The Village of Thomaston postponed a public hearing for an application to construct a 75-unit apartment building on South Middle Neck Road scheduled for next week.
Village officials sent out a news release on Friday informing members of the public that a public meeting that was initially scheduled to take place at the Village of North Hills’ Village Hall on Sept. 14 to discuss the application was postponed and may take place virtually. Last week, the state Legislature permitted villages to conduct meetings and public hearings virtually.
“Once a decision has been made as to the manner in which the public hearing will proceed, notices of the new date, time and location of, and access to, the public hearing will be published, posted and otherwise noticed as required by law,” the news release said. “Notice also will be posted on the Village of Thomaston website at www.villageofthomaston.org.”
The village was forced to reschedule an initial meeting to discuss the application in mid-August due to an excess amount of people in attendance at Thomaston’s Village Hall. Most of the people in attendance opposed the proposed five-story structure at 124 S. Middle Neck Road.
The project’s applicant, 124 Middle Neck Realty LLC, acquired the property, formerly the site of Tower Ford, on July 19, 2017, according to village documents. During a July 12 meeting, village trustees unanimously approved a new local zoning law “for property located in certain adjoining zoning districts,” according to village minutes.
The minutes showed that one member of the public was present during the public hearing on the law, which the trustees then adopted.
The law allows the Board of Trustees to have “sole and unfettered discretion” on what conditions and incentive use permit may be granted to certain applicants. The new law applies to applicants that have a property located partially in the Apartment B and Residence 10 zoning districts, a total area of at least 0.75 acres but not exceeding one acre, a depth at its greatest point of at least 200 feet and street frontage on Middle Neck Road of at least 230 feet.
The property at 124 South Middle Neck Road partially resides in the Apartment B and Residence 10 zoning districts, has a total acreage of 0.96 acres, and has a depth of 234 feet, according to village documents.
“This law was specifically created to permit this application on this particular property to go forward,” Thomaston resident Aaron Halpern said in a phone interview. “That’s a concern expressed by hundreds of people.”
Village resident Weibin Jiang, who lives near the property, said the quality of life for all village residents will be negatively impacted by the project.
“We have many young children playing on the nearby streets,” Jiang said in an interview. “I, myself, have a 4-year-old who bicycles on the street, playing with other kids.”
During the Aug. 16 meeting, prior to adjourning, Weinberg and the board approved the July 12 minutes, which members of the public heavily objected to. Some residents criticized the way that the village publicized the public hearing, with many claiming that they were unaware that a hearing of such importance was being held.
Weinberg, in an email to Blank Slate Media, said, “The Village gave all required legal notices, and complied with all applicable procedural requirements.”
Jiang said that though the village did not violate any law, residents should have been made more aware of what was going to be discussed at the July meeting.
“We are concerned with how the village government communicated the project with residents and how the law was passed,” Jiang said. “I understand the village complied with all the laws. But this is an important project for every local resident.”
Public notices of the July 12 meeting were published in the Great Neck News a week before the meeting, but some residents said that a notice in a newspaper for a project of this magnitude was not sufficient.
Residents claimed that adequate studies were not conducted and that the project’s estimate of adding 6.75 new students to the Great Neck school district is not accurate.
According to the application, the project would provide an incentive payment of $75,000 to the village, a public seating area along Brompton Road, and 12 additional parking spaces for the residents of 37 Brompton Road, a smaller apartment building.