Thursday, May 17, 2007

TNH ZBA Hearing Continued on Glenwood Landing Waterfront Condo Application

Wednesday, May 16—The Town of North Hempstead (TNH) Zoning Board of Appeals ZBA) has continued the hearing on the Glen Harbor Partners application for a four-story condominium apartment building on the Glenwood Landing Waterfront.

Glen Harbor Partners has applied for four variances: three are height variances, and one variance would permit a building with four stories. The variances would clear the way for site plan review of a proposed 60-unit condominium apartment building next to the Glenwood Landing Power Station.

The property was once the home of Harbor Fuel. Some of the property is owned by TNH and would be sold to Glen Harbor Partners if the variances are granted and the site plan is approved.

ZBA Chairman David Mammina told Glen Harbor Partners that the ZBA could vote on the application today or the hearing could be continued to give the applicant time to produce a plan for a lower building with no more than three stories.

Glen Harbor Partners opted for the continuance. The ZBA requested that Glen Harbor provide the civic association with any plan it submits. An attorney for Glen Harbor told Civic Association Secretary Karen Greene that a plan or a letter would be produced within three weeks.

Six residents of Glenwood Landing and Glen Head spent the entire day at North Hempstead Town Hall waiting to comment on the application. All objected to the height and footprint of the building. The hearing started at 9:30 a.m. The Glen Harbor Partners application was the sixth and last item on the agenda. It was called at about 3 p.m.

Below is the text of a letter written and circulated by the civic association. The text forms the basis of the civic association’s testimony:

May 16, 2007: Appeal #18237 - Glen Harbor Partners, LLc/Town of North Hempstead , variance 70-68.A, to permit the construction of a 60 residential condominium units, exceeding the permitted number of stories and height; W/side of Shore Road & Intervale Rd., Glenwood Landing, Sec. 20, Blk. K, Lot 9, & Sec. 20 Bk. Q, Lots 45, 46, 47, R-M District.

Mr. Mammina and members of the board:

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this morning. My name is Patrice Benneward. I am president of the Glenwood / Glen Head Civic Association. As you may know, Glenwood Landing perceives itself as one community, and our civic association spans both sides of the town line. I am speaking to you today on behalf of my own civic association as well as five other civic associations or neighborhood groups representing all of the neighborhoods closest to the site under review. They are Hill Terrace, Radcliff Manor, Todd Estates, Harbor View, and Glen Knolls, as well as Glenwood Landing and “lower” Glen Heand.

The civic association has been following this application since it was submitted and has participated in every hearing that has been held. At each of these hearings we have expressed serious concerns about the scale, height, and footprint of the proposed building; the project’s impact on our community, and its impact on Hempstead Harbor.

Unfortunately, we do not believe that our concerns have been adequately addressed. We think the EIS is sketchy at best and are disappointed and not a little shocked that the town board chose to accept it without the improvements requested by us and other groups, including the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor, the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee, and the Town of Oyster Bay. We certainly appreciated the no votes of Wayne Wink and Fred Pollack.

Today I appear before you to express our objection to the height and story variances the applicant requests. During the environmental review and rezoning process, the applicant repeatedly stated that the building would not require height variances. Now we find that the building does require these variances. I respectfully submit that the hardship claimed is entirely self imposed and that, therefore, the variances requested should not be granted.

In your deliberations, please weigh heavily that the height and roofline of the proposed building, and the mechanicals that may be on the roof, are extremely important to this community, particularly the neighborhood known as Rams Hill, where all the TNH residents of Glenwood Landing reside

As I imagine you have observed, the Rams Hill neighborhood is located on a hill overlooking Hempstead Harbor. There is currently a sweeping view of the harbor from the road and from the first floors of the homes on Rams Hill. Although some industrial properties are in the foreground of this view, the harbor is still quite visible.

At previous hearings, the applicant has stated that after the proposed building is constructed, the harbor may still be visible from the second floor of these homes. The application before you states that the view of the harbor will not be altered. These two statements are contradictory. The unnerving possibility of a rooftop water tower also has been mentioned from time to time. And there has been no discussion of whether mechanicals will be situated on the roof and, if so, how they will be disguised.

It is our contention that view corridors represent an important public benefit and that the view corridor of Hempstead Harbor from Rams Hill must be preserved. We have already lost the view corridor from the Roslyn viaduct. We do not wish to repeat so tragic and lasting a public loss in our community.

During previous reviews, it also was stated that a variance for parking beneath the building would be required. However, we understand that the town recently passed an ordinance permitting under building parking. We regret, therefore, that we no longer have the opportunity to register a comment about this troubling aspect of the proposal.

However, in your deliberations, I urge you to at least consider the folly of parking so many vehicles in a new residential enclave so close to the water in so isolated a location. How and where will these vehicles be evacuated in the case of flooding? Any resident can tell you that flooding in this vicinity is hardly uncommon. How will the gasoline and motor oil from these vehicles affect water quality in Hempstead Harbor after a flood?

In addition, it seems unrealistic to locate residential property so close to several active generators.

Please be aware that sentiment in this community is overwhelmingly opposed to a project of this scale in Glenwood Landing, particularly on waterfront property that the vast majority of people believe should be preserved as open space. There was standing room only at the two rezoning hearings held for the project. We were the last item on the agenda and people waited till 11 p.m. to be called. No one spoke in favor on the project. Many people said they would consider paying to keep the town-owned land in the public domain, to bring the rest of the property into public ownership, to clean up the property, and to reclaim it as parkland. Yet the costs and logistics of doing so have not been explored.

I have seldom seen this type of unity on any issue. My sense is that you would be hard pressed to find anyone in Glenwood Landing or Glen Head who thinks this project is a good idea. Certainly, the people on Rams Hill, who are TNH residents, are virtually 100% united in their opposition to the project.

I think it also is important for you to weigh heavily that neither the TNH or the TOB portion of Glenwood Landing has apartment buildings, other than a few small-scale structures that can only be described as quaint. This apartment building will, in fact, more than double the population in the TNH portion of Glenwood Landing, which is the oldest portion of the hamlet—a significant impact if ever there was one. The height, footprint, and scale of the building is completely out of character. This community is, in fact, so small that it does not have mail delivery. We must actually go to the post office to pick up our mail. Homes are also modest in size. A single unit in the proposed building is larger than many of the single-family homes in GWL.

Note, too, that GWL is completely isolated from every other community in TNH, a fact that has permitted the hamlet to preserve a unique character. Therefore, what may be good for Port Washington or New Hyde Park is not necessarily good for Glenwood Landing. In fact, as much as we like and admire communities in other parts of the town, we would prefer not to be remade in their image. I urge you to be guided by this sentiment as you interpret and apply the town code.

The applicant has stated that the portion of the property on east side of Shore Road will be dedicated to the town. Although there are some aspects of the proposal that are appealing (such as privately funded cleanup of contaminated public and private land, and public access to a waterfront walkway), please be advised that the loss of public waterfront land in exchange for parcel that is steep, irregularly shaped, on a sharp curve, and not on the waterfront can hardly be considered a particularly good bargain for the people of Glenwood Landing or the people in the town as a whole. This also is the second time in roughly a decade that the town has divested itself of publicly owned waterfront land in Glenwood Landing. One such transaction is more than enough.

Furthermore, no details of the public walkway have been specified. What materials will be used in construction, how wide will the walkway be, how will it be maintained, what will the hours of access be, how much parking will there be for visitors? In addition, renderings show a lawn between the building hardscape and the walkway. Lawns have little wildlife value and are an unwelcome source of nutrient loading into nearby waterways.

Therefore, we believe that the area between the building hardscape and the walkway should be managed for wildlife. Furthermore, we believe that all of the outdoor property beyond the footprint of the building and its hardscape should be managed through a conservation easement held by a nonprofit organization such as the North Shore Land Alliance, which has expressed interested in such an arrangement. None of these issues has been resolved.

Finally, the issue of the sewer line remains unresolved. There are several underused parcels along Shore Road. How many times will Shore Road be opened for a sewer line given the amount of underused property there? Would a sewer line that permits hookups for certain areas in Glenwood Landing improve water quality in the harbor? The town has wisely, if somewhat belatedly joined forces with TOB and other nearby municipalities to apply for a grant to conduct a sewer feasibility study that may answer some of these questions.

Most importantly, will Glen Cove accept the sewer line? We understand that the applicant recently had a meeting with Glen Cove at which the mayor stated that the sewer has capacity. We, too, recently had a meeting with the mayor, who assured as that the city’s acceptance of the sewer line was not a done deal. The mayor told us that the applicant has said that if Glen Cove does not accept the line, Port Washington will. This sounds like strong arm tactics to us. It is also the first time that we know of that Port Washington has been mention as a possible route.

The entire EIS is based on a sewer line to Glen Cove, and we do not believe that a possible hookup to Port Washington has been investigated with any thoroughness at all.

For all of these reasons, we believe this application should be denied, or, at the very least, we believe the ZBA should delay action until the costs and logistics of keeping the town-owned portion of this property in the public domain, bringing the privately owned portion of the property into the public domain, and reclaiming and managing the entire parcel as fully remediated open space are fully explored; a sewer feasibility study is completed and the question of whether Glen Cove accepts the line is resolved; questions about the roof line and related issues are settled; and a conservation easement for all of the land surrounding the building is established.

Thank you for your consideration.

1 comment:

Bryan Brown said...

Patrice,

I was pleasantly surprised, shocked, actually, that the ZBA took the position that it did. Thanks to all who attended for being so persistent.

Bryan