Seven houses or straight to a hotel

There is no monopoly of ideas on what to do with former sewage plant site

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Hardly the Oklahoma land rush of 1889, the nearly four acres of land where sewage treatment plant was on Rock Hall Road in the Village of Lawrence is generating its own “Sooner Fever” as the debate on how the site should be used after its remediated and becomes village property again on July 1.

Immediately by the Nassau Expressway, the plot is 4.35 acres and Nassau County will retain a half acre as a pipe now pushes effluent to the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. Lawrence will have 3.83 acres.

At the April 12 village meeting, the board voted to put out a 45-day request for expressions of interest. The RFEI has yet to be drafted, approved and published.

Trustee Uri Kaufman who pushed for the RFEI said the village has nothing to lose. “You never know what to expect, but you are asking for them to bring me your ideas, your support and it costs us nothing,” he said. “You can get once chance to do it right and I want to look at every option.”

One option Kaufman noted is a hotel. He believes that the 3 percent room tax could generate at least $1 million that could reduce village taxes by 40 percent. “This is a community that has lot of weekend family events, bar/bas mitzvahs and relatives in wheelchairs (citing that Orthodox Jews don’t drive on Shabbos), there is a compelling economic case,” he said.

That being said, Kaufman, who said he lives five minutes from the site and understands the issues surrounding a hotel, saying that the entrance and exit could be designed to be on the expressway side. An environmental impact study would be conducted to accurately gauge the effect of the ideas generated by the RFEI. Traffic volume, impact on water resources, how many children could attend the area schools and if the structure or structures are out of character with the neighborhood are studied.

Anything but a sewage treatment plant or one-family house would require a change of zone. Mayor Alex Edelman sought to get a resolution approved for seven single-family homes at last month’s meeting. It failed. “I see the situation as the best for single-family homes,” he said, adding that instead of homes a swimming pool could be built to augment income for the village owned and operated Lawrence Yacht & Country Club. “Apartments cause a commotion. There is a desperate need for housing and individual homes serve the best possible use. A hotel would be a disaster. Most people don’t want to hear about a hotel.”

Several residents, especially those that live immediately across the street from the property, have shown a preference for either single-family homes or a park, or a combination of both.

David Vitt, an assistant professor of economics at Farmingdale State College, said the village should consider all the residents and the potential impact on the land and the surrounding area, citing the consequences of the decision for the succeeding generations.

“They should definitely try to rank the preferences and through a referendum and pose multiple questions,” Vitt said, noting private us or public use, primary office, homes, dense apartments, condominiums or single-family houses. “Housing is scarce, parks are great but they increase property values and keep the younger generation out,” he added.

The village board meets on May 17 at 8 p.m., Village Hall, 196 Central Ave., Lawrence.

Have an opinion on what Lawrence should do with the land ? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.