Port Washington North officials have approved zoning changes to add "studio" as one of the permitted uses in the village’s Economic Development B District, the first step before a 50-foot-tall movie studio can be built at a commercial complex on Channel Drive.
"We are really excited about this," Mayor Bob Weitzner said Thursday in a phone interview. "Hollywood is coming to Port North."
In the latest plan, Parviz Farahzad, an East Setauket-based developer who owns Bethpage’s Grumman Studios, lowered the proposed height by 15 feet from the original 65 feet after neighboring residents raised concerns about the structure’s bulkiness.
Weitzner described the studio as a tiered "wedding cake" with its center reaching 50 feet.
"How much better can you ask in this environment where businesses are closing on a regular basis [and] industries are suffering?" the mayor said. "It’s wonderful for Port North and our residents to have a state-of-the-art film studio in our village."
In the zone, the height is capped at 25 feet. But the zoning change, approved last Wednesday, makes an exception for the use of a soundproof film studio on a parcel that is larger than 10 acres.
"The provisions of the zone strictly tying it to this use and only on a 10-acre-or-more parcel pretty much … changes the zone for this particular use at this time," the mayor said.
Farahzad bought the 13-acre complex for $7.3 million in 2014 from Publishers Clearing House and said he plans to spend between $15 million and $20 million to build the facility.
Instead of converting the current one-story building, Farahzad said the new plan is to raze it and start from scratch, though the footprint will stay the same at around 105,000 square feet. A second vacant office building in the complex could be used for editing or other production needs, he said.
Earlier this month, the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency approved tax breaks for the project, including a 15-year reduction on property taxes for the new site and a sales tax exemption of up to $776,250 on construction materials.
Despite the reduction in height, Farahzad said two of the six planned studios would have 40 feet of clear height, which he said is important in attracting production companies.
"This basically will be a sister studio to Grumman," he said. "We will bring more production to Long Island. We are going to create more jobs for the island — high-paying jobs, clean jobs."
Enid Hawthorne, vice president of the board of directors of the condo association at Mill Pond Acres, which is on Pond View Drive and borders the proposed site, had worried about the studio height.
"We complained and we expressed our feelings," Hawthorne said. "It’s working out to be a fabulous addition to the Port Washington community."
Farahzad and his architect, Alex Badalamenti of Patchogue-based bld architecture, said they anticipate submitting a site plan by the end of the year, meaning the village may hold a public hearing on the plan in early 2021.