Great Neck wants to restrict the size of its downtown business district

A view looking south on Middle Neck Road A view looking south on Middle Neck Road in Great Neck near the Breuer Avenue cross that shows the shopping district on Aug. 4, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

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The Village of Great Neck wants its downtown business district to be smaller and walkable, with part of it reserved for residential use.

While a number of Long Island communities have embarked on plans to grow and revitalize their business districts, Great Neck wants to restrict its downtown from expanding by rezoning the northern and southern portions of Middle Neck Road to residential. Village leaders say their goal is to create a more walkable downtown surrounded by residences.

The village also wants to allow second-floor residences over existing businesses on Middle Neck Road. Also under discussion is a proposal to attract townhouses to a section of Steamboat Road, which intersects with Middle Neck Road.

"We're not a transit-oriented development, we don't have a railroad station, we're called the old village and we're proud of it," said Mayor Ralph Kreitzman.

"We have decided you can only support so much business, and a more walkable community, at least a business community, would help," he said.

The effect is to create a section of business in "one discrete area, instead of having them spread out," Kreitzman said.

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Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, a Northport-based smart-growth nonprofit, said Great Neck Village "has the bones to be walkable" and might need to seek traffic-calming measures so a plan is workable.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to revitalizing Long Island's downtowns, Alexander said. He said second-floor residences in the business district might help merchants by providing another source of revenue. And a push for townhouses could allow the village to retain residents looking to move into smaller properties.

"The Village of Great Neck is almost exclusively single-family homes . . . [this] allows people to stay in the neighborhood who may not want to be in a single-family home forever," Alexander said.

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The village has been studying changes to the zoning code for several years, hiring a downtown planner and an engineering and landscape architectural firm, and convening focus groups to study the issue. The village has held several hearings, begun last year.

The condensed downtown business district would run on Middle Neck Road for roughly a half-mile from Hicks Lane and Arrandale Avenue on the north to Baker Hill Road to the south, Kreitzman said. The proposal allows for mixed-use buildings within that area. Existing commercial areas north and south of the new district would be rezoned residential. Existing business in that area would be grandfathered in as permitted uses.

The village would also create a Steamboat Road Townhome Redevelopment Incentive Overlay District. The incentives are designed to attract residential development on a section of Steamboat Road. The area has "terribly underutilizied properties" with large vacant lots, Kreitzman said.

A hearing is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. today at Village Hall.

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