Friday, 02 December 2011 00:00
Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington and the Town of North Hempstead have proposed re-zoning upper Main Street, one of the most congested areas of town, to allow for the development and construction of four-story mixed-use Business /Residential Buildings. I oppose this proposal.
The hope is that re-zoning will incentivize building owners and/or developers to follow a set of design guidelines to update building facades with historical architectural elements, awnings and consistent signage; but there is no guarantee. The vision is based on guidelines, not laws. And the increase in housing density and large apartment buildings created by the re-zoning is the trade off, and it is permanent.
The vision also calls for buildings of various scales, heights and rooflines, but the new code could actually result in seven solid blocks of large four story buildings. Not only would this be unattractive, but it could exacerbate the parking situation leaving the town no choice but to build a huge parking garage in town, one similar to the one that was thankfully tabled two years ago due to community opposition.
The proposed density zoning is for 20 to 24 apartments/units per acre, although it is not clear what the acreage or maximum number of apartments might be, a key number to evaluate the impact. Additionally, current zoning calls for two parking spaces per residential unit, but the new code would reduce the requirement to .85 spaces per unit, and it is not clear where these parking spaces would be located. New construction, with special reduced parking requirements, in an area that already has a shortage of parking for commuters, merchants and shoppers, should not be allowed.
With respect to traffic, a 2008 TONH study pointed out that many of the traffic intersections from Port Blvd to Irma (the area in question) are overburdened during peak hours of the day. Adding more housing and cars will only add to the problem.
While I am sympathetic to the businesses that are having trouble on Main Street, I think a poor economy, unemployment, financial uncertainty, and a shift in the way people shop (online and discount stores) are a large part of what is ailing Main Street. Some additional foot traffic from re-zoning might help a little, but probably not a lot. While I don’t have a recommendation of how to improve business on Main Street, I definitely don’t think building up and out, taking away the charm, and increasing parking problems will be the answer. I don’t want a Staples, a Fridays, or a Bed Bath and Beyond up on Main Street. If we change our zoning, this and a three tiered parking garage, could be Main Street’s future rather that the little boutique stores with personal service that we currently enjoy. Let’s tell Residents and the TONH, that we love our town and do not want Main Street re-zoned.