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Centerporters Generate “Groundswell”

“Yond Cassius over there has a lean and hungry look.  He thinks too much.” Julius Caesar; Act I Scene1

The normally tranquil hills of Centerport have been shuddering lately.

Not from one of Mother Nature’s late Nor’Easters, but from a groundswell of discontent aired by residents who see the serenity of their bucolic hamlet threatened by commercial overdevelopment.

Alarmed by the prolific growth of multi-family residences and commercial establishments in the surrounding villages, Centerport taxpayers gathered at last week’s Centerport Harbor Civic Association (CHCA) monthly meeting to hear elected Town representatives answer a potful of very sticky questions about the proposed opening of a revamped Thatched Cottage (now called Water’s Edge See Photo Below at end of this article); the plan to convert the closed-up Jellyfish restaurant into 15 luxury apartments; the soon-to-open funeral home slated for the historic church that, according to Town Historian Robert Hughes, originally served as the Methodist Presbyterian Church, and the purported intro of a 7-Eleven convenience store on the site of a former automobile service station. Although currently unsightly, the proposed redevelopments infer a significant increase in traffic that pose substantial safety hazards.

 

Jellyfish restaurant, vacant since shortly after Hurricane Sandy walloped the North Shore, closed more than 4 years ago in a bankruptcy proceeding.

A funeral home is scheduled to open shortly in the 1901 Methodist Presbyterian Church.

The development of a 7-Eleven convenience store has been proposed for the site of a former automobile service station.

The projected expansions are located on a 300-yard stretch of Route 25A that is only two lanes wide. Bounded by Centershore Road on the west and Little Neck Road on the east, the twisting roadway is hemmed in by steep hills on the south and close-to-the-road buildings on the north. Critics say that the road is only marginally navigable because Mill Pond Restaurant-goer’s cars are parked very close to the westbound traffic lane. Homeowners are rightfully worried.

To make matters worse, preliminary plans from Water’s Edge suggest that Park Circle – the primary response-way for Centerport Fire Department – will be used by valet parkers to drive guest cars to a piece of vacant land on 25A (see photo below of vacant land). CHCA members contend that the proposed “overflow parking lot” is governed by a Covenant and Restriction (C&R) that required the land to revert to residential zoning upon the demise of the Thatched Cottage or Jellyfish businesses. Both of those companies folded more than four years ago but the Town has not enforced the required re-zoning.

 

Centerport Fire Department headquarters in sandwiched between the funeral home and Water’s Edge. The Department responds to more than 700 alarms every year.

Vacant land. CHCA members contend that the proposed “overflow parking lot” is governed by a Covenant and Restriction (C&R) that required the land to revert to residential zoning upon the demise of the Thatched Cottage or Jellyfish businesses.

In a letter dated November 8, 2018, Town Attorney Nicholas Ciappetta stated that, “An automatic reverter clause contained in a restrictive covenant is insufficient as a matter of law to circumvent well established legal procedure to effectuate a zone change. For this reason, the covenant cannot be enforced until the legal formalities for a zone change have taken place.”, After last week’s CHCA meeting, co-presidents Catherine and Tom Knight sent Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci an email with multiple questions. Their queries included:

  • What is your assessment of the overdevelopment along Centerport’s 25A corridor as a whole (See MAP: 25A-Traffic Path – VT6) and what steps will you take to alleviate the public safety & traffic concerns considering the location of the Centerport Fire Department and the single-road ingress/egress onto the Little Neck Peninsula and the potential for traffic gridlock? Please see the video one of our Advisory Board members recently shot during an emergency when the “X” on Little Neck Road and Park Circle was blocked by two cars that had to back up and pull to the side to let the emergency vehicles through: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DROtqgeSfHE
  • Will you introduce a Town Council Resolution to require a Public Hearing on the issue of the C&R for the Water’s Edge (WE) “spillover parking lot” on 25A? The Town Attorney has stated that the C&R was not properly done because there was no Public Hearing to approve/disapprove the “reverter clause” of the C&R. Therefore, it is not enforceable. Members of the CHCA asked the Town Council to bring the C&R reverter clause to the table for a resolution in the recent past, however the majority of the Town Council led by Frank Petrone did not agree and a resolution was never finalized. CHCA members who were a part of the C&R processes in 1967 and 2012 are vehement that the C&R was done properly and that there were Public Hearings in 1967 and 2012. 
  • There was no recent traffic study required of the developers/builders of WE since this was a “renovation” of a catering facility that closed approximately five years ago. The CHCA has proven that the WE has, in fact, expanded its footprint beyond that of the old Thatched Cottage by nearly 400 square feet, and has increased the occupancy rate from 831 to 857. The Town of Huntington has not required a new SEQRA or traffic study, even though it acknowledges the expansion. As Town Supervisor, what will you do to hold the Planning and Building Departments accountable?
  • In a letter dated June 11, 2019 from the WE architect, William Novak, to Steve Kiewra, TOH’s Building Permits Coordinator, the architect states that the construction cost of the WE is $400 per square foot and that the estimated cost of the “renovation” is $4,104,000 for a 26,536 square foot catering hall. Section 198-06 of the Town Building Code states that the reconstruction must be less than 50% of the cost of a new building ($10,614,400). It appears this is a self-reporting type of arrangement. The $4,104,000 is very close to 50% mark ($5,307,200). The CHCA contends that the estimated square footage costs for the proposed catering hall is closer to $700 per square foot and the cost will exceed the 50% figure. How will you verify that the architect’s costs are accurate and not intentionally underreported?
  • New construction along 25A in East Huntington (west of Washington Drive) has required the developer/builder to install sidewalks and curbs. Why hasn’t WE required to do the same along 25A? With an increase in the WE footprint and occupant capacity, why have the Town and the NYSDOT not required some traffic and pedestrian safety upgrades along 25A?
  • What is your opinion about the installation of small cell 4G (soon to be 5G) antennas in residential neighborhoods across the Town of Huntington? What will you do to act on behalf of residents who oppose the installation of new small cell antennas outside their homes?

Supervisor Lupinacci had not responded to Dr. and Mr. Knight at press time.

 

Water’s Edge

 

 

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