at that time, Mill Pond Acres was just beginning to be occupied. One resident said, "I have been following this, and when that meeting was held, it was only a concept. How did it go from a concept to a plan?" Another resident said, "This is the only forum we have right now." Cohen added, "It is not right to renege on an agreement. I have been to many other planning boards on Long Island, and in my experience it is proper discussion for a planning board." Some residents requested that the planning board at least delay the approval until the issues could be resolved with the board of trustees. Sabino responded, "I would like to do that, but there are time limits in the law. It is not possible to delay this further. The residents of Mill Pond Acres will have to do what they have to do."
Several of the planning board representatives also pointed out that at some point after the original plan for Mill Pond Acres, it was determined that the site in question was not suitable for either a village hall or for recreational use. One board member said, "I don't see how this swap of open space affects the residents." Another said, "We have a responsibility to all the residents of Port Washington, not just the village."
There were concerns expressed by the board and a number of residents about drainage, since this site is higher than Mill Pond Acres. It appeared as if the board was satisfied with the developer's explanation of how the drainage would be handled.
Others worried about the traffic-the general increase in traffic and specifically the exit from The Oasis onto Valley Road, which some considered dangerous. Questions were raised as well about the loss of trees.
Mill Pond Acres is a gated condominium community for seniors with about 250 units. Ironically, when this development was proposed a few years ago, many residents of Port Washington North and other citizens of the community were very opposed to it.
The next step in the process is for the applicant to submit plans to the building department and the village engineers to secure permit(s) to begin construction. Mayor Weitzner, who was present at the public hearing as an observer, told the Port News in a subsequent interview that he and the village trustees are prepared to work with the residents to address their concerns as best they can. He said that they will also oversee the permit and building process. Weitzner reiterated that the development of recreational space along Shore Road will benefit all Port residents. He added that the two contracts are in place for the seven acres of property on Shore Road. Weitzner commented that if the village had not procured that property, it would have been sold to someone who could have developed it as commercial property "as of right." He summarized, "I think this is exciting for Port Washington North, and will lead to a better quality of life for everyone."
In response to the Port News's question about the residents' claims that they were promised open space abutting their development, Weitzner said "I can't be responsible for what a developer promises. That property was ceded to the village in return for permission to build the 250 units that are there now." He also pointed out that the seven-acre site on Shore Road does abut Mill Pond acres.
The Port News invited Michael Cohen to comment after the meeting, but he did not respond by press time.