The property at 62 Rockaway Ave. has the dubious distinction of being one of the biggest developmental quagmires in the village right now.
A developer’s proposal seems simple enough: tear down the ugly two-family home on the lot and replace it with six much more aesthetically pleasing townhouses.
But there’s a snag: To make the development possible, the property will have to be rezoned, something the village’s Board of Trustees has to do.
There’s a fear — a justifiable one — that if the board OKs the rezoning, it would open the gates to developers looking to make a quick buck. Although 62 Rockaway abuts a Residence B zone (for multi-family housing), it is in a Residence A zone (for single-family homes). Recategorizing it from Residence A to Residence B would create a precedent that other developers would cite when they come before the board to request a rezoning.
They would ask the village a very difficult question: If it rezoned 62 Rockaway, why can’t it rezone other parcels? And if the village were to deny their requests, attorneys and judges would ask the same question when the village was taken to court.
A precedent like that is dangerous. It could attract more developers to change single-family homes into multi-family housing. For that reason, many residents spoke against the plan at a Board of Trustees meeting earlier this month.
Unfortunately, the developer’s plan makes a lot of sense.
The one thing everyone agrees on is that the house now occupying 62 Rockaway is unsightly. People would like to see something else there, and that’s what the developer has in mind, too. Not only would it be replaced by something much nicer to look at, but the property itself would become more valuable. Once the townhouses are built and sold, the village would collect about six times as much taxes from the property as it currently does. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
So the village finds itself on the horns of a dilemma. What’s best for local residents? What’s best for the Rockville Centre economy? Even though there’s no easy answer, the Herald hopes that village officials will think of residents first and vote against rezoning 62 Rockaway Ave. Rezoning would be a drastic step to try to fix a small problem. Yes, the existing house is an eyesore, but that’s a small price to pay to preserve the village’s residential districts.
As Larry Levy, a knowledgeable resident, said at the meeting, “Zoning can make fortunes and break neighborhoods.” Rezoning 62 Rockaway would do both of those things. In this case, the benefits of leaving things as they are outweigh those that changing them would bring to one developer, and the money it would bring the village. It would cost just too much in the long run.