Great Neck trustees accept VHB reports, set public hearing date

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Village Clerk-Treasurer Joe Gill explains that the Jan. 15 meeting will be mostly housekeeping items regarding zoning amendments and other issues, not a presentation from VHB. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
Village Clerk-Treasurer Joe Gill explains that the Jan. 15 meeting will be mostly housekeeping items regarding zoning amendments and other issues, not a presentation from VHB. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Great Neck village trustees accepted a report, recommendations and an environmental impact statement regarding the “revitalization” of Middle Neck Road and East Shore Road late Tuesday night, following a wave of public concern over possible zoning changes.

Village officials stressed that the acceptance of the report from VHB, the village’s revitalization consultant, is only recognition of the documents – not a final decision. The documents will go online so the public can review them before VHB offers a presentation at the Feb. 5 board meeting, they said.

After the presentation, there will then be a public hearing on Feb. 19 regarding the zoning amendments, as well as a six-month moratorium on small subdivisions as the village studies the issue.

Peter Bee, the village attorney, said it’s “very unlikely” that the laws will be approved that day because they need to go to the Nassau County Planning Commission.

There was a perception among many residents that the zoning changes recommended by VHB were already a “done deal” and would threaten the suburban charm of the village by way of overdevelopment and traffic.

Robin Bernstein, a resident of Great Neck, said she is not for or against the proposed changes right now. But she said many people who couldn’t attend have felt left out of the discussions on the village’s direction and said there should be respect on both sides.

“Please don’t call what anyone is saying nonsense, because what I’m hearing is people want to be represented,” Bernstein said. “They want to be heard.”

Some also asked about having a public referendum, contending that people have not been represented in the process and that changes regarding Middle Neck Road and East Shore Road will affect a vast majority of people in the village.

Mayor Pedram Bral said what sparked the village to work with VHB for the “revitalization” of Middle Neck Road and East Shore Road was a concern from 500 people – young and old – being unable to live in Great Neck and calling for more “diverse housing” options.

According to a resolution adopted by the board in December 2018, the zoning amendments aim to “encourage revitalization and growth of business activities deemed to be in the public interest” and were done to reach the “full desired potential” of the corridors.

Bral, who blasted “the fear mongering that has continued for the past three years,” also said that people should have an “open mind” regarding possible changes, especially since the VHB report on the proposed changes hasn’t been presented yet.

“What I would like for everyone here to do … We have had multiple meetings, we are not adopting anything, we’re putting VHB’s recommendation online, you can read it, write it, question it, bring your questions on Feb. 5,” Bral said. “The reason we are not doing anything today is because we want people to be familiar with what they are presenting.”

According to the environmental assessment, which went online Wednesday, the zoning amendments – if approved – would re-name Middle Neck Road’s current overlay district to the Corridor Incentive Overlay District and expand it.

Its borders would become the western portion of the property at 720 Middle Neck Road and 7 Arrandale Ave., the northern boundary of the property at 540 Middle Neck Road, and include the mixed-use and waterfront development districts along the East Shore Road Corridor, save for 236 East Shore Road.

This would allow “any commercial, Affordable Workforce Housing, or Assisted living purpose when identified by the Board of Trustees as a community benefit/amenity in a particular circumstance.”

It would also limit the maximum building height granted as an incentive to “five stories or 52.5 feet with an area on the roof for recreational use by tenants of the dwelling.”

Additionally, the assessment says, the zoning changes would relax parking requirements for properties adjacent to Middle Neck Road on a “case-by-case basis,” with infrastructure improvements like traffic calming, shuttle service, park upgrades and benches being “favored by the Board.”

All applications for incentive zoning bonuses would be subject to public notice.

The assessment also appears to anticipate development, stating that a “moderate to large impact may occur” in regard to the proposed action “involving construction that continues for more than one year or in multiple phases.”

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