Manorhaven zoning board approves Manhasset Isle apartments

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Village attorney Jeffrey Blinkoff addressed the audience over raised conflict of interest allegations at the Tuesday's zoning board meeting. (Photo by Jessica Parks)

The Manorhaven Board of Zoning Appeals approved a proposed three-story apartment building at 22 Sagamore Hill Rd. on Manhasset Isle on Tuesday night, despite considerable pushback from residents in attendance.

All requested variances were granted, although some requests were modified by the board. The modifications were not discussed at the meeting and the amended application was released on the village’s website immediately after the meeting.

Variances approved for the 26,000 square-foot property on Manhasset Isle, owned by Port Washington businessman Peter Dejana, include height, front yard setback, parking, and for mixed-use of the building.

Dejana declined to comment on the vote at the meeting.

There were about 50 residents in attendance at the village hall and many called out from their seats requesting members of the board share the amendments made to the application they were voting on.

Manorhaven resident Tim Stammers asked, “Why won’t you tell us what the conditions are?”

BZA Chairman Patrick Gibson said that public comment was closed and called the residents’ addressing of board members inappropriate.

The zoning board carried on with its business and voted to approve the application with three in favor, Gibson along with Jerry Volpe and Joseph Zimbardi, and two opposed, Jeremy Devine and former Manorhaven Mayor John DiLeo.

The application proposed a three-story building including 16 apartments and one commercial unit with a 5-foot yard setback and a 13-foot elevator bulkhead.

The building was approved under the condition the yard setback is increased to 10 feet and the elevator bulkhead is moved to the center of the building where it can be out of view to passerby.

Village code calls for a 20-foot front yard setback and allows for two-story buildings with a maximum height of 26 feet.

The Superintendent of Buildings Bill Rogel had issued a notice of disapproval for the proposed building in August 2018.

Early in the public meeting and after returning from a 45-minute executive session, Village attorney Jeffrey Blinkoff addressed a letter that had been issued from the newly-established Manorhaven Board of Ethics.

The letter presented an advisory opinion stating recent allegations of conflict of interest made by Manorhaven Action Committee’s acting secretary Caroline DuBois in a letter dated Jan. 15 were unfounded and the four members of the zoning board mentioned were not required to recuse themselves.

In a presentation to the ethics committee on Feb. 13, DuBois claimed that a member of the zoning board received support, in the form of office and computer use,  from Dejana when running for political office in the village.

The advisory opinion states that when members of the ethics board asked DuBois to particularize her claims and to provide more detail, she said she was unwilling to do so which she attributed to “loose ends.”

Blinkoff also discussed a letter that was given to him at the beginning of the meeting with information of Volpe living in an apartment owned by Dejana.

“That in of itself would not give any rise to the level of any implied violation or need to recuse,” he said.

Volpe asked to address the audience about the concern himself.

He said he has lived in the apartment since he moved to Manorhaven 11 years ago and has records of all of his paid rent checks.

“There has never been any benefit on my behalf that has been insinuated or alleged by [the provided documentation],” he said.

Two parking variances were also approved by the board, one that would allow a reduction of the required 83 parking spaces to allow for 33 and a variance that allows the parking spaces to vary in size and not abide by the required dimensions set forth in the village code.

The board also issued a SEQRA resolution where members of the board unanimously approved a determination that the proposed building would not have any adverse effect on the local environment.

A planned protest prior to the meeting, where it was suggested that News 12 was expected to attend, did not occur.

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