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Mixed Use Gets Mixed Reviews at North Hempstead Meeting

Proposal to amend zoning on Main Street met with lots of comments on both sides.

A proposal to create "mixed-use" buildings along Main Street in Port Washington stirred up nearly two-and-a-half hours of conversation at Tuesday's Town of North Hempstead meeting. Residents can still weigh in through Dec. 11, as the measure was carried over to the next meeting.

Approximately 30 people gave their viewpoints about the project, which would allow residential and commercial usage on parts of Main Street and create a limit to the buildings' height at three stories. Before the stakeholders spoke at the public hearing, Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio spent about 15 minutes outlining the process up to this point and the goals of the project.

She explained that this zoning change's goals were to revitalize Main Street, attract new shops to the area and help support local businesses, among other things. There was a meeting at the Port Washington Public Library about a year ago regarding proposed changes to Main Street and at that time people were concerned about the height of buildings, possible change in density of the downtown, parking, traffic, and whether the school district would become crowded, De Giorgio said.

De Giorgio noted that with the current proposed zoning change, all potential projects must come before the town board in a public hearing. As for density, she said that 18 to 24 units an acre of housing could be added and with 0.16 children per unit, about 13 children could possibly be added to the district through the additional of apartments along Main Street.

"This change will be slow, gradual and in the best interest of Port Washington," De Giorgio said.

Of those people in the packed Town Hall room who disagreed with the proposal, some cited feeling as De Giorgio has a conflict of interest because of a property they thought she owned along Main Street. After the meeting, De Giorgio said that neither she nor anyone in her family owns this property, and therefore does not have a conflict of interest. She also said that she has to file sworn documents about conflicts of interest once a year to the ethics board, as do all town board officials. Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman said during the meeting that any question about property ownership by De Giorgio would be clarified before the vote on this proposal and that to his understanding she does not have a conflict of interest in this case.

Yet others stated they opposed the proposal because they wondered how it would revitalize businesses that are challenged by tough economic times and steep competition. They wondered too how it would beautify Main Street.

Those favoring the proposal cited excitement over having more young professionals, perhaps who grew up in Port Washington, able to live in the area. They also liked the idea that developers would be more willing to work on properties on Main Street and the improvement of Main Street's aesthetic.

The hearing was left open until the Dec. 11 Town board meeting so that people adversely affected by Hurricane Sandy can still voice their opinions on the proposal.

Donna Rice November 21, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I am very disappointed in the Councilwoman, she basically said in her opening statement that her decision was made. What a dog and pony show. Dina I want to remind you of conversation you and I had way back on election night after you had won. You said don't worry Donna, I will listem to everyone. And although you are much more polite than Pollack ever was and I think you give people more time to express themselves - are you hearing the majority of your constituents? I know there are people for this rezoning but I truly don't believe it is the majority. And if I am wrong - show my why. Your little "cards" from the last meeting don't mean a thing. Let's try to figure out a better way to determine if people want this or not. Isn't that the real information you want to know.
matteo November 21, 2012 at 03:36 PM
To develop or not to develop, that is the question. Is the answer more low income people from south of the border? Or will the new housing truly attract young people who coult walk to the train, and older people who sold their homes in town and want to stay, and have a short walk to shopping, etc.? Not to sound racist, but which of the above is the answer?
Charles November 21, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Mrs. Rice I was not able to attend the meeting last night. Your feelings about the Councilwoman are the same feeling we are having. Its sad to say this, but its like having Pollack all over again. I am involved with the schools and we here are all saying the same thing she is not listening to us. Do you remember the Roslyn Country Club it might come down to that.
David November 21, 2012 at 04:59 PM
These politicians are all the same at election time they tell you what you want to hear then after they get elected they come down with a serious case of amnesia . On a personal level before the election I told ms. Digeorgeo about the mess in the building department with all the illegal things that are going on , she promised me a meeting if she was to be elected . I handed her , papers and evidence , she has never returned my calls , no meeting ever took place .
Local Resident November 21, 2012 at 06:39 PM
What a sham of a town hearing...Supporters state the following: 1) The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and since Main Street runs east / west there will be no blockage of sunlight once Main Street is developed up to 3 stories. 2) That since Main Street is currently zoned for 3-story commercial, there will be no increase in density, traffic or parking problems once properties are developed for residential. 3) That studies state a maximum of 16 students will be added to our schools if all properties are developed. 4) That no current Owner or Developer has developed plans based on the proposed zoning. 5) That the removal of blocks affected by the rezoning Overlay District is a direct response to area residents' concerns of a canyon effect if all of Upper Main Street were to be developed to 3-stories. 6) That even though the current non-conforming, 4-story mixed-use properties were originally the intended beneficiaries of the proposed rezoning, the only way for those properties to become conforming would be to rebuild down to 3-stories per the rezoning. 7) That the Design Guidelines proposed are merely guidelines, NOT requirements. 8) That beautification has taken a back seat to rezoning. 9) That this is the first step in a series of steps for Main Street...what else is in the pipeline? And for the Dec. 11, can we all agree that all Board Members of RFMBPW are strongly in support of the proposal? Oh, I am against the proposal.
Mary November 21, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Dina DeGeorgio has only been in office for eleven months and already she is drinking Kaiman's cool-aid!! I must say he is a great puppeteer.
Stephanie Hall November 23, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I also add my disappointment with Dina DeGiorgio. I had several email exchanges with her where she assured me she had not made up her mind and would listen to what the public had to say. In her last email she changed direction and said she had been studying this for a long time and had made up her mind that this was the best thing for Port Washington. So much for listening objectively and representing what the majority of residents want..... Not only am I disappointed, but I will remember this at election time as I am sure that others will as well. I predict a short term of her as an elected official if she doesn't support what the majority of Port Washington residents want.
Arguendo November 23, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Apparently a groundswell of sentiment toward a quick divorce. More than a Kardashian, far less than a full term.
Local Resident November 23, 2012 at 07:55 PM
It is also interesting that Mindy Germain who, until recently, was RFMBPW's face of the Model Blocks proposal has gone into hiding. At Thursday's ToNH town hearing many members of RFMBPW spoke in support of the Main Street Visioning proposal. She, although in attendance, was curiously quiet. She is up for reelection as Water Commissioner on December 11...Is it a stretch to think that speaking in out favor of the proposal may in fact cost her votes on December 11? Starting in December 11, I think many quick divorces are in order.
Arguendo November 23, 2012 at 07:59 PM
She is not doing herself any favors by papering the town with those vapid signs.
Local Resident November 26, 2012 at 03:30 PM
I would like to compliment the ToNH & RFMBPW for the presentation boards that were on display at last week's Town Hearing. At least we got to see an actual presentation and once again confirm that it is poorly conceived garbage. Do we: Need to hear one more time that Main Street Visioning is community driven? Need to rezone for the basic expectation that an owner maintain his property? Need to hear another member of RFMBPW describe Main Street as a "slum"? Need to hear another RFMBPW board member, realtor, attorney, developer, and prominent wife of a local contractor, all with apparent conflicts of interests, speak out in support of the proposal, when clearly the majority of residents are against the proposal? Need to re-elect two members of the RFMBPW as water commissioners? Need to sit through another Town Hearing where most of the Town Board appear to be comatose? Need to again be told by the Supervisor that this proposal will not increase density and traffic on Main Street because Main Street is already zoned for 3-story commercial? Need to hear again that this proposal is going to allow the existing 4-story, non-conforming, mixed-use buildings become legal & conforming, when they only become conforming after they rebuild down to 3-stories. Need to hear again that Main Street will become beautiful and vibrant as a result of the unenforceable Design Guidelines? This is well past the point of tiresome.
Mary November 26, 2012 at 04:28 PM
And did you realize the other water commissioner is David Brackett - He is the treasurer for RFMBPW. I believe he signs Mindy Germain's paycheck!! What else does the RFMBPW want to be in control of?
Mary November 26, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Also keep in mind that Mindy Germain was appointed by Jon Kaiman NOT elected into office. Connect the dots people.
Laura Johnson November 26, 2012 at 07:52 PM
The proposal is a mess. Code regulations contradict each other. Design guidelines are not enforceable. Parking requirements are full of loopholes. Several developers and RFMBPW board members stated at the hearing that these rezoned blocks were just a "first step." This is not a beautification proposal, but the beginning of the wholesale redevelopment of Main Street for the benefit of commercial developers. So long North Shore towns, hello Queens. Not that there is anything wrong with Queens, but if I wanted to live there, I would move there.
Local Resident November 27, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Still not sure how a property owner can provide the "required" parking in the rear of the lot along with access to garbage dumpsters without a significant amount of property consolidation. Wouldn't the proposed apartments need to be ADA accessible, meaning an elevator to the upper floors? So we are expected to believe that a single-lot property Owner is going to develop that one lot to conform to ADA? Again, hello property consolidation. The Design Guidelines that ToNH / RFMBPW keep referring to in their support for the rezoning proposal are an extremely general, open for interpretation mess waiting to happen. Technically, New Cassel would satisfy most of the requirements (see photos). So, we are to trust the ToNH Town Board to enforce these guidelines and be the sole judge of aesthetics moving forward? Eventually Main Street will be a vacant, bland strip shopping mall, just with revenue generating apartments on the 2nd & 3rd floors...so much for vibrancy and walkability.
Local Resident November 30, 2012 at 02:59 PM
"Main Street is a slum." "Main Street needs beautification and become more vibrant." "Main Street needs to be pedestrian friendly and be more walkable." "Buildings on Main Street are old and deteriorating." "Main Street is full of garbage." The comments above have recently been made in support of rezoning by Board Members of Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington. From RFMBPW, we have heard from the Executive Director (who is also a water commissioner and was, up until recently, the chief supporter of rezoning), the Chairman, both Co-Presidents, the Vice-President of Finance and many other members of the Board of Directors. We also have heard the supportive position of Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio who is married to a member of the Board of Directors. I find it sadly ironic that the position of a local "beautification" civic group, in existence for decades, has let "their" community decay to the point of being described as a "slum" and "needing vibrancy"...these are their words, not ours. At what point RFMBPW did stop looking out for community interests and START looking out for private interests? The proposed rezoning does not benefit the community, but it does clearly benefit a handful of property owners. As a result, RFMBPW has lost it's effectiveness and has lost the faith and trust of the local community. RFMBPW needs to be disbanded, or at the very least reformed under a new, more appropriate name. Is it sadly ironic? Or just sad?
Local Resident November 30, 2012 at 03:20 PM
DENNIS SWIACKI is running against Mindy Germain (currently the appointed, not elected, water commissioner and the Executive Director of RFMBPW and chief proponent of the rezoning of Main Street). ALAN B. ELTON is running against David Brackett (current water commissioner and Treasurer of RFMBPW). On Dec. 11, vote Dennis Swiacki and Alan B. Elton as Water Commissioners. On a separate note...does anyone think Mindy Germain speaks in support of rezoning at the Dec. 11 ToNH Town Hearing only AFTER voting closes?
Donna Rice November 30, 2012 at 04:34 PM
I fully support both Dennis Swiacki and Alan Elton for Water Commissions. Please join me invoting for both local businessmen.
Local Resident November 30, 2012 at 07:09 PM
The ultimate demographic of the new residents on Main Street is not of great concern. Regardless of ToNH spin: additional apartments = additional residents = additional density = additional traffic = additional parking issues And these additional residents will do little to stimulate the businesses that ToNH & RFMBPW are claiming to be the primary beneficiaries of rezoning. The surrounding area along Upper Main Street already has an extremely dense residential population and still businesses have difficulty. A few hundred more "customers" will not have the ToNH / RFMBPW desired effect, but a few hundred more residents will have a great negative effect on the density / traffic and parking on Main Street.
Donna Rice November 30, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Just got the local paper and there happens to be an article about redistricting (for the elections) and in it Mayor Robert Weitzner of Port Washington North says "Port Washington isn't just a unique zip code or a school district. It's a main street, marina, a vibrant commercial corridor and a residential community that we all call home" He needs to tell RFMBPW it's vibrant because they said it was - what did they call it - oh yea "a slum"
Love My Town November 30, 2012 at 10:17 PM
If the members of RFMBPW take their time and read the Draft Proposal the ToNH wants to make to Main Street, they would find that they would be against it too! Business hours are until 7:00 pm. No restaurants. The parking requirements for business can be met by counting the spaces in the Town lots behind them. That is why some blocks were left out, no Town lot to share. It is true that 3 stories is the limit, but the height is all the way up to 45 feet. The shadow of the existing 2 story buildings already cross Main Street at 2:30. Density is on the increase with this new proposal. Currently, in order to build on Main Street you have to provide parking on site, something that can't be done do to the size of the properties. The current code is self limiting. They are changing the code to get around the parking requirements. How does that help our number 1 problem, parking. Good designs ALWAYS FOLLOWS FUNCTION. RFMBPW may have started with good intentions, but their vision has been lost.
Local Resident December 05, 2012 at 02:05 PM
And now, formally, the Exective Director and Treasurer of RFMBPW, Mindy Germain and David Brackett, both current water commissioners are campaigning together as a team for reelection. The ties between RFMBPW, the ToNH, and the rezoning proposal need to be broken.
Local Resident December 05, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Although the tax records do not tell you exactly who the owner of a property is, quick research on where the tax bills are sent is quite interesting. And even without the aid of research, you can probably guess where the majority of tax bills are sent.

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