Town explores its options for the Woodmere Club

Creating a park or park district is on the table

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Even with a lawsuit already filed by the Woodmere Club owners against the Town of Hempstead, town officials are exploring the option of turning the 118-acre golf club into a town park or creating a “park district.” The Town Board unanimously approved a resolution on July 3 to hire outside counsel to study those alternatives.

Frederick P. Clark & Associates Inc., a planning and development firm in upstate Rye, will “conduct a financial report of what it would cost the town to make the Woodmere Club either a park district of a Town of Hempstead park,” Councilman Anthony D’Esposito said. The consultation may cost as much as $100,000, town officials said.

Weiss Properties and 2020 Acquisitions purchased the 110-year-old Woodmere Club, on Meadow Drive, in April of last year for just over $9 million. According to the deal, the club would remain open until 2022 and the new owners would pay off its debt.

The developers’ plans have yet to be unveiled, but they intend to “introduce new, in-demand luxury housing to benefit the neighborhood,” Weiss Properties principal Robert Weiss said previously. The scale of a potential development remains open to conjecture, and the concern in the community has led to the creation of a new civic association and the enactment of a town building moratorium that is the focus of a lawsuit brought by Weiss and 2020.

A town park would be open to all Hempstead residents and be funded by town taxes. If a park district were established, it would be open only to residents of the district, and because only their taxes would fund the park, the financial burden would likely be greater.

“The goal here is to make sure we have all the information that we need before a decision is made before moving forward,” D’Esposito said.

“We promised the pubic we would look at all options,” Councilman Bruce Blakeman said. “We are looking at all options. . . . We’re fulfilling our promise to the community to find out what it would take and what it would cost if we were to create a park district.”

The town would have to buy the club from the developers, and perhaps prepare for another possible lawsuit. “In light of the fact that there has been absolutely no communication with us regarding our property,” Weiss said, “this sounds a lot like eminent domain, which we will vigorously fight against in court.”

The building moratorium was enacted in November 2016, and extended four times–– most recently, two months ago. Town officials also proposed creating a Golf Course Coastal Residence Overlay District, which would come with more restrictive building regulations on land deemed “environmentally sensitive” — with wildlife, vegetation and flooding issues. The Inwood Country Club and the Gold Club at Middle Bay, in Oceanside, would also be included in the proposed district.

“We’re not going to comment and speculate about whether we’ll be sued,” Blakeman said. “We do everything within the letter of the law, and at that point, if someone decides to initiate the action, that’s their right.” He added that the board has asked Town Attorney Joe Ra to work with Frederick P. Clark to expedite research into the feasibility of converting the land into a park, in the interest of keeping residents informed.

A survey done by Cameron Engineering over the past year showed that the developers could build at least 240 homes on town-allowed 60-by-100-foot lots. “There are many who strongly question the cost of, and ultimate quality of, the recent Cameron study,” said Mario Alex Joseph, president of the Five Towns Civic Association, a group formed to oppose development of the Woodmere Club, “but everyone agrees that such a study was required.”

Joseph said he was concerned that the list of possible uses is “narrowed by a failure of imagination.” He added that the town said it was eliminating the park option at a May 4 community meeting.

Many people have raised concerns about the impact of more residents and recurring flooding, which the club’s open land helps to mitigate, but which development could exacerbate, they claim. “Broadway is already a nightmare,” said Julie Pareles, a Hewlett resident, referring to the heavy traffic on the roadway.

“The water has got to go somewhere,” said David Friedman, president of the Hewlett-Woodmere Business Association, implying that it would most likely flood streets and homes in the immediate area.

Jeffrey Bessen contributed to this story.

Have an opinion on the issues related to the Woodmere Club? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.