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Council Continues Vested Rights Debate

Spinello, Gallo remain at odds with administration's support for zoning amendment.

The Glen Cove City Council held its second public hearing concerning a proposed Waterfront Project zoning amendment Tuesday, with two members and several residents expressing continued concern over the resolution.

"I still think we can not vote on vested rights until we know what the numbers are," said Councilman Reginald Spinello, who expressed doubt about the City's interest in granting the redeveloper that protection. The financial benefits and risks need to be made clear before he can support the measure, he said.

Vested rights would protect the builder from zoning changes being made to the 52-acre site for 12 years as long as the project progresses reasonably, according to the City. The Glen Cove Community Development Agency would retain the authority to rescind the protection if the redeveloper defaulted on its side of the bargain.

It's an agreement the City maintains is in good faith, one that "adds a level of certainty" that the project will move forward as planned, said Mayor Ralph Suozzi. 

Resident Dave Nieri said he was concerned about the number of years proposed.

"By giving them 12 years, it essentially ties our hands to do anything else. You take away any incentive for the developer to get moving," Nieri said. 

Suozzi responded that the 12-year period would not be a "pass to hang around," but a timeline for the project to progress. He and Zarin emphasized the impact of the economic downturn on large-scale, multi-phase projects. Waterfront housing units aren't sold as quickly as they were 15 or 20 years ago, Zarin said, which means build-outs are stretched over longer periods of time.

Suozzi said granting vested rights also sends a message to builders, financial institutions and higher levels of government agencies that the City of Glen Cove can be trusted to do business in good faith.

Resident Kristina Heuser called that perspective into question, saying that granting such protection would be an abdication of the Council's responsibility to the voters it represents. She suggested this year's election will be a referendum on the Waterfront Project.

Suozzi disagreed, saying both taxpayers and the redeveloper stand to benefit from the project's completion. He rejected the notion that voters by-and-large oppose the plans, and said his administration has seen the project through four successful elections since he took office in 2006. 

Councilman Anthony Gallo attested to residents' concern about the housing complex's density. Councilman Michael Famiglietti questioned how density is related to the vested rights issue.

"I'm not voting on density. I'm voting on vested rights," Famiglietti said. 

The public hearing will remain open at the Council's next meeting, set for March 12.

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Kristina S. Heuser February 27, 2013 at 02:03 PM
The vested rights IS related to the density issue and the overall substance of the project because giving the developer vested zoning rights prevents the City from changing the development in any meaningful way. Thus, for those who are unhappy with the present scope of the Waterfront development project and are hoping that some changes will be made, it naturally follows that they (we) would be vehemently opposed to vested rights. Vested rights for the developer = no freedom or flexibility for City officials to change the scope of the project. Good for the developer, bad for residents.
Carl Todd February 27, 2013 at 03:12 PM
The waterfront development at issue is not normal. It is a super fund site that had to be cleaned before any building could take place. The magnitude of the site with it's multiple problems does not effect clean ready to build property. To bind a City for 12+ years in this rapidly changing economy is stupid. A 5 year term is sufficient even in current recessed economic conditions. Contaminated site redevelopment plans should not be approved until the site is declared clean by and all of the allowed uses and monitoring requirements are known so that the onsite monitoring devices and facilities locations are specified and known. The proposed development plans will have to show them and would give the planning board and city an input if they then consider the developer's plan acceptable and if they disagree recommend acceptable changes.

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