Manorhaven Village hall was filled to overflowing for a public hearing on the new administration's proposal to repeal the E-2 zoning and to declare a building moratorium. Mayor Michael Meehan declared that the purpose of the proposed legislation was to have an opportunity to study the building situation and the codes and intelligently decide in what direction the village wants to go.
The overwhelming majority of those who testified applauded the administration's move to repeal the E-2 legislation. This legislation, which had considerable opposition at the time it was passed by the previous administration, provided for an "overlay" district on Manhasset Isle. It allowed for a developer to submit a site plan to the board of trustees for certain approved uses. Under the new legislation, the area in question, to the south of Toms Point Lane and Matinecock Avenue and continuing easterly to Sheets Creek, will retain its original C-1 (commercial) zoning.
Dan Donatelli, co-president of Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington (RFMBPW) said that although the organization did not previously take an official position on the original legislation, they had urged the mayor and the board to consult with the town and the neighboring villages before adopting the resolution. He urged the current board to do so, in the spirit of the town's visioning process. Donatelli applauded the board on their action to repeal the legislation, saying, "We think it is a bad law. It would have detrimental consequences to the marinas and to the marine-based businesses." Other speakers echoed these sentiments, but at the same time many encouraged the board to do everything in its power to clean up that district, where some of the commercial properties have been allowed to deteriorate. Local businessman Peter Dejana of Dejana Industries said, "All you need is a yellow pad and a pencil to make a list of work that needs to be done in this area. It would be easy and inexpensive to correct this area; $3,000 could make a dramatic improvement." He added, "The E-2 was an embarrassment."
A number of residents pointed out that the E-2 legislation appeared to favor a few developers at the expense of the quality of life in the community. Others said that further residential development on Manhasset Isle would cause serious traffic problems, not only there but in Port Washington generally. One resident said, "When I go to the station in the morning I wait for two traffic lights before I can get onto Main Street from Shore Road."
The notable exception to the positive testimony was Bruce Migatz, Esq., who represents the board of directors of Toms Point, an apartment complex near the area in question. He said that the members of the Toms Point Board are upset because the two available routes to the development go through the commercial area, which is unsightly. He mentioned, among other issues, potholes, "a steel building that is rusting away," "a tractor trailer/car carrier full of cars that parks over the weekend," and a "dump truck." In sum, he said, "Toms Point is beautiful; getting to Toms Point is ugly." He urged the board to study the legislation further before repealing it.
Bill Aronsohn, who said he has worked for the Manorhaven Highway Department for over 30 years, refuted Migatz's testimony. He pointed out that there are a number of alternate routes to and from Toms Point, none of which involve going through the commercial district. He disagreed with Migatz's claim that the area has changed since the early '80s and expressed his support of the repeal. He said, "Let us go back to C-1. I feel most passionate about it." Doug Schlaefer, current chair of the Manorhaven Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) spoke in favor of both resolutions, saying, "We have studied this legislation and ...we need to take a break and have a 'cooling off' period.
Meehan said that he will take all the comments into account. He added, "The repeal is not a backward action; it is a forward action. I believe it is a bad law." The repeal, he said, "is an opportunity to look at that area and see where we are going to go." Trustee John DiLeo, who served in the previous administration, spoke strongly in favor of the resolution.
Carolyn Weber, a former trustee who was defeated in the previous election, sent the Port Washington News a lengthy e-mail defending the E-2 legislation. She said, "To repeal it is a travesty."
The board unanimously agreed to close the public hearing. Village Attorney Gerard Terry, Esq. explained that the next step was for a State Environmental Quality Review to be passed by the board, then the plan would be submitted to the Nassau County Planning Commission. After the Planning Commission issues a letter of local determination, the board can meet again and dispose of the local law.
The second piece of legislation-the moratorium-would temporarily halt issuance of building variances, with some exceptions such as certain repairs or replacements, emergency conditions, or economic hardship of an extraordinary nature. Again, the stated purpose of the legislation is to allow the mayor and the board to review the current situation and the building codes. Terry said, "We need a cooling-off period so that the zoning code can be studied and recommendations made to the board of trustees."
Peter Mineo, Esq., the attorney for Anthony Ressa, a local developer, expressed strong opposition to the proposed legislation, calling it a "drastic measure." He said, "I ask the board to go back to the drawing board and address specific areas. This legislation is too broad." Another developer, Oscar Cibants, also expressed opposition, saying, "I want to build a few more buildings and I don't have 5 years to wait. I have some properties in the works now."
Many residents who testified also expressed opposition to the moratorium. In the main, they were fearful that they would lose their opportunity to convert their one-family homes to two-family or to sell to someone who would. One resident asked rhetorically, "Why should I suffer and not be allowed to put up a two-family?" Another resident claimed, "I have a right to have a two-family house." Mary Jane Panullo worried that a rundown and unsightly property across the street from her home would not be improved. A few residents expressed support for the legislation, pointing out that more development, especially on Manhasset Isle would have a negative impact on traffic, parking, and general quality of life, as well as on taxes. (The current assessment formula does not take into account whether a home is one- or two-family.) Robert O'Brien cautioned that we are approaching a "tipping point" with two-family homes. He said, "We will look like Queens." Another resident said, "All you have to do is drive around Manorhaven to see the need for this."
Meehan pointed out that the legislation is about studying the building codes. He said, "This is not a 'witch hunt' for two-families.
The public hearing on the moratorium will be continued.