Why is the Woodmere Club development at a standstill?


The proposed development of the Woodmere Club remains at a standstill after a Lawrence village Board of Appeals ruling — or lack of one — at its Feb. 21 meeting.

The board reserved a decision on the developers’ plan to circumvent the restrictions of the Coastal Conservation District that was created in 2020 by asking for a variance to build 15 homes outside the district, in addition to the 18 homes whose construction will be permitted on part of the club property.

Last July, roughly 90 people attended a Board of Appeals hearing at which Christian Browne, who represents the developers Efrem Gerszberg and Robert Weiss, sought a variance to build single-family homes outside the perimeter of the Costal Conservation District. Attendees appeared unanimous in their opposition to the plan.

In September, Browne presented a use variance application at a Board of Appeals meeting for the Village of Woodsburgh, one of three municipalities that claim a portion of the Woodmere Club property, along with Lawrence and the Hamlet of Woodmere, in the Town of Hempstead.

The application called for 15 additional homes to be built in a so-called “open space” subdistrict, outside the Costal Conservation District.

“From the board’s perspective, we do not see the necessity for further discussion, unless counsel for petitioner seeks to amplify or augment the previous record,” Lawrence Board of Appeals Chairman Lloyd Keilson said last week, referring to the board’s July 2023 meeting.

Browne said his clients had nothing to add.

Gerszberg and Weiss purchased the Woodmere Club property in 2017. Two years later, they proposed the construction of 284 single-family homes — 247 in Woodmere, 24 in Woodsburgh and 13 in Lawrence.

This prompted the creation of the Costal Conservation District by the Town of Hempstead, Lawrence and Woodsburgh, which divided the 118-acre property into open-space, residential and clubhouse/hospitality subdistricts and reduced the proposed development to 59 homes — 41 in the Town of

Hempstead and 18 in Lawrence and Woodsburgh.
In 2020 Gerszberg and Weiss filed a $200 million lawsuit against the Costal Conservation District, claiming that the homes prevented from being built were “illegally taken” from them. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed.

Three years later, the developers filed another federal lawsuit, for $65 million they claim they have lost because of the limitations the Coastal Conservation District imposed on their plan to develop the club land.

At last week’s meeting, Keilson recounted the hearing last July, at which the Board of Appeals proposed a joint meeting with the three municipalities involved, but Woodsburgh and the town were reluctant.

“Unless there was some compelling need for a public discussion, we will at this time want to close the public discussion and actually reserve decision,” Keilson said.

Jason Lieber and Michael Donovan, two Lawrence residents who attended last week’s session, highlighted concerns about flooding if the developers moved forward with their plan, as well as their disappointment that there was no clear communication about those plans.

“There are a lot of issues, between traffic, the birds — a whole host of things — as well as the fact that nobody could even sell a house here as it is,” Lieber said. “I don’t know why they think they’re going to sell 50 or 90 or 180 houses, when the houses that are for sale here are stuck and not even moving.”

Enrico Nardone, the director of Seatuck Environmental Association in Islip, noted the value of the Woodmere Club property in its current state as a wildlife resource.

“The potential there is not just to let it be, but to do some restoration there, grow some forest, restore some native grasslands,” Nardone said.

The Lawrence Board of Appeals’ next meeting is scheduled for March 20, at 7:30 p.m., at Village Hall, at 196 Central Ave. in Lawrence.

Along with the Woodmere Club, the Five Towns has a few more proposed developments that are raising residents’ ire. They were likely to be addressed at the Lawrence Association’s monthly meeting on Feb. 29 at 7:30, after the Herald went to press, at the Lawrence Yacht & Country Club, 101 Causeway in Lawrence.

Have an opinion on the proposed Woodmere Club development? Send a letter to jbessen@liherald.com.