Great Neck Plaza passes set of zoning laws for affordable housing

Great Neck Plaza passes set of zoning laws for affordable housing

Great Neck Plaza trustees passed a set of laws to try boosting affordable housing in two residential districts on Wednesday night, more than two years after they first began mulling the idea in 2016.

The two laws amend chapter 225 of the village code to change regulations in the Residence T, or RT, and Residence D, or RD, zones.

In addition to giving more lenience on side and rear yard setbacks, the laws more than double the allowable floor area ratio, cap the number of floors allowed at four and height at 45 feet, and sets a minimum apartment size of 1000 square feet rather than 1,200 square feet.

In exchange, 20 percent of the units are to be reserved for affordable housing.

Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender said the laws passed aim to encourage workforce housing, raising the number of incentive districts from one to three, which will benefit all parties involved.

“The encouragement of affordable workforce housing units has been identified by the Village as a goal that will benefit the Village, its residents, and those persons wanting to live in affordable housing units,” Celender said.

“The proposed amendments to the village’s zoning ordinance are designed to provide incentives to developers for the creation of housing that is afforddable to households at a range of income levels that the market would otherwise not provide,” Celender also said.

Specifically, within the RD district, developers can have a floor area ratio up to 2.0 and cover up to 55 percent of the lot rather than 50.

As for the RT district, lot coverage is capped at 50 percent and the floor area ratio can be up to 1.35.

The law also states under “other bonuses and incentives” that the board will try to expedite the permit process and help the building owner try to alleviate costs to support creating affordable housing units.

At previous meetings, officials have said the law has had to go through an extensive process involving hearings, state environmental quality review, and exchanges with the Nassau County Planning Commission.

The Regional Plan Association had outlined a report about a year before the Wednesday meeting to village officials, which looked at possible zoning law changes analyzed three sites that could be home to new developments: the St. Paul’s Church Complex, the Great Neck Park District Parking Lot and 23 Bond St.

Preceding the discussions starting in 2016, Great Neck Plaza had been subject to a 2014 lawsuit over affordable housing in the C-2 zoning district.

In 2013, Great Neck Plaza also moved to loosen requirements to try attracting more residents to The Maestro at 255 Great Neck Road, which had 19 of their 94 units deemed “affordable housing.”

In May 2014, the Long Island Housing Services and the Fair Housing Justice Center had filed a complaint alleging that the village had violated local, state, and federal laws by having discriminatory age and race requirements for affordable housing.

At the time, people were required to be either under 30 years old or over 65 and living in the village for at least 10 years, court documents said. This, plaintiffs argued in court documents, seemed to favor “long-term residents of the predominantly white surrounding municipalities” and continue encouraging “residential racial segregation.”

Following a $200,000 settlement, trustees began to amend codes for the C-2 zoning district, home to The Maestro, which was the subject of the legal complaint. The village had also agreed to amend village code to allow a 20 percent density bonus, which allows developers to build more units than normally allowed, in exchange for some public benefit.

Come early 2016, trustees voted to eliminate age and residency requirements for affordable housing units and village involvement in the screening of potential applicants.

They also began weighing changes for the RT and RD zoning districts, which were not subject to lawsuits.

At the time, Mayor Jean Celender said she wanted to address affordable housing laws in each district.

Great Neck Plaza has tried to push for more affordable housing since at least 2005, when they enacted an affordable housing ordinance that required new residential buildings with 20,000 square feet of gross floor area or more to utilize 7.5 percent of it for affordable housing.

The Plaza had also adopted zoning changes for the “B” business district in 2011, with discussions beginning in 2009, in an effort to encourage mixed-use and transit-oriented development geared toward younger people.

One development spawning from that was the recently opened Galleria on Grace Avenue, which features 30 apartment units, including 3 for workforce housing, and two new storefronts to be occupied.

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