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Lalezarian’s Old Mill Project Restarts

Its Journey Board of Zoning Appeals sets framework for review

Members of the public will have another month to read the Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) before the Village of Great Neck Board of Zoning Appeals rules on whether or not it is complete. Board members were prepared to vote on the matter last Thursday, but it was determined during the meeting that a legal notice of the meeting should have been printed in this paper. The study and the opinions from the villages’ experts, H2M, an engineering firm; VHB, an environmental firm and Frederick P. Clarke, a planning firm are available at the Main library.

Questions were raised about the developer’s ownership of the entire parcel, the validity of the sound study and the reliability of the erosion and runoff methods to be used and its potential impact on Udalls Pond currently being dredged and environmentally restored.

The developer seeks to build a total of 12 single-family dwellings on a landlocked parcel that had been considered “undevelopable” because of its inaccessible location. Frank Lalezarian bought a house on Clover Drive in the Village of Great Neck Estates and plans to use that parcel to construct a road to serve 11 houses in the Old Village. The Village of Great Neck Estates has not ruled yet as to whether they would allow access; in the meantime, the Village of Great Neck’s zoning board is hearing the matter.

Adding to the complications of the project, Mr. Lalezarian’s ownership of the entire 3.104 acres is also in dispute. Attorney Lawrence Farkas was present to again address the board about the disputes on two pieces of land in the project. A five-foot strip of land on lot 95 (which would be needed for a road into the development) has an unresolved title dispute. There is also a pending lawsuit in the Supreme Court in Nassau County, which Mr. Farkas said was “in the discovery stage” concerning lot 115. It is his contention that his clients had the right of first refusal on that lot which was never honored.

Some members of the public suggested that the board should wait until all the legal disputes were settled before the zoning board proceeded on the subdivision.  

Counsel for the board, Steven Limmer, stated that if the board approves the plan, which is specific regarding placement and dimensions of roads, curbs, setbacks, etc. and the applicant loses fights in court limiting his acreage, the applicant would have to come back before the board for any modifications to the approved plans. Resident Rachael Applebaum countered that an official approval by the zoning board could be used by the applicant in a court case to legitimize his claims.

Another major criticism of the draft study related to noise issues. Board certified sound engineer and also on the faculty of Columbia University, Jerome Goodman, testified that he was “amazed at the deficiencies of the report” because sound levels were tested for only one hour. He said that the standard in the field was to take sound levels for at least a 24-hour period. Mr. Goodman stated that the most important frequencies to study were low frequencies which cause problems in humans such as raising blood pressure and stress hormones.  The analysis in the DEIS did not analyze the impact of low frequencies according to Mr. Goodman. Board Chairman Dennis Grossman said that village experts were looking at the sound issues and were using up-to-date methodologies.

Elizabeth Allen brought up the fact that Nassau County is currently dredging both the west and east ponds which comprise Udalls Pond and that if “there is a construction project of this magnitude” runoff and silt will make its way into the east pond which has not been dredged yet. She said that the applicant should be required to look at the impact of his project on the newly restored pond and be required to bear the cost if further dredging were required.

Steve Limmer said that the applicant is required by village code to contain all runoff and prevent erosion of soil into the watershed.

At the March 1 meeting of the zoning board, members will rule on whether the DEIS is complete and ready for the full and detailed review of the board. All the issues raised must be fully vetted before there is a Final Environmental Impact Study on the proposal.

Longtime readers will remember that this is Mr. Lalezarian’s second attempt to put forth a plan to develop the property. In 2006, he proposed to build two apartment buildings with 120 rental units on the site. At that time, he planned to construct an access road through the Versailles Apartment’s parking lot which he also owns and build a bridge over the county’s drainage culvert and get the restrictive covenant forbidding such access,  which was part of the Versailles zoning decision, overturned.

That controversial proposal to insert multifamily residences into the heart of a single-family zone was later abandoned and withdrawn after months of review by the zoning board.

Now, the applicant states that there are no feasible alternatives to building a road through Great Neck Estates.