DEVELOPER'S TOWNHOUSE PROPOSAL FOR 5.4 ACRE HALM PROPERTY IN GLEN HEAD RECEIVES MIXED REVIEWS FROM RESIDENTS
September 13, 2014 -- About 40 residents turned out for a meeting at Glen Head School this past Wednesday evening to hear a proposal to build 56 townhouse units on the Halm Industries property in Glen Head. The meeting was organized by the Glen Head Glenwood Civic Associations and emceed by Civics President George Pombar. The owner of Halm and the 5.39 acre property at 180 Glen Head Road, Donald Lyon, was on hand as were two representatives of Goodman-Marks Associates, a real estate appraisal and consulting firm, and two representatives of the Garden City based developer Engel Burman, a prospective buyer of the property. Many in the audience were expecting to also be presented with a plan for an assisted living facility on the property, but that did not occur.
Halm, a manufacturer and servicer of envelope printing machines, has held the property since 1954, when it built its two story 44,000 square foot facility. The east side of the property is zoned for light industrial and commercial use while the westerly portion, on which there currently sits a brick home, is zoned residential. Mr. Lyon is seeking to have the light industrial and commercial sections of the property re-zoned residential, making the property more desirable to potential buyers and developers. Mr. Pombar stated that the property could fetch a price of $5.5 million.
Displaying two artist's renderings of townhouses that the developer is building on the former Elwood Dairy property in the Town of Huntington as an example of what their proposal might look like, the developers spoke for about 45 minutes and took questions from the audience. They emphasized that they have not purchased the property, nor are they in contract, and that their plans are preliminary.
Their proposal for the Glen Head Property includes 56 townhouse two bedroom units in 14 separate buildings, two stories each. Zoning restrictions, they said, allow for up to 15 units per acre, but their plan would be less dense with only 11 per acre. The condos would only be open to buyers 55 and older and there would be a prohibition on residents having school-age children.
The developers said that Mr. Lyon is currently paying $108,000 a year in property taxes, and they estimated that an assisted living facility would bring in about $300,000 a year, while their proposal would bring in about $800,000 with $500,000 going to the school district, without adding to student enrollment. When pressed by skeptical residents about that figure, they said that they believed units would be sold for about $600,000 and that taxes would be $14,000-$15,000 per unit. A few residents expressed doubt that a two bedroom town house would garner that high of a price and carry that sort of tax burden. The developers said that they believed there was a real demand for that sort of housing among empty nesters looking to downsize, and that they "have a waiting list" of people looking for this sort of housing. At a January meeting, representatives from Goodman Marks presented information that a 75 unit townhouse development would likely generate about $480,000 in taxes.
Impact on local traffic seemed to by a significant concern on residents' minds during questioning. The developers said based on national traffic data, they did not think that the town houses would contribute much to local traffic. Mr. Pombar interjected that the expectation was that there would be 120 to 140 residents with about 120 cars. The developers said that the traffic situation with senior housing is significantly different than with regular housing as many of the residents would likely have retired and thus would be coming and going at different times during the day, so that the 120 cars would not all be on the road at once. A representative of Goodman Marks said that as an industrial site, as many as 200 cars could be there each weekday coming and going at the same time. Mr. Lyon said that at one time there were 120 employees working at the Halm property. Some in the audience questioned whether "national traffic data" was applicable to local conditions.
A few residents asked about the possibility of building an assisted living facility at the site, which they believed would generate less traffic. The developers stated that this was not an area or property that was good for that sort of development - that it was more desirable to assisted living operators to have their facilities on primary roads as opposed to secondary and tertiary roads that are a significant distance from major arteries.
After the representatives from Engel Burman left the meeting, a representative of Goodman Marks spoke for a few minutes. and explained the various scenarios of what could happen with the property, and made the case that the proposal for the senior townhouses was the most desirable from a tax stand point. As for other possibilities, he said that the Gold Coast Library has expressed interest in the property and that the Town of Oyster Bay was considering condemnation as a mean of acquiring the property to address some of the parking issues at the fields and the community center to the east of the property. Additionally, a church, he said, had expressed interest. Senior townhouses, he said, "would keep people in the community" and help home values in the area as a whole. Single family residential, he said, "made no sense" as it would bring more children into the district, and that no one is building light industrial in this area, with less costly options further east in Suffolk.
Following the departure of the Goodman Marks representatives, Mr. Pombar spoke briefly, and audience members offered there thoughts. Mr. Pombar stated that the objective of the meeting was to see this particular option - 55+ townhouses. Some in the audience expressed disappointment that no presentation by either that developer or another one on an assisted living option was offered. Mr. Pombar stated that that was his expectation as well, but the plans had changed a day or two before the meeting.
"They can't build whatever they want," Mr. Pombar asserted. "The Town of Oyster Bay doesn't want the community complaining." Additionally, he said, the owner of the property, Mr. Lyon, "wants to do the right thing."
One resident said that as of right they could build whatever they choose if it is consistent with the property's current zoning.
When asked to consider why "they" are opposed to an assisted living facility, Mr. Pombar responded that the townhouses would bring in more money, and that this particular developer is "ready to move" on the senior townhouses, where as to get through the red tape of building an assisted living facility could take two and a half years.
A resident said that she was willing to wait two and a half years for that option. A few residents said that the proposal presented earlier was agreeable to to them and questioned whether significant traffic would be created as cars would not be coming and going at the same time.
A resident, seeking clarification, asked Mr. Pombar to identify the possible scenarios for the property. He replied that there were three - the Town of Oyster Bay and the Library acquiring the property, an assisted living facility, and the 55+ townhouses that had been proposed that evening.
Many said that they would like to see what an assisted living proposal would look like. It appeared that Mr. Pombar and the Civics would go back to Mr. Lyon and his representatives with that request.
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