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Mineola tasks residents committee with reviewing controversial master building plan

Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss stands in front the

Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss stands in front the town of Mineola, where an ongoing project to implement commuter friendly housing is underway. Credit: Johnny Milano

A volunteer residents committee is studying Mineola's 10-year-old master plan to determine if it remains on the right track in recommending continued apartment construction near the village's Long Island Rail Road station.

The eight-member committee started meeting at the end of January after a review of the master plan by Hoboken, New Jersey-based Phillips Preiss Grygiel LLC consultants. The master plan includes 1,460 new apartments targeted for commuters, including 86 that were recently completed and are open. Buildings with a total of 590 units are under construction, and 784 more have been proposed.

"The report pretty much verifies and supports the master plan as it is," Mayor Scott Strauss said. "They [the consultants] just tweaked and updated it. But part of what we're also doing is having a committee of residents look at the master plan as somebody who lives here."

All of the projects are on the north side of Old Country Road including at Second Street and Mineola Boulevard. The committee's start came amid a series of packed and contentious public hearings about adding more apartments to the village.

Opponents' main concern was that large multi-floor apartment buildings would transform Mineola's suburban atmosphere into an urban environment. According to the 2010 census, Mineola was home to 18,799 residents. Other concerns included the impact of hundreds of apartments on downtown traffic, schools and emergency services for nearby Winthrop-University Hospital.

"I think each project needs to be evaluated on an individual basis and that's how I'm looking at these apartments being built right now," said residents committee member Donna Solosky, 55, a Herricks High School science and chemistry teacher who has lived in Mineola all her life.

The group, whose members were appointed by the mayor, includes Mineola residents of all ages, local business owners and people who work at Winthrop-University Hospital, Solosky said.

"I think it's great," she said of forming the committee, "because we're so diversified, so when someone presents an idea we can debate it back and forth."

The group is to present its findings to the village board after reviewing the full master plan.

Strauss said the projects could help Mineola, citing the property tax revenue the apartment projects can generate and the boost to downtown restaurants by having residents nearby as well as the potential to keep seniors and young professionals in the community.

"Experts have told us we're on the right track [in continuing the development] but we wanted a group of us -- my friends, our neighbors -- to say it's a good thing," he said. "The experts say Mineola should keep building, but they don't live here. The committee members can help determine what the village can tolerate and doesn't want to tolerate."

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