The village board heard testimony Monday night from more than 30 Valley Streamers, who expressed concerns about a developer’s proposal to build a 28-unit apartment complex at the corner of Wallace Court and Payan Avenue. The hearing followed a months-long debate among residents of Wallace Court and other Valley Stream, over the potential benefits of adding more high-density rental housing to the area.
“The sense of the board was that there was strong community opposition to the project,” Deputy Mayor Vincent Grasso said. “There’s some outstanding issues that need to be resolved.”
He said residents were concerned about parking in the area, the size of the project and the building’s aesthetics. Grasso also said that he, too, had concerns about developing a 28-unit complex, and said that board members would further discuss the proposal at their next meeting. “We’re going to take it as it goes,” Grasso said, adding that he did not know when a decision would be reached.
Mayor Ed Fare said he was overall pleased with the discussion, noting “I actually thought it was invigorating, because it’s democracy at it’s finest.”
Trustee John Tufarelli said that his vote on the proposal would be based on the best interests of the community. “Me personally, I took everything into consideration,” he said. “In my mind, the residents always come first.”
The village board of trustees voted to change the lot’s zoning in April to allow for a commercial parking expansion — a change from RA to CX zoning. The Nov. 27 hearing included discussion of a second possible zone change — from CX to CA, or parcels with multiple-family townhouses, condominiums, cooperatives and apartments. Also considered was Cedarhurst-based Paramount Construction’s proposal for an apartment complex, called the Parkside. Attorney Dominick Minerva, of Minerva & D’Agostino PC, is representing Paramount.
At the hearing, representatives of Paramount Construction presented the board with a traffic study of the area that showed the new building would increase traffic by 3 to 4 percent, and an assessor’s report detailing the tax benefits of another apartment building. “I think the board received our direct application well and understood its benefits,” Minerva said.
Some residents said they were irritated that they had not heard about the proposal before Gibson resident Mike Belfiore, who served one term on the village board in the 1990s, notified them. At the hearing, Belfiore presented letters that the developer apparently sent to the zoning board in June 2016, asking members to change the property’s zone from RA to CA. The zoning code does not allow for a change from RA to CA, which Belfiore argued was proof that the code was being circumvented to appease the developer, and that the zoning of the property was not intended to accommodate high-density apartments.
“That’s the definition of spot zoning,” Belfiore said. “To me, that strikes as manipulation.”
In an interview with the Herald last month, Mayor Ed Fare rejected the claim that this case was an example of spot zoning, or at odds with the village’s master plan and current zoning restrictions. He said the April zone change was approved so the village could schedule a public hearing, and was not an indication that the board already had an opinion on the project.
Fare said, however, that the board is “pro-development.” He disputed claims that the village was becoming overdeveloped — a criticism that often resurfaces when developers submit proposals — by alluding to hundreds of rental units built in Mineola “in one fell swoop.” By contrast, the village had added 201 units — three apartment complexes, not including the unfinished, 36-unit Promenade on North Central Avenue — over the last decade.
Other developments on the horizon
Construction of the Promenade — the only unfinished apartment project in the village — began over the summer, and Fare said that the village’s progress on it has potential developers interested in the area.
Last December, the board authorized an appraisal for Parking Fields 8 and 8A, which border the Village Green at Hicks Street, after developers expressed interest in purchasing and developing the land. Mineola-based Michael Haberman Associates is doing the appraisal. Fare declined to describe proposals or name prospective buyers.
“Developers are interested, and before we even talk to developers, we want to know what it’s worth,” he said of the parking lot.
Additionally, the board of trustees voted in February to authorize a request for development proposals for a section of land just south of Sun Valley Towers, at 4th Street.
A RFP is a document announcing that a plot of land is available for development. It outlines the contract terms and provides guidance on how the proposal should be formatted. The board authorized the expenditure of $6,000 to pay Sahn Ward Coschignano & Baker PLLC, of Uniondale, to draft the document, which is yet to be published.