The Lighthouse Development's draft environmental report was declared ready for public review Tuesday, an act that triggered a public comment period that will continue until Aug. 17.

In voting to move to the next stage, the Hempstead Town Board also scheduled an Aug. 4 public hearing on environmental issues surrounding the proposal, which would refurbish Nassau Coliseum and develop the surrounding 150 county-owned acres with a community of homes, offices and two 40-story towers. The hearing will be at the Adams Playhouse at Hofstra University to accommodate the expected crowd.

Before the board voted, a former Nassau County official warned not to repeat mistakes the county made with the Mitchel Field development in the 1970s and '80s, when buildings were given 99-year leases.

"Is the 99-year lease the valid and most appropriate legal method for the legal control and revenue production of the property?" asked Samuel Levine, who was Nassau County real estate director from 1965 to 1984. "Will the taxes or leasehold rent be available to benefit all of the taxpayers of Nassau County?" he asked, or will it just be for the town, Uniondale and special districts.

A spokesman for Lighthouse principals Charles Wang and Scott Rechler said details of their lease with the county won't be decided until the town signs off on just what can be built - which they hope occurs by September.

Tuesday's vote means that, within days, the developer's Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement will be available on the town's Web site and at local public libraries.

Environmental issues include the project's anticipated impact on traffic, drinking water availability and quality, air quality, sewage handling, storm water runoff and the collection and disposal of garbage.

State agencies, the villages of Garden City and Hempstead, Nassau County Departments of Health and Public Works, the Town of Hempstead Water Department, Uniondale School District, local fire departments, LIPA and others are expected to weigh in with comments and recommendations.

The Lighthouse developers submitted the draft impact statement Feb. 24. After the vote, Supervisor Kate Murray said the town "has worked tirelessly to move the . . . process forward in record time." Murray has been criticized by proponents of the development, as well as Islanders fans eager for a new arena, for the length of time the proposal has been pending.


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