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Letter: Proposal To Build Apartments In Levittown—Town Hearing to Partially Nullify Levittown Zoning Code

I am writing on behalf of my parents, Daphne and Vladimir Rus, in connection with a matter involving the Levittown Property Owners’ Association (LPOA). The matter is urgent, because there will be a hearing before the Board of the Town of Hempstead on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 10:30 a.m. at One Washington Street.   

The situation is as follows:  

A developer, Josato, Inc., proposes to develop a strip of land along Crocus Lane in Levittown. Josato is the successor in interest to Terra Homes, which had previously attempted (unsuccessfully) to obtain variances to develop the same property.

The property is within the “Levittown Planned Residence District” (LPRD), as codified at Article XV, Sections 171-194 of the Town of Hempstead Building Zone Ordinance. The LPRD generally seeks to preserve the character of Levittown as a community of detached single-family homes.

Josato proposes to construct an apartment building (in Town of Hempstead zoning parlance, a “multiple family dwelling”) on the property. Rather than seek variances from the Planning Commission, Josato has gone directly to the Town Board. Josato’s intention is to have the board partially nullify the LPRD (one might say by legislative fiat) and replace it for this and possibly other properties with the zoning applicable under Town BZA Article X, “CA Residence Districts,” – i.e., multiple family dwellings. This proceeding appears to be moving forward without the benefit of studies showing the impact on traffic, health and safety, or the expenses related to provision of fire, emergency, sanitation, school and other services.

The town board has characterized the building as a 46-unit condominium for residents 55 and older. However, the stipulation that residents must be 55 or older is not required by the BZO, nor is that requirement mentioned in the most recent letter from the developers’ attorney. Moreover, there does not appear to be any requirement that units must be owner-occupied. In short, the idea that this apartment will serve those 55 and older is at best a pipe dream, and more probably a smokescreen.

My belief is that the town board is misguided – or worse – and is preparing to dismantle the zoning law that has kept Levittown a suburban haven for many years. This is being done outside the usual variance process because gutting a zoning law (the LPRD) in this way would never pass muster with the usual planning process, and could not be viewed in any judicial appeal process as anything but an arbitrary and capricious exercise of power.

It is also my belief that the surest means of forcing the town to act with appropriate restraint is to publicize this hearing, and the circumstances. There will be residents in attendance on Oct. 3, but it is certainly possible that the arguments they present will not be as smooth as the developers’ and their attorneys’.

Since Levittown has achieved some national fame in the past as the symbol of the “American Dream” for returning WWII vets, this potentially gross evisceration of local homeowners’ rights is especially newsworthy. It should also be noted that this property is of historic interest as the former site of the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway.

Tom Rus