Tensions ran high in Hempstead Village last week over the adoption of a special downtown zone that would allow the $2 billion revitalization plan for the Main Street area to move forward.
The village board voted 4-1 Tuesday to adopt the new overlay zoning for the project. But the trustees' votes were met with claps and boos from the audience of more than 75 people, some of whom held up signsfor or against the project.
"History was made tonight on Long Island," said Donald Monti, chief executive of Renaissance Downtowns, who is working with UrbanAmerica Advisors on the downtown makeover. "Hempstead is moving forward, and it's open for business."
Trustee Donald Ryan was the only "no" vote despite suggestions from other village officials that the zoning approval was essential for winning grants to upgrade the village's water and sewer system.
"I am concerned because a community benefits plan is not in place," Ryan said. "I am concerned about the sale of land of the Village of Hempstead."
The overlay zone divides the downtown into four districts: hospitality and entertainment, transit, commercial transition (smaller commercial buildings with some housing) and downtown edge (largely residential). The buildings would be capped at 120 feet, about eight or 10 stories.
The overlay zoning will not replace existing zoning. Instead, property owners can choose to "opt-in" to the overlay zoning, which would permit mixed-used development -- apartments over commercial space.
Developers and village officials have said the approved zoning code mandates that a community benefits agreement be in place before any new building permits are issued. Community activists have demanded that an agreement incorporate jobs, business and housing for local residents.
The Community Benefits for Hempstead Coalition is requesting that 35 percent of the project's apartments be affordable housing, instead of the proposed 10 percent. Members also want the median income for the village to be used in determining potential affordable housing candidates. The median income for a household in the village from 2006-2010 was $53,333.
"We are using Village of Hempstead median income, not the town or the county," said Brandon Palanker of Renaissance Downtowns.
Mayor Wayne Hall Sr. said Thursday the master developer agreement includes an option for the developer to purchase downtown village-owned properties.
"The only land we have up there are parking lots, and they are underutilized," Hall said. "Right now, we are not getting any taxes at all for those properties. When they develop the land, that can help our tax base."