Zoning change gives Hempstead City Council final say on Baldwin projects

Hempstead City Council members on Tuesday approved a new zoning overlay district for Baldwin’s downtown redevelopment that will require city approval for projects.

City officials have said they want the final say on new developments as Baldwin seeks to attract developers to revitalize its town center with new apartments and businesses, backed by a $10 million state grant of dollars. Previously, approval rested with an appointed design review board. For decades, community members wanted to begin redevelopment along Grand Avenue, centered around the LIRR station.

The new overlay zoning district will require any project that increases in size by more than 10% to undergo an additional environmental review process.

“The city has recognized significant flaws in the past. The loopholes were procedural, structural and frankly did not work in the best interest of the community,” said city special counsel Steven Losquadro. “The code has been simplified and is more responsible and a model on Long Island and throughout the state.”

Council members on Tuesday appointed a new five-member design review team, including the two principal heads of the city’s building department, a city engineer, the city commissioner of roads and the city ​​council lawyer.

City officials said the new zoning district will give them greater oversight of the approvals process and allow the community to have input on what kind of projects will go to downtown Baldwin.

Community members of development growth advocacy group Vision Long Island have expressed concerns about further delays in the process and fairness in determining potential developers.

Elissa Kyle, director of venue creation at Vision Long Island, said the initial review process was designed to make it easier to approve projects. Another layer of reviews would favor large developers who can absorb additional costs and discourage smaller, local projects, Kyle said.

“The code was not established just to expedite projects, but to ensure that they are maintained at a high quality, to improve the walkable realm and not just increase density,” Kyle said. “They shouldn’t be endorsed solely on political grounds, but on merit and community appropriateness.”

Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin criticized the city’s initial approvals process as offering more of a single zoning district and blanket review of projects without regard to size or community impact.

City officials have said some projects could be accelerated while taking into account reviews already completed. City officials and attorneys said the public would be notified of the plans through the council.

Clavin pointed to some projects, such as Grand Avenue, and whether previous plans could actually calm traffic on the main thoroughfare.

“When I was elected supervisor, I was told about this project by previous administrations that had committed to LIRR parking lots, allowing structures there and a lot of residents didn’t know about it,” Clavin said. . “I want to let residents know what is under construction or potentially under construction and to be open and transparent.”

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