Written by Bob Hogan Friday, 03 July 2009 00:00
The board began the hearing by emphasizing that zoning regulations presently in effect will be effectively grandfathered in and not require a change by any of the present property owners. The waterfront business district was proposed in large measure because of the closing and potential marketability of the Knickerbocker Yacht Club. Concerns were raised about those interested in acquiring the property, the type of facility envisioned and its effect on the natural beauty of Manhasset Bay and its waterfront in Port.
The public portion of the hearing began with several questions posed by Port Washington News including inquiries on outreach programs, project timetable and the disparate characteristics of the two zones. The board confirmed that their outreach, which was in complete compliance with the Town of North Hempstead regulations, had occurred with the businesses and property owners affected. The board indicated that previous discussions have been entertained concerning the two zones and their timetable for resolution was flexible and could be determined as early as the meeting that evening.
There was a detailed presentation pointing out how the lot on which the now defunct Knickerbocker Yacht Club stands could be converted to senior housing. One emotional speaker, a 46-year veteran of the Knickerbocker Yacht Club, said that the pleasant memories of Port Washington and Manhasset Bay could continue for him and his many associates if a senior citizen center were available to them.
The commodore of the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club, Susan Miller, raised a number of issues concerning their property. She spoke of the club’s possible need for expansion in the future and the difficulty of one provision of the regulations that required that boats be repaired indoors. Manhasset Bay Yacht Club wished to retain one portion of its property as residential in the event they needed to make certain improvements in the future.
Mr. Stretch Ryder, vice-president of Inspiration Wharf agreed with Commodore Miller on the impracticality of working on boats indoors. In speaking on the economic feasibility and its relationship to building size, he expressed the opinion that a larger building does not have to be aesthetically displeasing but, if care was exercised in its design, could be a welcome addition to the waterfront. He concluded his remarks by saying that the proposal offered no benefits to the present operators of Inspiration Wharf.
As speaker after speaker offered their comments and the board responded, it became evident that there was a difference of opinion between the need for the facility to be economically feasible against the need to be aesthetically pleasing and complement the beauty of Manhasset Bay. The board considered the positions made by a number of speakers that the larger the building, the more economically feasible the project. Conversely, a smaller building might be economically cumbersome yet aesthetically pleasing.
Building size and height was becoming a thorny issue and the board caucused briefly to consider it. It returned with an agreement to alter the proposal to include consideration of three-story buildings up to 45 feet and two-story buildings up to 35 feet. Neither of these adjustments would be a matter of right but would need to be approved on a case-by-case basis by the town board.
A resident whose home bordered on the Port Washington Yacht Club focused on the different characteristics between the two sections. He pointed out the various uses in the north section as opposed to the single use in the south section, which consisted solely of the Port Washington Yacht Club.
An attorney representing the Port Washington Yacht Club stated that he was recently retained and not entirely aware of all aspects of the proposal. He questioned why the club, which was clearly in a residential neighborhood and had residential status, was included in this plan. He highlighted on the different characteristics of the north side of the project as compared to south. He concluded by requesting an amendment excluding the yacht club from the measure.
The attorney’s remarks were followed by Past Commodore William J. Downey of the Port Washington Yacht Club who offered instance after instance of governmental agencies and entities that treat the Port Washington Yacht Club as a club and not a business. He hammered home this point as he concluded his brief remarks by emphatically stating “The Port Washington Yacht Club is a club and not a business.” This succinct comment roused the audience and drew the only resounding round of applause of the evening.
Representatives of Beachway Estates, Port Washington Estates Association and several residents near the club voiced their support for the Port Washington Yacht Club’s request to be excluded from the proposal. Councilman Pollack then proposed amending the resolution that defined which property lots would be included in the new zoning district excluding all the residentially owned lots by the Port Washington Yacht Club. The board adopted this amended resolution. Councilman Pollack reserved the right to reconsider the inclusion of the yacht club property in the new zoning district at a later date after engaging in future discussions concerning zoning issues with the Port Washington Yacht Club and the Port Washington Estates Association.
Later in the evening after many had left, the discussions continued on the resolution concerning the acceptance of the conceptual design plans for the construction of a multilevel parking structure by the Long Island Rail Road Station in Port. Many speakers spoke against the proposal although, as advertised, no decisions on this project were made at this meeting.