North Hempstead Town officials have proposed banning residential development in Port Washington’s waterfront business district as a way to help maintain its small-town character but also revitalize its downtown.
The possible zoning changes also would limit maximum building height to 35 feet from the current 45 feet in the district, which would limit buildings to two floors.
“The code that you now see in front of you really has eliminated residential development and has made every effort to keep the district in the keeping of how it currently is to make sure that it maintains the character of a waterfront business district,” Supervisor Judi Bosworth said at a public meeting Wednesday attended by about 50 residents.
Michael Levine, town commissioner of planning and environmental protection, said the proposed code would allow retail, office, hotel, motel and restaurant uses but eliminated residential development to control density.
A moratorium halting building in the waterfront district expires in less than two months. Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio, who represents Port Washington, said the town board will either adopt a new code or extend the moratorium at its June 18 meeting, which will include a public hearing on the issue.
“We've been at this for so long," DeGiorgio said in an interview last week. "It doesn't make sense to rush to adopt a new zoning code simply because the moratorium is going to expire."
The 11-acre waterfront business district, created in 2009, runs along Main Street from Sunset Park to Dolphin Green. A moratorium was adopted in December 2017 to stop issuing building and demolition permits, special permits and any other approvals related to development. The moratorium was extended several times and is now set to expire on July 1.
Levine said Thursday that the waterfront district has three buildings taller than one floor. One of them is the Knickerbocker Yacht Hotel on Main Street, the only three-story building in the district whose second and third floors are residential condos. Levine said the building is the only place in the waterfront district that includes residential use.
Town officials previously said the moratorium was issued to prevent overdevelopment along the waterfront area and allow time for the business district's zoning regulations to be reviewed.
De Giorgio said Wednesday that she sees the proposed code as part of a package to help Port Washington compete for grants to revitalize its downtown along with projects to extend the Bay Walk, remove sand from the Manhasset Bay and improve the Town Dock and Sunset Park.
"I think that we could make a strong case to the state that we are poised to take our downtown to the next level,” she said.
Mindy Germain, executive director of Residents Forward, a Port Washington nonprofit, said Thursday that while she is pleased that the proposed code “satisfied the requirements of concerned citizens” on limiting height and density, she would like to see more specific language on “public access, environmental resiliency and architectural design that enhances the beauty of Port Washington.”