After an open public hearing at a recent town board meeting, the Town of North Hempstead (TONH) adopted a temporary moratorium along a section of the Port Washington waterfront on Plandome Road from Beachway to Sunset Park. Council member Fred Pollack, who initiated the resolution, said that the purpose of the moratorium is to explore and "hopefully implement" a waterfront zone. He said, "This is the next step in implementing the plan with respect to Manhasset Bay." He pointed out that enhancing the Bay as "an environmental jewel" and an "economic engine" was a major idea that emerged during the visioning process. He said, "We want to assure that the future uses of the Bay are water-dependent and/or water-related." The area in question is currently zoned for commercial use.
The moratorium extends from March 31 through May 31. Originally proposed for 180 days, the moratorium period was shortened largely as a concession to members of the Knickerbocker Yacht Club, who showed up en masse to protest both the moratorium and the proposed waterfront zone. The essence of their testimony was that the moratorium and the proposed waterfront zone would stymie the attempts to sell the property and would also reduce the value of that property. Some of the Knickerbocker representatives implied that their property was being targeted; Pollack assured them that this was not the case.
Both Pollack and TONH Supervisor Jon Kaiman repeatedly assured the club members that, if they had a particular buyer or plan in mind, that they were open to meeting with the principals to explore it. Both officials also pointed out that, almost inevitably, with the development of a site this size, the plan would come before the town board in any case, with or without a moratorium. Pollack told the testifiers, "If you actually have a proposal, we can look at it and see if we can make it work." None of the Knickerbocker members indicated whether they had a potential buyer or a plan, but there were hints about the concept of senior housing. (Editor's note: There was an attempt a few years ago to build senior housing nearby on Lower Main Street, and it was vigorously fought back by residents.)
Only two Port Washington residents: Nancy Costenoble and Robert O'Brien testified in favor of the moratorium.
The town board members voted unanimously for the shortened moratorium, with the option of extending it if necessary. The next step is for the board to draft the legislation to create a waterfront zone. Pollack and Kaiman said that they anticipate that will happen quickly, adding that there will be a hearing on the zoning change.