Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Reminder to Town Board: Time to Purchase Waterfront Utility Property in Glenwood Landing

Oystery Bay—The following statement was made on behalf of three area civic associations during the public comment period at the Town Board Meeting held this evening:

My name is Patrice Benneward. I live in Glenwood Landing. I’ve been asked to speak to you this evening by three civic associations: the Glenwood / Glen Head Civic, the Todd Estates Civic, and the Hill Terrance Civic.

Our organizations ask that you move forward with the purchase of a property on the GWL Waterfront that has been discussed for the last 6 years or so. It is an approximately 4-acre parcel that was an underground storage facility for propane until about 1999. Next to it is a smaller wetland parcel that is contiguous with Tappen Beach.

Both lots seem to be owned by KeySpan and both have been fully remediated. The scuttlebutt has been that the wetland lot would eventually be donated to the town but the propane field would require purchase.

Town, state, and county funding sources are in place for the acquisition. The property is on the town’s SEA list; the state has awarded the town two grants specifically earmarked for the property; and Nassau County has included the property on its environmental bond act priority list.

The property was not acquired under the town’s first round of environmental bond purchases, largely, I think, because it did not seem to be immediately threatened with development. Several other worthy properties were acquired at that time, most notably Underhill. Our civic associations recognize that these choices are difficult to make and enthusiastically supported your decision on these acquisitions.

However, at this time, we believe that the GWL waterfront parcel is the most critical purchase the town can make. We think so for 5 major reasons:

1) The property is now threatened: A British firm recently made a serious offer to purchase KeySpan. If this offer does not go through, another buyer is likely to materialize. A new owner would be under no obligation to honor any informal agreement that the town may have with KeySpan. Thus, the opportunity for the town to acquire the propane field and wetland could easily be lost indefinitely.

2) The impact of neighboring development: The Town of North Hempstead recently accepted an EIS for a waterfront parcel just south of the town line in the TNH portion of Glenwood Landing. The EIS was triggered by an application for a zoning change to accommodate a 60-unit apartment complex adjacent to the GWL Power Station that would be served by a sewer line to Glen Cove. A zoning hearing is scheduled for July 18. As this project moves forward, it is likely to set a precedent that may trigger a significant rise in the value of all other underutilized parcels on the GWL waterfront, irrespective of jurisdictional lines and including the propane field.

3) The lots are collecting debris: While the propane field was pristine immediately after the remediation was completed, it is becoming a magnet for debris—just as any unused property would. Already, at least one abandoned boat has somehow found its way to the site. The longer the property remains unused, the more debris will accumulate and the more it eventually will cost the public to tidy things up should the property be brought into the public domain. Also, the ground surrounding the wetland was capped, which means the site is inappropriate for deep-rooted plants. It does not appear that the property is being managed to maintain only shallow-rooted plants, which could increase initial management costs down the line.

4) Public expectations: Four years ago two generators were installed on the east side of Shore Road across the street from the propane field. Many residents of this community accepted this intensification of industrial activity predicated on an understanding with KeySpan and LIPA that two public benefits would soon follow: the propane field and adjacent wetland would be brought into the public domain and additional taxes or PILOTs would be forthcoming. Thus far, neither outcome has been realized. To say that this is discouraging is putting it mildly.

5) To advance the goals of existing management plans: The acquisition would advance the goals of the GWL Waterfront Redevelopment and Revitalization Plan, which the town adopted in 2002. It also would advance the goals of the NYS Open Space Plan, which specifically includes as a priority the creation of a GWL Waterfront Greenway.

For all of these reasons, our organizations hope that you will purchase the propane field immediately, while there is still an opportunity to do so. As always, thank you for your attention and consideration.

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