About 150 people attended “Main Street Visioning” public meeting hosted by North Hempstead's Supervisor Jon Kaiman and Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio at Schreiber High School Thursday evening. They were there to discuss the latest proposed zoning changes and streetscape enhancements for Port Washington’s Main Street.
Many audience members, expecting a presentation on the latest thinking about Main Street improvements, expressed surprise that there was no such presentation.
However, two of the distributed handouts at the meeting included proposed overlay district maps for Main Street. One map, “Section 1” represented the area from Port Washington Blvd to Herbert Ave, and a newly considered area, “Section 2,” highlighted Lower Main Street between Jackson and Covert Streets.
Some struggled with deciphering the most recent proposal. But De Giorgio said the proposal is in the “conceptual stage” and that “no decisions” have been made. She added that there would be public hearings before a plan could move forward, and that information would be posted on her portal on the town’s website.
Currently, the proposal has evolved from encompassing four blocks on Upper Main Street to now encompassing three. As for zoning, the building height would remain three stories, not four as originally proposed. The Business B designation, which includes office and retail, would remain, though building owners could apply via the Town Board for a special permit, allowing for mixed-use to accommodate one story for business and two for residential.
Applicants who can supply on-site parking for residential units and who meet the design standards, likely those based on the ones recommended by BJF Consulting that was presented to the Port Washington Public Library in November, would then be considered on a case by case basis. Underground and tiered parking is not under consideration, the panel said.
Some raised concerns about increased density and traffic, pointing out that residents living in newly built apartments would have cars, and their visitors would also have cars. But De Giorgio noted that the requirement to accommodate parking would be a high hurdle for owners who wanted to add apartments on their property.
Still, others worried that trees might get cut down and that people and businesses might be displaced, triggering a loss of ethnic diversity in town. Others worried about public school enrollment increasing, and about a consolidation of property owners knocking down buildings, replacing them with large monolithic structures.
“I think it’s better to do nothing,” Port Washington resident Jim Ansel said, adding that there would be a “huge change of character” to Main Street. He worried too about taxing the infrastructure, including sewage, water, and more.
Kaiman noted that the impact on aspects such as sewage lines would have to be addressed by the applicant.
Questions too were raised about whether anyone on the town board owned property in the overlay districts, and stood to gain from proposed changes. One community member even referred to a time when De Giorgio's family owned property with plans to build a hotel.
Kaiman noted that board members disclose conflicts, and that the town also has an ethics panel. And De Giorgio said that “neither myself, husband or immediately family” own property in the overlay districts and stressed the board’s commitment to transparency.
The panel and some residents maintained that the proposed changes would bring more foot traffic to Main Street, and provide housing for young professionals and boost local businesses.
Still, Laura Shabe who lives on North Maryland Ave said she has yet to find anyone living “1,000 feet of Main Street that is for this proposal,” though she added that it was “getting better.”
Michael Zenobio, a developer who serves on the Village of Sands Point’s Board of Zoning Appeals, said that in listening to the comments he felt “people are not fully informed.”
“This is Step 1 of a multistep plan that will bring Main Street to what the community wants,” he said.
At the meeting's conclusion, Fred Blumlein, former president of Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society, asked "What happens if you do not take the lead and don't use this information?"
"Main Street will deteriorate," De Giorgio replied, adding that it would be difficult to then attract quality businesses.
"This reverse fear should be communicated," he said.
Couldn't attend Thursday's meeting? A recording will be available for review on the town's website in about a week. De Giorgio asks that residents send suggestions or comments to email@example.com.