Lawrence village continues debate on sewage treatment plant land

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Mark Twain once said, “buy land, they're not making it anymore,” and those words ignited a debate that enveloped the Village of Lawrence board meeting on April 12, when Mayor Alex Edelman, under the Good & Welfare portion, introduced a resolution that was not on the agenda to ensure that only seven homes could be built on the remediated land that was the sewage treatment plant.

The 4.35-acre site on Rock Hall Road has captured the attention of the trustees and residents. Not many times does land in this densely populated area become available. The village will get 3.83 acres and Nassau County will retain a half acre as the refuse is now being pumped by pipe to the sewage treatment plant in Bay Park. The land is being remediated. It’s expected that the village will take possession of the site on July 1.

Edelman’s motion was defeated 3-2, but not before a debate ensued that included Trustee Uri Kaufman introducing the idea of a request for expressions of interest. A 45-day RFEI was approved. “The village has seen a study and there is no need to do study and waster more time and money,” Edelman said.

A discussion evolved between Kaufman and resident Ralph Manela, who peppered Kaufman with questions: What is the time span? Who’s giving the ideas? Who’s going to pay for it? How do you know if it’s going to work or not?

Kaufman answered: “Because they’re going to have to back it. We’re only ground lease it. There are companies that this all they do. They do environmental impact studies, they do traffic analysis. The people who submit we will expect them to come with data, stormwater protection plans, sewage, what’s it going to do to the schools. They give you this. This is what developers do.”

A ground lease is an agreement in which a tenant is permitted to develop a piece of property during the lease period, after which the land and all improvements are turned over to the property owner.

Manela asked, “Which developer is going to get involved with four and half acres in the middle of no where? You have a shortage of homes in this neighborhood, prices are out this world. There are no house. Young people are getting married. Their [parents] trying to find homes. If you build seven homes, you’re paying for the land, you’ll be getting real estate taxes.”

Deputy Mayor Michael Fragin said he is open to all ideas. A few residents advocated for a park. Fragin noted that Edelman’s motion to build home on the sewage treatment plant land “was not part of our meeting agenda and no information was provided to the board of trustees prior to the vote.”

“The village board has not had the opportunity to do an appropriate study on the property,” he said in a statement emailed to the Herald. “The RFEI process will allow the village to receive and evaluate ideas from outside parties, including residential development, which may be optimal, without requiring the village to accept any proposal or to expend any funds.”

Have an opinion about the village should do with the land? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.