Great Neck zoning board caught in two contentious cases

Great Neck zoning board caught in two contentious cases
The Village of Great Neck Zoning Board of Appeals saw two cases that can under contention at the Aug. 3 meeting. (Courtesy Karina Kovac)

Two proposals came under intense discussion at the Aug. 3 Village of Great Neck Zoning Board of Appeals meeting which was governed by three out of five members and went on until midnight.

One asked for a subdivision of a property on the highly trafficked, dead-end street of Polo Road and the other sought a continuation of the debate over the construction of a Mashadi mixed-use school and religious building on 187-195 Steamboat Road. Both yielded no decision yet but much discussion.

Millen Cohen, the owner of a ranch house on Polo Road and represented by attorney Paul Bloom of Harras, Bloom & Archer LLP, bought his property in the late 1990s and now wants to add an additional dwelling in the rear of his current ranch-style house.  He asked for a subdivision to be granted.

Whether the proposed new dwelling will be subdivided will be determined at a later date by the Planning Board. At the meeting, Cohen asked the Zoning Board for variances affecting building area, floor area ratio, and both the front and side yards. Other considerations have to be made regarding curb cuts and accessory buildings.

Neighbors came ready to protest the additional dwelling due to the traffic at the dead-end location, which has frequent visits on bus passes from multiple schools and organizations. Evelyn Sullivan, who lives on Orchard Street adjacent to the property and said she did not receive notice about the meeting, pointed out her main reason for living in that part of Great Neck was the quietness of it, which may now be disturbed.

“We have lots of traffic on this block,” Sullivan said, “compounded by the houses that are filled with many adults and lots of children, more families. There are 17 houses on Orchard Street. I went and I drove up and down two different times; there are 34 cars on a 17-house block. That’s not counting visitors.”

Despite the resident comments on traffic, which a separate resident considered a pre-exiting issue, one of Cohen’s attorneys said the new dwelling would conform more to existing block standards.

“This subdivision would actually bring this property more into harmony with the characteristics of the immediate neighborhood with the rest of the properties between Polo and Orchard,” the lawyer said, “and there is one very unique characteristic.” That  characteristic, he explained, is that no other properties on the block would be able to be subdivided.

After the comments on Polo Road, board member Charles Segal had to leave the already diminished board of three to attend to personal matters, making it the second meeting in a row Segal departed and returned to. After 22 minutes he returned and the meeting continued.

The resolution this time for debate was the Mashadi complex project, which was set back by a redrawing of the plans from a new architect earlier this year and has received four letters of denial so far. At the meeting, the board and applicant agreed on changes to be made in the application regarding making the glass non-reflective, adding a landscape buffer with trees on two sides of the building, a stockyard fence, and the overall height. More information on the drainage is still needed and was requested at the previous zoning meeting.

Resident Rebecca Gilliar spoke at the meeting and cited traffic and inadequate parking as her biggest concerns.

“What are we going to do? Close down the road so that if an emergency comes along, and sometimes it does, nobody can get through? Why is there inadequate parking here?”

She continued, “Steamboat Road is the access roadway to our United States government’s military facility…it’s your job to protect us and protect this community.”

Segal noted that the Village of Great Neck Board of Trustees were the ones to approve the number of parking spaces and directed Gilliar to speak at their next meeting.

The next step for both cases is writing a new draft with all the decisions made at the meeting reflected and another round of comments from the next meeting.

Chairman Dennis Grossman said the board is going to “request our attorney draft up all the changes we made tonight, lock everything in stone, everybody here will read it.” Then at next month’s meeting they will be more time for the board and the public to discuss it before the board makes the final votes

“We don’t want to leave the old plans with things still on there. I don’t want apples and oranges. I want apples and apples,” he said.

Grossman also noted that the board never approves anything the first night. “We’re doing the best we can, we’re also under a lot of pressure from both sides to get it done,” he told the Great Neck News after the meeting adjourned.

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