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Woodmere Club developers’ plan opposed

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Though they appeared individually, in a virtual waiting room, 36 Five Towns residents who voiced their concerns about the potential development of Willow View Estates at the Woodmere Club were united in their opposition to the plan.

The Nassau County Planning Commission held a hearing on the proposal on Zoom on Nov. 17, in accordance with New York State Environmental Quality Review Act requirements for potential land development. Commission Chairman Marty Glennon noted that there would not be any decisions by or feedback from the nine-member panel at the hearing, but it initiated a public-comment period that will continue until Jan. 8.

The Woodmere Club’s owners, developers Efrem Gerszberg and Robert Weiss, are proposing the construction of 284 single-family homes — called Willow View Estates — on 114.5 acres of club property. The plan calls for 247 homes within Woodmere’s boundaries, 24 in the Village of Woodsburgh and 13 in the Village of Lawrence.

Residents focused their criticism on increased traffic volume in an already congested area, the conversion of uncrowded land to housing, and flood mitigation.

Blanche Lerer, of Lawrence, was adamant in her opposition to the development. “The Willow View Estate developers should know that they are not welcomed in the Five Towns,” she said. “We already have enough noise from airplanes and emergency-service vehicles. Traffic is already horrendous in each town.”

Murray Forman, president of the Lawrence School District Board of Education, spoke of the burden the development would add in the district. “The Lawrence School District buses 7,500 students to over 200 locations every day,” Forman said. “Broadway is a major pinch point of this development, and this would severely prejudice the district’s ability to discharge the already difficult task of busing such a large volume of students.”

Cedarhurst resident Rena Saffra is a member of the Five Towns Civic Association, a grass-roots organization that grew out of several residents’ opposition to the development of the Woodmere Club. She said at the hearing that building 284 houses on the land is an “obscene” idea.

“Every time I look at the subdivision map submitted by the developers, I just can’t believe the audacity they have,” Saffra said. “They are planning to build on every square inch of the property, with no regard for the community needs or character. Think about this: The Village of Woodsburgh is comprised of 221 homes, Hewlett Neck with 160 and Hewlett Bay Park with 147.”

The developers filed a federal lawsuit in September against the Town of Hempstead and the villages of Lawrence and Woodsburgh after those municipalities created a Coastal Conservation District with the aim of constraining development. The suit is still before the court, but according to Gerszberg, the result should be the invalidation of the district.

“We will develop our property after the conclusion of the lawsuit,” Gerszberg wrote in an email. “We are prepared to litigate our constitutional rights all the way to [State] Supreme Court and have allocated the legal funds to do so. We are even more confident now, after seeing the legal defenses by Woodsburgh, Hempstead, and Lawrence, that the court will reinstate the zone allowing us to build 284 homes.”

The Coastal Conservation District would divide the 118-acre Woodmere Club property into three subdistricts. An 83.3-acre parcel, or 70 percent of the site, would be designated an open space and recreation subdistrict. There would also be a single-family residential subdistrict comprising 29.4 acres, or 24 percent of the property, and a 5.7-acre clubhouse/hospitality subdistrict, accounting for 5 percent of the land.

Sean Sallie, deputy commissioner of the planning commission, detailed the next steps in the process. “The developers will address the comments in their submission of the final environmental impact statement once the comment period ends,” he said. “After that, the planning commission will be responsible for reviewing it, accepting it and issuing SEQRA finding statements.”

The public comment period is open until 5 p.m. on Jan. 8.  Gerszberg and Weiss have submitted a draft environmental impact statement. To view it, go to https://bit.ly/3nTRTEI.

To submit a comment on the statement or on the development in general, send it to willowseqr@nassaucountyny.gov or Nassau County Planning Commission, 1194 Prospect Ave., Westbury, N.Y. 11561, Attn: John Perrakis.

Have an opinion on the proposed Woodmere Club development? Send letters to jbessen@liherald.com.