Wednesday, November 15, 2006

TNH Grants Zoning Change on GWL Waterfront

The North Hempstead Town Council last night granted a change in zone from industrial to multi-family residential for property on the Glenwood Landing (GWL) Waterfront. The action changes the use on town-owned property and on property that once housed Harbor Fuel. The action clears the way for the town-owned portion of the property to be sold to Glen Harbor Partners, a developer that proposes construction of a condominium apartment building at the site.

The vote split 5 to 2 in favor of the zoning change, with Councilmen Fred Pollack and Wayne Wink dissenting. The action creates the first multi-family residential zone in GWL and doubles the population of the North Hempstead portion of GWL. The application to rezone passed despite uncertainty about the feasibility of a sewer line to the sewage treatment plant in Glen Cove and many other concerns that, in the view of the Glenwood / Glen Head Civic Association and others, remained unaddressed during environmental review.

The Town of North Hempstead (TNH) has said that the Glen Harbor proposal is contingent upon a sewer line to Glen Cove. Mayor Ralph Suozzi recently told the towns of Oyster Bay and North Hempstead that no sewer lines from outside Glen Cove would be considered until Glen Cove completes its master plan, which could take some time. In addition, Mayor Suozzi has said that, when and if sewer lines from outside Glen Cove are considered, priority will be given to public projects for which a need has been demonstrated based on scientific study.

Another of the civic association's concerns relative to the sewer line is the number of times Shore Road may be opened for construction of sewer lines, particularly in light of the close proximity of the Glen Harbor project to the Shore Realty parcel (a Superfund site where a cleanup has been ongoing for many years and where a proposal for a project of considerable density is likely).

The civic association also has questioned the wisdom of constructing a privately funded sewer line to service the proposed condominium apartment building only, with no possibility of hooking up sections of GWL that may be contributing a significant amount of bacteria to Hempstead Harbor.

To their credit, through the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee, the towns of Oyster Bay and North Hempstead, Sea Cliff, and Glen Cove recently applied for a state grant to fund a sewer feasibility study for GWL. The Hempstead Harbor Water Quality Improvement Plan endorses sewering as the preferred method of treating waste whenever possible.

In another key development, in response to an inquiry from Councilman Pollack, Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto indicated a willingness to explore ways that the site might be jointly managed as parkland. The civic association appreciates Mr. Venditto's receptivity to this idea.

In light of these and many other factors, the civic association believes that the North Hempstead Town Council should not have granted the zoning change. The civic association is assessing whether there is enough financial support and legal ground to contest the town's action in court. We also will attempt to follow the Glen Harbor application when and if it proceeds to the TNH Zoning Board of Appeals and TNH Planning Board.

A key component of the project is a public access waterfront boardwalk. Should the project move forward, the civic association advocates a walkway constructed with high-quality, long-lasting materials; 24-hour access to the public walkway; and a conservation easement for all land around the building held by a conservation organization stipulating that the land must be managed to maximize wildlife habitat. The North Shore Land Alliance has expressed an interest in holding such an easement. Last summer NSLA and Glen Harbor Partners had a brief exchange about the possibility of NSLA involvement.

We also seek a reduction in the height and footprint of the building and the impact of the roof line. At a recent hearing, there was discussion about adding a water tower to the building's massive roof, which already obstructs the view of the water from Rams Hill. Minimizing the roof line is important because of the proximity of Rams Hill, the neighborhood that overlooks the proposed building. Toward that end, the civic association advocates exploring the possibility of a green roof (rooftop plantings designed to control runoff, to insulate the building from extreme temperatures, and to be aesthetically pleasing).