The unanimous decision came after a public hearing at which some residents raised questions, but most sounded in favor of naming the local partnership as the top candidate to develop the waterfront of Reynolds Channel between Long Beach Boulevard and the Long Island Rail Road station. The project calls for a large marina, up to five mixed-use towers, an outdoor amphitheater and a promenade linking the development to Park Avenue.
Bayfront Development Group will spend the next six months determining whether the project is feasible, collecting information on costs and infrastructure while also considering the community's feedback. "We will give them six months to do their due diligence, as it is a very complex project," Eaton said. "They will be on a fact-finding mission."
Damian Sciano, chairman of the city's Planning Advisory Board, said it was the consensus of the board to try to improve the bayfront area, and to address the environmental implications of not revitalizing the site. "We'd like to see the gateway of the city show a better face," Sciano said. "It's an area where change would be beneficial ... and Lancer/ Cameron has taken the community's input into account."
Sciano also said that he would like the development group to communicate with the board on a regular basis, to discuss their findings and address any concerns.
A handful of residents spoke about the project, including some who live in North Park, in the east end of the development area. The Rev. Delores Miller, president of the local chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a national housing and health-care advocacy group, addressed the issue of affordable housing units in the development. The plan calls for 150 of a total of 500 housing units to be "work force" or "next generation" housing.
An article in a local daily newspaper quoted a resident as saying that the affordable housing apartments would be targeted at one-bedroom tenants, a claim that City Council President Lenny Remo denied. "We intend to have both single- and two-bedroom units," he said.
Local animal warden James Hodge also touched on the issue of affordable housing, which he said needed to be addressed in all areas of Long Beach, not just North Park. "The City Council should fight to get an inclusion zoning law in Long Beach, so that we can have more affordable housing for the whole city," Hodge said. "We need to have it mandatory, and not voluntary." He said he wants the city to adopt a law requiring a given percentage of affordable housing units for every development project in the city.
Other issues addressed at the meeting included the property tax burden of the project, which Eaton said would have no city funding, and why Bayfront Development Group was the only developer granted the exploration period. Eaton said that after reviewing three proposals in the past three years, the council concluded that the Lancer/Cameron partnership appeared to be the most plausible. "If something can be done, we think that these are the people who can do the job," Eaton said.
While Eaton and council members expressed their confidence in their choice of the development group, they were quick to note that the city had not finalized any financial terms for the project or signed any contract, nor was it guaranteeing that the project would happen. "We may find out that it's economically unfeasible, and won't happen," Eaton said. "We will know in six months."
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