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Old Mill Controversy Drags On

At a meeting last week, after almost four hours of back and forth between Clover Drive residents, the attorney representing builder Frank Lalazarian’s controversial Old Mill II project and members of the Village of Great Neck’s Planning Board, there was very little progress, no vote taken and far more questions than answers.

The subdivision plan, a project under discussion for the last five years and recently approved by the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals, calls for 11 houses to be built in the area behind the Old Mill Apartments, with sole access from Clover Drive. Complicating the builder’s efforts to gain approval to start building is the fact that one of the lots is within the boundaries of Great Neck Estates and will require that village’s approval also.  Additionally, Lalazarian’s project must gain the approval of several Nassau County agencies, including its department of public works, department of health and planning commission.

With all the topics discussed—adequate fire protection, the loss of trees, the height of the retaining wall, possible court decisions, the width of the road connecting the development to Clover, whether a restrictive covenant barring the subdivision is enforceable, whether or not a planned cul-de-sac is actually legal or even fits the legal definition of the word—it is clear that much remains to be resolved. At times, conversations became so involved among the parties that the court reporter had trouble with accurately transcribing the proceedings.  

Answering those critical of the way the application has been handled by Old Mill II, Lalazarian’s attorney, Paul Bloom, said, “We have complied with all of the modifications that we have been asked to make. We provided everything that the Zoning Board asked us to do.”

As the contentious meeting approached the fourth hour amid confusion regarding the board’s powers and responsibilities and some documents that had only recently been submitted to it, the board voted to adjourn until Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m.  

“I will be asking our counsel to give us a list for next time of the things that we are allowed to consider and the things that we are not allowed to consider,” acting board chairperson Raymond Iryami said. Chairperson Charles Segal had recused himself from the meeting earlier in the evening.

Clover Drive resident Rachel Applebaum and Rebecca Rosenblatt Gilliar continued their strong opposition to Old Mill II at the sparsely attended meeting, even questioning the Planning Board’s legal right to hold the meeting to consider approving the plan. They argued that since they had filed papers in court against the project, the board could not go forward until the court had reached a decision. Iryami, after asking village counsel James Bradley for his opinion, dismissed that argument in the absence of any official court document or notification. “We have every right to go forward,” he said.  

Gilliar argued further that the names of some of the Old Mill II principals had changed from the original application and therefore made the process invalid.

“The courts have already ruled that the applicants are appropriate,” Lalazarian’s attorney responded. The village attorney agreed.

Much time was spent on what authority and responsibility the Planning Board had in light of the Zoning Board’s previous approval of the plan. There was also confusion as to whether the Planning Board was to vote on a preliminary approval of the plan or a final approval. “I’m concerned about rejecting the plan and it being viewed as arbitrary and capricious,” said Trustee Michael Fuller.  “It seems that the BZA (zoning board) has taken things out of our hands.”