About a dozen people attended a public hearing Tuesday night on an amendment to the City Zoning Ordinance that would guarantee the Waterfront Project's redeveloper that no zoning changes would occur as the job moves forward.
The two-hour hearing heard from a few different perspectives on the amendment, which would give "statutory vested rights given the practical timing, cost, phasing and other considerations involved in implementing an approved PUD Master Development Plan," as described in the meeting agenda.
The debate began when Councilman Reginald Spinello said he had reservations about an amendment that would give a guarantee to a redeveloper without a shovel in the ground yet.
"It seems to me that it's protecting the redeveloper more than us and I'd just like you to explain this," he said to City attorney Michael Zarin.
Zarin said the City's partnership with the redeveloper has allowed the Waterfront Project to survive difficult economic times while most other large projects in the region have not. He said the amendment "allows the City to attract redevelopers in this economic climate."
The debate seemed to fall into two general categories. First, that the City can't afford not to do this, and that this is a step forward for the long-awaited project.
Resident Glenn Howard said the City would be taking a risk in not giving the redeveloper such an assurance.
"These people talk. They're not quiet about it," he said, warning that word could get around that the City is not trustworthy. "The City needs to act in good faith toward business."
Councilman Timothy Tenke said the City benefits from the amendment by having a redeveloper who it is in good standing with, and because the project would move forward without zoning changes that would be akin to "changing a horse mid-river."
He asked Zarin if the amendment is unusual. Zarin said it is becoming more common as economic conditions continue to be unpredictable.
"The ferry project needs to move forward, so stalling that for whatever reason, I don't see the purpose of that," said Tenke.
The second camp seemed opposed to the amendment, saying it was providing the developer with security while leaving Glen Cove taxpayers with risk.
Spinello said he was concerned the City currently has more money invested in the project.
"I want to make sure we're covered," he said.
Resident Zefy Christopoulos expressed frustration that the project has been discussed for nearly two decades.
"I think the taxpayers need to hear numbers," she said. "We need clarity and we need information."
Resident Roni Epstein said she hoped the City is practicing due diligence in ensuring that the project, which includes 860 residential units, is "smart growth" and the right fit for the community. She echoed Spinello's concern about the amendment.
"The risk is resting on the taxpayer," she said.
Zarin said the zoning amendment is a separate issue from the housing plan.
The public hearing will continue at the Council's next meeting Feb. 12.