Dozens of residents appeared before Hempstead’s Town Board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 4 to voice concerns about a proposed condominium development at the Seaford Avenue School.
The heated three plus hour hearing with advocates and opponents speaking passionately about the project ended in a unanimous vote by the town board to postpone a decision.
BK at Seaford LLC, a subsidiary of The Engel Burman Group in Garden City, is proposing to build 112 two bedroom, two bath condominium units on the 5.67 acre Seaford Avenue school lot located on the southwest corner of Seaford Avenue and Waverly Avenue, just north of Merrick Road in Seaford.
The developer is requesting a change in zoning from Residence B to Golden Age (GA) and seeking to lower the minimum age requirement from 62 to 55. Additionally, no children under the age of 18 will be permitted to live in the complex.
“This is a very contentious issue – too many units and too much traffic,” said Richard Campbell of Seaford. “This space [the Seaford Avenue School] is surrounded by tertiary streets. This development will have a tremendous detrimental impact on our community.”
But Robert Eschbacher, a traffic expert representing the Burman group, said that the development would have a “low traffic impact. Traffic patterns are different for seniors. Many don’t work and they don’t travel at rush hour. They also have no children to car pool.”
But residents disagreed with that assessment.“People drive into their eighties and people in their fifties are still driving to work,” said Seaford resident Maureen Kass. “I’m almost 50 and I’ll be working forever.”
In addition to traffic, residents raised concerns about the number of parking spaces in the development.
The developer is proposing to include 195 parking spaces, including 10 handicapped spaces, well within the GA zoning requirement. Some residents were confused over the parking requirements for a 55 plus community. Councilman Gary Hudes explained that the development is “seeking to lower the age requirement [from 62 to 55] but keep the parking spaces within the GA zone. It means you [the developer] are almost 100 spaces short.”
Chris Winn and Jennifer Walsh raised concerns about the loss of green space and lack of playing fields in the area.
Phil Franco, President of the Seaford Harbor Civic Association said people wanted to see single family developments at the site.
But others including Ken Jacobson, past president of the Seaford Chamber of Commerce, said the proposal will bring new residents who will shop in the area and “be good for local businesses; some are hanging on by a thread.”
Residents John Healy, Bill Urp and Andrew Salvatore also supported the project.
Seaford Avenue School history
The Seaford Avenue School was built in 1939 and was an elementary school within the Seaford School District until 1981 when enrollment in the district fell. The district rented the facility to the Five Towns College and then BOCES. In 2010 the building became vacant and the Seaford School Board decided to market the property which was costing $100,000 a year to maintain.
Brian Conboy, Superintendent of Seaford Schools said at the Feb. 4 meeting that “in October of 2011, 1,500 feelers were sent out to buyers and the strongest response came from Engel Burman group [for condominium development].”
Mr. Conboy said there were no formal proposals from any developer to build single family homes.
In October of 2012, a community forum was held at Seaford High School to answer any questions and concerns about the proposed development. At that meeting people requested that the development be for those 55 and older and without school age children. It was agreed there would be no more than 112 two bedroom, two bath units. Additionally there would be a 7,000 square foot clubhouse, an outdoor pool and landscaping and a privacy berm.The units would sell for about $400,000.
The property would be sold for $5.2 million and provide the district with $976,000 in taxes per year.
The project was put forth for a vote in December of 2012 and passed 972-769 but some residents said the vote was taken just after Superstorm Sandy and did not reach all the people.
“We had a vote and the public spoke,” said Bruce Kahn, Vice President of the Seaford School board at Tuesday’s hearing. “It is sad but necessary [to sell this property]. Seaford [school district] is under fiscal stress and we could use the revenue. It was our only offer. Please honor that vote.”