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Crocus Lane Plans Continue To Stir Community

Town postpones public hearing to October 3

The use of the land at Crocus Avenue cross section over the past 100 years is as varied as the present day opinions about the proposed use by Josato, Inc. company (formerly Terra Homes, Inc.). On Wednesday, Oct. 3 Josato will petition the Town of Hempstead Board to rezone the historic Long Island Motor Parkway property, the location of the Vanderbilt Cup Race grandstand and press box during the races held from 1904 to 1910.

Josato is proposing to build a 50-unit condominium complex.

To give an idea of some of the history behind the land development proposals, on January 9, 2004 the Levittown Tribune ran the following letter to the editor, titled, “Josato, Inc. Again Seeking Variances” from Daphne Rus, who had served as the secretary of the Levittown Property Owners Association (LPOA):

“Once more the Josato, Inc. company (formerly Terra Homes, Inc.) is petitioning the Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals for variances necessary to build homes in two sections of the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway in Levittown. Once more, since 1984, the Levittown Property Owners Association (LPOA) is again defending the integrity of Levittown’s unique zoning ordinance, Article XV, the Levittown Planned Residence District (LPRD) that is part of the Building Zone Ordinance of the Town of Hempstead.

“Levittown is the only unincorporated village in the Town of Hempstead with its own zoning. It was created at the request of over 1,000 Levittown petitioners to replace the expired 25-year covenants of William Levitt in December 1975. Its purpose was to protect this historic planned community from indiscriminate over-development and assure its amenities.

“Terra Homes, Inc./Josato, Inc., has applied for variances for substandard lots (as specified in the LPRD) using substandard roads repeatedly. They have been repeatedly denied variances by the Nassau County Planning Commission, the Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals and the state’s highest courts.

“The width of the two parcels is 135 feet; the required lot depth for Levittown homes is 100 feet, the state mandated road width is 50 feet. The developer lacks 15 feet.

“The latest application is to create lots of 85 feet with a road width of 50 feet. In the past, variances were denied for 95 feet lots served by a 40 feet road.

“The LPOA position maintains that major granting of variances weakens the integrity of the LPRD and diminishes the health, safety and welfare of this community. The only changes made in the 29-year ordinance were requested by the LPOA to serve the needs of residents: these were to increase the permitted size of accessory buildings (sheds) from 70 square feet to 144 square feet and to permit fences.”

The above is only a portion of the letter published in the Tribune; the complete text of Rus’s editorial can be viewed at: http://www.antonnews.com/levittowntribune.html/.

LPOA President Jim Morrow spoke with the Tribune recently, and said that the residents have been fighting the high-density development for more than 30 years. Morrow said, “We opposed [Josato] because the road going in and out would never be able to hold a fire engine, if there was a need for an engine to get down [the length of the property]. The road would be right up against the fence of the adjacent properties; they’d be looking into the people’s backyard.”

Morrow said another one of his concerns is the aquifer and the strain on the water supply for the area. He said the aquifer is very fragile, especially because of the Grumman plume nearby. He said, “Unless we have water to replenish, everything is seeping down; the [nearby] well receives ‘garbage’ from Grumman, while another well has already dried up. At what point does the water end?”

Morrow said, “We cannot keep putting this demand on the aquifer.” He said if the high-density properties were built, the area’s water supply would suffer.

Morrow told the Tribune, that in general, LPOA and its members oppose the development because, “Levittown is an historic community and we are celebrating the veterans of WWII and all future wars; it will destroy Levittown.” He has served as LPOA president for 43 years.

The public hearings and community outreach meetings have occurred regularly according to Josato’s attorney William Cohn, Esq. On Wednesday, Sept. 5, representatives for the Town of Hempstead declined public comment about the pending decisions about the Crocus Lane property, citing, “The town board cannot comment on items that will come before them.”

Cohn has been involved, representing Josato for several years. He confirms that the owners of Terra Homes, also operate under the company name of Josato, Inc.. He told the Tribune that all permits and usage proposals have been vetted by all required agencies, including the building and planning departments, the engineering and highway departments, and conservation and waterways departments. Cohn said, “From an environmental standpoint, there are no issues.” He said, assuming the grant application is approved, they will proceed with the development of the property. He said if it is not approved they will submit a different application for the property with a different use at a later date.

“It’s not realistic for anyone to expect this property to be fallow forever. Someone should not have to pay real estate taxes on it and not be permitted to use it,” Cohn said, adding that Nassau County allegedly made inquiries to purchase the property from Josato, but the attempts were unsuccessful.

“The county certainly doesn’t have the money to acquire it; the town, while more comfortable financially, has maintained fiscal sanity and would be unlikely to acquire the property and take it off the tax rolls,” Cohn said. “That would be a terrible loss for the school district.”

Cohn explained that the high-density housing would be single-family dwellings, although attached.  He said, “There’s a long list of people who’ve been waiting for this type of housing; it’s time for Levittown to benefit, to keep the seniors here at home instead of shipping them off to Florida to retire.”

Cohn told the Tribune that a great deal of pains have been taken to ensure that the housing proposed is compatible with the surrounding area. He said, “There’s a further benefit to be derived from the development.” He said the property has been a haven for teens to gather and party, a negative impact for the nearby property owners and the enjoyment of their own homes. Cohn is confident that building a complex for seniors will bring a great improvement to the area.

The next Town of Hempstead public board meeting will be held on Wednesday Oct. 3 at 10:30 a.m. at the Nathan L.H. Bennett Pavilion in Town Hall Plaza at One Washington Street in Hempstead. The agenda will be posted on the Friday prior to the meeting at http://townofhempstead.org.

On the agenda is the hearing about the property on Crocus Lane in Levittown; the original hearing on Sept. 4 was postponed. The Levittown Tribune welcomes letters to the editor about the issues affecting this property and the adjacent properties.