Swimming pools were once again at the center of the discussion in the Village of Great Neck.
Members of the Board of Trustees voted during a Zoom video conference on Tuesday to adopt an amendment to local code that grants the superintendent of buildings the final determination on such construction, provided it meets the village criteria. Effectively it no longer will require the board to approve an application for a swimming pool.
Village resident Yaffa Rabbe said she is concerned that homeowners with smaller properties will start applying to build pools in areas where properties are very close together.
“If my neighbor has a pool, I am going to hear everything that they do in the backyard. I smell the barbecue,” Rabbe said. “I’m asking how much is it going to take away from my peace of mind?”
Resident Amy Glass expressed initial concerns about chemicals and quality of water potentially being a factor if leaks occur. Glass cited close proximity to neighbors for many residents in the village as a reason for concern about chemical invasion and potential damage to neighboring water supplies.
“I feel that the size of the property makes a big impact on the size of these pools,” she said. “If this encourages swimming pools on properties that are too small without asking neighbors, I don’t think it’s fair.”
Glass indicated that the process would also cut out certain checks and balances that provide opportunity for neighbors to review and intervene on such proposals which could require the removal of trees, changes to the backyard, splashing and unwanted noise from motors.
“It’s an enormous intrusion when properties are this small. This is not Kings Point,” Glass said.
Mayor Pedram Bral reiterated that this would not change the requirements necessary to construct a pool. “I don’t want you to think tomorrow we’re going to have 25 pools. Not every house in Great Neck is going to have a swimming pool,” Bral said. “This is as of right and they’re asking for minor adjustment to what is allowable.”
Glass and Rabbe said another concern for neighbors is a pool’s attraction of other people. Both said they were concerned with how their quality of life would be adversely impacted by parties and other gatherings.
Great Neck resident David Aubree said while he is not generally concerned with swimming pools, the timing of the situation seemed inappropriate.
“I just question the process of making this any easier at a time when we have to limit public gatherings,” Aubree said. “I grew up without a swimming pool. It’s a hard time for all of us.”
Bral explained that this is a compromise for those missing out on the opportunity of swimming in a public pool. He also said it is going to be a significant disadvantage for children who have to be sitting home all summer.
“I think we need to be mindful but at the same time we need to be fair about people who want to build a pool,” Bral said.
Great Neck resident Judy Rosenthal disagreed with the mayor’s plea that this was a necessary move, echoing the remarks of Glass and other residents that the amendment could potentially remove input from neighbors with regard to any similar construction.
“When you streamline you make something easy, and you’re eliminating process,” Rosenthal said. “How could this possibly be a fair and just thing for neighbors? While we only have three neighbors, does that make everyone else’s needs in the surrounding area less important? I hope we won’t be so small-minded about how we’re adversely impacting all our neighbors in the Village of Great Neck.”
Bral and the village’s superintendent of buildings, Stephen Haramis, said that the process will not change, but Haramis will make the final determination about plans.
(At a meeting on May 19, the board approved an application for a pool at a house owned by Bral, who recused himself from the presentation.)
David Zielenziger said he also opposes a change to the village law on swimming pools. “If someone took a look at the agenda they would know they would want to build a pool next door,” he said. “I don’t see how neighbors get any notification. I think it’s very important neighbors get a notification.”
He added that for the board to include language requiring the notification of neighbors would be an easy fix.
After discussion the amendment was approved by a majority vote of 4-0, with Trustee Annie Mendelson abstaining, notwithstanding that it may be subject to future amendment.
“I feel it should be amended to notify the neighbors,” Mendelson said. “I think it’s a simple addition. Neighbors should be included in the process and I think it should be part of this code change.”
Following the vote, the board mulled whether it would extend the law to require notification to any properties within a 200-foot radius, but decided to hold off until the matter can be further discussed at the next meeting on June 16.
In an executive session, the board discussed the Nassau County Open Streets plan, which sets a date for reopening local communities to outdoor and socially distant activities.
The board authorized Mayor Bral to arrange street closings as he sees fit when the governor deems outdoor dining is appropriate.
Dan Offner contributed reporting.