Five Towners have their say on proposed Woodmere Club development

Public comments being taken by Nassau County until July 15

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There were 35 speakers, including a half dozen elected officials, two civic association leaders and one village administrator who spoke at the Nassau County Department of Public Works Planning Commission “scoping” session on June 26.

The scoping session was for the planning commission to hear public comment on the proposed development of the Woodmere Club that currently includes 285 single-family homes to be built on 114.25 acres of the 111-year-old club’s 118 acres. The planned development is called Willow View Estates. All but 37 of the homes would be built in Woodmere; 24 would be in Woodsburgh and 13 in Lawrence. The property also extends to within 300 feet of Cedarhurst village. Approval is required from each municipality.

The other entities involved include National Grid, New York American Water, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of State, PSEG-Long Island, the Town of Hempstead Highway Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

After all the public comment is collected, the planning commission will then draft the

environmental impact statement in the coming months as part of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which requires government to consider environmental impacts of such projects as well as social and economic factors.

Backed by several community Facebook posts, four emails and one full-page ad in the Nassau Herald the Five Towns Civic Association and the Lawrence Association implored residents to attend the Wednesday hearing in the county’s legislative chamber in Mineola.

If it was the “economy, stupid,” during the 1992 presidential campaign, the focus for nearly every speaker is the existing volume of traffic that chokes the arterial Five Towns roads such as Broadway, the roadway closest to the Woodmere Club, West Broadway and Central Avenue, and the impact of that traffic on the Nassau Expressway, Peninsula Boulevard and Rockaway Turnpike.

“It’s not just Broadway, it’s not just Central, it’s not just Peninsula Boulevard, it’s the little streets that feed them,” said Mario Alex Joseph, co-president of the Five Towns Civic Association. “Each one of those streets represents, a mini community, if you will, with homes and the families on them.” Joseph noted that the traffic is not just an “inconvenience, it’s a danger,” especially when needing to take sick children to a hospital.

The potential loss of open space, which in turn would most likely increase flooding after a heavy rain or a major storm such as a hurricane, and the impact on the environment, including animal and plant life in the area were also concerns addressed by the speakers.

Lawrence resident Dr. Allan Simon addressed his concern about the flora and fauna, with humor. “I am a veterinarian, therefore I can talk to the animals,” Simon said. “I saw a tortoise crossing the road and I picked up to make sure he was safe, and he told me his friends want to be safe too.

Arthur Karp, of Woodmere, was the sole project supporter. “I would like to see development,” he said, adding that the increases traffic, especially school buses is only an assumption. He supported the concept eminent domain and having the town buy some of the land for a park and said tolls on West Broadway would help pay for infrastructure upgrades.

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen noted the “panic-inducing” Woodmere golf course study mailed to several thousand residents in the surrounding area of the club. “I urge the panning commission to hold off on making any final decisions on the scope of the DEIS (draft environmental impact statement), and any further actions towards evaluating the subdivision until the town has been able to take the necessary steps,” she said, referring to the town studies — a proposing rezoning of the land and a special park district — and the Army Corps of Engineers Back Bay study.

At a June 12 meeting in Freeport, Scott Sanderson, section chief of coastal planning for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District, said the Army Corps needs more time — three years — to develop plans before installing any flood-mitigation measures, and an additional $3 million. So the completion date is now 2022, not 2020.

The study is examining 30 miles of Long Island’s southern shoreline, from east to west, primarily in Nassau County but also in parts of Queens and Suffolk County. Specifically, the study is examining Atlantic Ocean tides and their effect on the bays.

The deadline for written comments is July 15. They should be sent to John Perrakis, Planner II, Nassau County Department of Public Works – Planning Division, 1194 Prospect Ave., Westbury, NY 11590 or willowseqr@nassaucountyny.gov.

Have an opinion about the proposed Woodmere Club development? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.