Roslyn Harbor hosted a presentation about its first land use study since the 1980s at its board meeting Tuesday to an audience largely populated by members of RXR Realty, which owns Engineers Country Club, a property that sits on about 20 percent of the village’s land.
The study concluded that the village would be ill advised to change zoning code density regulations. It recommended that the village instead fortify environmental regulations and consider allowing clustered development with the condition that the developer preserves existing open space.
The study, conducted by Frederick P. Clark Associates, repeatedly mentions the potential for development on the Engineers Country Club property.
RXR Realty purchased the country club in 2017. Ever since then, it has intended to develop the land, Joseph Graziose, executive vice president of residential development and construction, said at the meeting.
A moratorium on subdivision applications was put in place in September 2017, the same month that RXR purchased the club. It lasted the length of the study to allow the village the chance to fully review its zoning code before accepting any new applications, Mayor Louis Badolato said.
Up until this one, the most recent study performed in the village was in the 1980s, he said in 2017 when the moratorium was passed.
Should the zoning code need improvements, the village didn’t want to have to make those changes in the midst of an application, which could open it up to legal ramifications, the mayor said in an interview Tuesday.
“Luckily for us our zoning was done appropriately back in ’99 the last time we did it, so now we have a reputable expert saying that this is the situation and it should stay this way,” he said. “Now we don’t have to make any changes, which doesn’t open us up to any potential problem.”
Frederick P. Clark Associates recommended to the village that “clustering,” as designated an option for villages by state law, could be a way of allowing for more residences while preserving open space.
Cluster development would allow for a certain number of units while establishing conditions on the use of open lands “to assure the preservation of the natural and scenic qualities,” the law says.
“This process may be especially applicable to any potential future development of the Engineers Club property where the amount of development permitted under existing zoning could be clustered in combination with the preservation of the golf course,” the study’s conclusion said.
Graziose expressed support for such a measure as well as the land use study. He posed the question of whether 80 condominiums in a clustered development could fit in a 10-acre portion of the property.
“I think so,” Graziose said. “We’re going to continue to work diligently with the village and with your law offices and your planners to find a way to do that.”
Graziose said RXR purchased the country club when it was on the verge of bankruptcy and has likely invested more than $5 million, much of which was on maintenance, he said.
From the start RXR planned to eventually develop on the property, but it has become clear that initial ideas for a complex as expansive as one such as North Hills’ Ritz-Carlton Residences would not work for the village, he said.
RXR hopes to work with the village as it moves forward toward potential development, Graziose said.
“We have a thriving business in your community,” he said. “We want to continue to be part of your community. What’s important to us is economics, mayor.”
Two residents spoke about the potential development, one for and one against, and Badolato reminded the attendees that the purpose of the public hearing was simply to discuss the land use study as the board prepares to accept it in September.
“We understand you have a right to develop your property within the boundaries of the zoning code and the recommended clusters is an idea that would keep a lot of open space,” he said to Graziose. “We have a very good idea that that might be the way to go, but we’re waiting to see your concept and ideas and what can be done and it’s only then that we can make any kind of an educated decision.”
Environmental recommendations in the land use study include added steep slope, wetland and flood plain protection. The study also recommends the potential creation of an architectural review board.
Village roads are congested, particularly Bryant Avenue, Glenwood Road and Motts Cove Road North, said Michael Galante, managing principal at Frederick P. Clark Associates.
Bryant Avenue traffic peaks at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., according to a traffic study from a Thursday in December.