Woodmere Club survey says?

Residents asked to weigh in on two town options

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With the Town of Hempstead continuing to weigh its options concerning the Woodmere Club, Councilmen Anthony D’Esposito and Bruce Blakeman announced on May 17 that an official survey had been mailed to households within a half-mile of the club, whose address is 99 Meadow Drive.

Residents were asked to express their preference for one of two alternatives. The first is the creation of a park district, which could increase their average annual property taxes from $2,000 to $4,000 for at least the next 20 years. The town would have to buy the club land to create a park.

The second option, which takes into account the proposal by developers Efrem Gerszberg and Robert Weiss to build 285 homes on 114.25 acres of the club’s land, would restrict town rezoning of the 118-acre property to reduce the number of lots from 285 to roughly 60.

The deadline to return the survey is June 14.

Rich Regina, the attorney for the Town Board and a former attorney for the town’s Zoning Board, said the survey would help the town decide what to do next. “We felt it would be a great way to get feedback from our residents,” he said. “Once we get the survey feedback, we will take the next steps.” Regina did not say whether the town would consider using eminent domain to purchase the land in the future. Neither Blakeman nor D’Esposito responded to requests for comment by press time. Eminent domain is the right of a government to take private property for public use and compensate the owner.

Five Towns Civic Association board and founding member Mario Alex Joseph said that community members were assured last May by Town Board members that the town “would not drop the ball again” on developing of the Woodmere Club. Since then, he added, no additional information has been presented to the residents. With the help of two outside firms, the town is conducting studies on the viability of a park district.

“And now,” Joseph said, “we have received an unsigned, purportedly official survey from the town that is replete with unsubstantiated claims that overwhelmingly focus on the promise of higher taxes. The developer couldn’t have marketed a more discouraging leaflet.” Joseph also said he believed no decisions should be made until studies being conducted by the town, state and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers focusing on the potential environmental impact of developing the club and flood mitigation are considered.

Gerszberg and Weiss purchased the 111-year-old Woodmere Club for roughly $9 million in 2017, agreeing to assume the nearly $15 million in debt that it had amassed. It is scheduled to close in 2021, and then development is expected to begin.

“We believe that certain statements promoted in the [survey] will bolster our lawsuit against the town,” Weiss said. “Their misinformation is startling, as it is either incompetence or outright lies.”

Gerszberg and Weiss brought a lawsuit against the town last year opposing the building moratorium it had imposed on private golf courses. The developers won the case, and the town is now appealing the decision. The developers and the Village of Woodsburgh agreed to drop a legal action on Feb. 25, because Gerszberg and Weiss were suing over the village’s six-month ban on subdividing property. “The town and village have already wasted over $500,000 in legal fees, consultants and flawed reports,” Gerszberg said, “with nothing to show for the money spent.”

Weiss said he believed the survey would be ineffective. “The survey was lacking the third option, which would promote the construction of much-needed new housing to be built on the Woodmere Club,” he said. “We have received over 100 serious inquiries from people in the community wanting to purchase homes for either themselves or their children.”

The club land straddles the villages of Lawrence and Woodsburgh and the hamlet of Woodmere, and extends to within 300 feet of the Village of Cedarhurst. The preliminary proposal for the development, called Willow View Estates, calls for 248 homes in Woodmere, 24 in Woodsburgh and 13 in Lawrence. Approval of the plan is required from each municipality. Five additional sites would be set aside for storm water basins. The Nassau County Department of Public Works Planning Commission is the lead agency in the State Environmental Quality Review Act study on the proposed development.

“The town continues to promote the idea of rezoning the Woodmere Club when they are aware that this action is illegal,” Gerszberg said. “We have already won the two lawsuits and will continue to litigate our property rights.”

A community meeting could be held in the near future. Town spokeswoman Susie Trenkle-Pokalsky said that the board wanted to review all the feedback from the survey before it decided on the next step.

Have an opinion about the town’s survey and development of the Woodmere Club? Send your letter to jbessen@liherald.com.