Flower Hill to conduct survey before landmarking Elderfields Preserve

Flower Hill to conduct survey before landmarking Elderfields Preserve
The Elderfields Preserve is a historic parkland in Flower Hill owned by the county. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)

The Village of Flower Hill voted Tuesday to adjourn landmarking the Elderfields Preserve after months of public hearings and pushback from the county on the matters, pending submission of a complete survey of the property.

The Elderfields Preserve, located in Flower Hill, is a four-acre parkland with a main house that includes the original 17th-century home on the property, one of the oldest structures on Long Island, according to the county parks department.

The property is located within Flower Hill but owned by Nassau County.

The county acquired the property in 1996 from Henry de V. Williams. The Art Guild of Port Washington currently occupies a space in the building for art studios, classes and shows.

Flower Hill Mayor Randall Rosenbaum previously told Blank Slate the village is seeking to designate it as a landmark because the village wants to preserve the historical sites throughout the village.

“It is important to consider protecting our heritage before it is too late to do so,” Rosenbaum said in an email to Blank Slate.

Rosenbaum said that landmark designation status prevents the structure from being altered, repaired, moved or demolished. If a building permit is filed for the property, the village would then assess the proposal to ensure no harm would be done to the property.

“The intent of landmark preservation is the preservation, protection, enhancement, perpetuation and use of places, districts, sites, buildings and structures having a special character or special historical, cultural or aesthetic interest or value within the community as an appreciation of heritage and furtherance of education,” Rosenbaum said.

At an April 3 Board of Trustees meeting, Nassau County Deputy Attorney Anna Gerzon told the board that while the county is not against the village protecting the preserve, the village landmarking a preserve managed by the county sets a bad precedent. This would be the first county property landmarked by a village.

Rosenbaum countered by saying that he sees it as a good initiative that Flower Hill would be the first to landmark a county property. He said during the meeting that he sees it as a positive whereas the county views it as additional work.

The landmark designation does not change the management of the preserve and the county will continue to own it.

The county worked with the village to adopt a proposal that is beneficial to the preserve.

Rosenbaum said during a May 1 meeting that the county’s proposal for the property is much stronger than the village’s landmark designation, which adds additional covenants to protect the preserve. Protections include the prevention of the sale of the property and aesthetic changes.

Gerzon said the deed would prevent a future sale of the property. This means that any sort of arrangement that transfers the property in any way, including leasing the property, would be prohibited.

The matters will be addressed again during the board’s July 11 meeting once the survey is complete.

The board of trustees also voted to extend the permit duration for new residents to 18 months. The permit duration had previously been established at 12 months.

Rosenbaum said the complexity and size of new houses in the village, as well as issues in obtaining materials, makes projects difficult to execute in 12 months. He said this permit extension will hopefully speed up building permit processes.

The board introduced a local law that would allow certain violations to accrue daily, rather than weekly, based on the recommendation of the village’s code enforcer.

Rosenbaum said there have been recent instances in the village where people have been taking advantage of weekly fines, so bolstering them to a daily violation will hopefully deter the continued behavior.

The law would not concern all violations, but certain ones like issues of individuals parking cars on lawns or accruing debris on front yards.

The law will be addressed during a public hearing at the board of trustees’ next meeting, which will convene at 7:30 p.m. on July 10.

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