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Lawrence sewage plant land to be auctioned March 3

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Nearly four acres of land that was once the site of a sewage treatment plant, and has been the subject of debate in the Village of Lawrence for the past five years, will be publicly auctioned off on March 3 at the Lawrence Yacht & Country Club.

The village plans to sell 3.83 acres of the 4.35-acre site at 1 Rock Hall Road. Nassau County will retain the remaining half-acre, and operate an unmanned effluent pump station there.

In 2009, the villages of Cedarhurst and Lawrence and Nassau County agreed to a plan to send the villages’ sewage to a pumping station in Inwood, and on to the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in East Rockaway.

The county ceded the Rock Hall Road land to Lawrence in July 2017 after the sewage plant was decommissioned and demolished. A plant in Cedarhurst was also closed and dismantled.

Suggested uses for the land included selling it to a developer for the construction of at least seven single-family homes — an idea favored by Lawrence Mayor Alex Edelman — or building condominiums, a hotel or a nursing home.

But the village board has not come to a consensus on any proposal, and in the past few years has spent roughly $50,000 on studies, including one that explored the feasibility of building a multipurpose community center on the property.

In February 2016, the Herald reported that some area residents said they did not want a high-density apartment building similar to the Regency, on Central Avenue also in Lawrence, or anything that generated an increase in traffic and noise.

They said they would, however, support the construction of single-family homes as long as land was set aside for a children’s park. They submitted a petition with more than 40 signatures to the village in December 2017.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing — you should take into consideration the residents who live there,” Rock Hall Road resident Tsvi Greenfield, who representing the petitioners, previously said. Asked by the village board in 2018 what he would like to see at the site, Greenfield said, “More neighbors, not to commercialize the area. A park is OK.”

Now it appears that Edelman’s idea could become a reality, with at least a half-dozen potential bidders saying they would pay $8 million to $9 million or higher for the land to build as many as 13 single-family homes. “We have six bidders so far,” the mayor said. “I think I know four of them, and they are substantial and serious.”

The village is expected to use a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the property to build a roughly 23,000-square-foot aquatic center, with a pool, saunas, golf simulators, a café and space for other uses, at the village-owned Lawrence Yacht & Country Club. The club’s driving range will also be renovated.

The process moved forward at the village board meeting on Feb. 18, when trustees approved contracts with three companies to prepare the aquatic center’s infrastructure. “The plans have been modified two or three times as handicapped accessibility was added,” Edelman said. “We’re in the final stage of design.” He added that the center would enhance the country club and be a “major benefit” to the village and its residents, and that anticipated having a “shovel in the ground,” by July 1.

The winner of what Village Attorney Peter Bee described at the meeting as an “advisory auction” would simply be “the entity the mayor is likely to identify as his recommended developer,” Bee explained. “This does not bond the village. It simply is a procedural step on the part of the village to bring this project a step closer to board approval.”

Do you have an opinion on the Rock Hall Road land sale? Send a letter to jbessen@liherald.com.