The Town of North Hempstead held a public scoping session on March 23 to give residents of Port Washington the chance to comment on what should be included in the final scope of the environmental impact statement for the property located at 145 West Shore Rd. in Port Washington.
Southern Land Company (SLC)—a Nashville, Tennessee-based real estate development company is seeking a change in zoning from “Residence-AAA” to “multiple residence.” The applicant is proposing to construct a seven-level, 176-unit multiple residence on the 7.17-acre, partially-underwater property, as well as a 29-slip marina on Hempstead Harbor, minutes from North Hempstead Beach Park.
The Town of North Hempstead, who has been named the lead agency in the project, must comply with the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) in order to determine the potential environmental impacts that the proposed changes to the zoning may have on the surrounding area. The town identified eight potential areas of concern including: surface water, groundwater, flooding, aesthetic resources, transportation, noise, odor and light, human health and community plans and character.
During the meeting, Town of North Hempstead Planning Commissioner Michael Levine stated that this “will not be a fast process and will take the better part of the year.” The town will issue a final scope in the next two or three weeks, which will tell the applicant what areas of concern the final scope must include. Following that, a final impact statement will be created later this year or in early 2022. Levine stated that if the rezoning is successful, the applicant will also need to seek approval from an appellate board for several of the variances they are seeking.
“It’s a fairly lengthy process,” Levine said. “We try to streamline it as best as we can. But at the very least no decisions on the application will be made in the near term. It’s going to be a long process of going through the environmental evaluations [and conducting several public hearings.”
Levine then addressed questions from the public regarding the portion of the property that is underwater that the applicant is looking to build upon.
“Some were under the impression that the idea is to reclaim or fill in or build on pilings—the applicant is not proposing that,” Levine said. “Most waterfront parcels are privately owned out to the knee-high water line and then the town owns the underwater land beyond that. This one is different, it actually has defined boundaries out into the water. It’s not the only case we have in the town, but it’s not the most common. What their proposing to do is apply all of the develop yield for the full seven acres and condense it on the upland. In the 90 years since the town adopted it’s first zoning code, we have been unable to find any prior cases where someone has attempted to do that and so the code is silent on the matter. We have asked the town attorney to research whether or not you can claim development rights to the underwater land.”
Levine further stated that the research into that matter is ongoing.
Kathleen Deegan-Dickson of the Uniondale-based law firm Forchelli Deegan Terrana Law spoke on behalf of the property’s owners.
“The plan is to clean up the site and to develop a 176-unit luxury residential building with a public marina and other publicly accessible amenities,” Deegan-Dickson said during her presentation.
The meeting was then opened to public comment. Levine stated that in advance of the meeting, the town had received more than 60 written comments. Two themes that were most frequently cited, Levine stated, were the traffic impact study with a specific look at the Beacon Hill neighborhood and tax abatements and tax revenues to special districts. Levine stated both those topics would be explored in-depth as part of the final scope.
Port resident Stephen Klyce was the first to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting. Kylce voiced his opposition for the project, stating it would have adverse environmental affects on the “already overburdened infrastructure.” Public services such as the Port Washington Water Pollution Control District, PSEG Long Island and National Grid would face further strain.
“Port Washington, the Town of North Hempstead and Nassau County did not have adequate infrastructural resources to service the needs of the West Shore residences plan without significant improvements in energy supply, water supply and human waste treatment plants,” Klyce said. “Continued incremental demands on these overburdened resources is really a serious concern that impacts the natural environment and quality of life of our residents.”
Although the public comment portion of the meeting was strictly to give feedback on what should be included in the final scope, Port resident Jeff Jackson voiced his support for the proposed development.
“I believe that the community benefits far outweigh any of the negatives,” Jackson said. “The area is currently contaminated, and the builder is agreeing to do a significant cleanup to the area. The area right now is kind of a commercial blighted site, and the builder is going to do a cleanup of that area as well.”
Other residents voiced their concerns citing parking and traffic concerns, affects on the animals and aquatic life, the affects on public services (most notably water and sewage) as well as flooding and stormwater management.
The following day, Southern Land Company emailed a written statement to the Port Washington News, stating how appreciative they were to receive feedback from the community.
“Southern Land Company and our partners appreciated the opportunity to present facts about our project plans for 145 West Shore Road, Port Washington, and hear community members’ comments during the Town of North Hempstead’s public scoping session. We will continue to comply with the SEQRA process and with the Town of North Hempstead,” SLC said. “We look forward to reviewing the Final Scope in the upcoming weeks.”