Although the Lynbrook village board denied a proposal last month from the Holiday Inn Express to build a parking lot in the village where three residential properties now exist, the hotel owners are still looking to demolish the homes.
The Morash Family, which owns both the Holiday Inn Express, located on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Sunrise Highway, and the Rockville Centre Inn across the street, has now requested permits to demolish 217 Ocean Ave., 3 Merton Ave. and 9 Merton Ave., which they currently own.
This isn't your typical demolition permit request though. At Monday night's work session, Village Attorney Peter Ledwith explained to the board that because the request involves three properties, an environmental impact assessment must be conducted under law.
According to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, "In New York State ... all discretionary approvals (permits) from a NYS agency or unit of local government, require an environmental impact assessment as prescribed by 6 NYCRR Part 617 State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR). SEQR requires the sponsoring or approving governmental body to identify and mitigate the significant environmental impacts of the activity it is proposing or permitting."
Ledwith suggested the village appoint itself the lead agency in accordance with SEQR.
He also pointed out that the request for the demolition permit fails to indicate the hotel owners' intention for the three properties if the village allowed them to knock down the homes. Ledwith explained that state law prohibits "segmentation," breaking up the demolition and the future plans for the site into separate requests. "It has to be all in one [request," he stated. "Whatever the applicant has in mind, they have to tell us as part of the process."
Ledwith suggested the board instruct him to write to the applicant to explain what the law requires. The board voted unanimously to accept all of its attorney's recommendations.
"It doesn't mean [they] won't get demolished," Mayor William Hendrick stated at the business meeting that followed Monday night when questioned about it by a resident.
Ledwith explained that the board could grant the demolition permit while working with the applicant to mitigate any negative environmental impacts that it identifies through the assessment, which could take two to three months to conduct.
Paul Tubin, a Lynbrook resident who lives on Ocean Avenue across from the three homes, said he and his fellow neighbors were concerned about being exposed to asbestos and other dangerous materials if demolition was granted.
Bulding Department Superintendent Brian Stanton said, "It's up to the property owner to use a certified asbestos abatement company, which is regulated by the [State] Department of Labor."
"I wanted to formally state on behalf of the neighbors how much we appreciate the support the board has given the community ... to stop this from happening," Tubin said. However, he said the hotel owners have allowed the properties to deteriorate and alleged that they are still trying to "work around" the board's decision to deny the commercial property to further encroach on residents living nearby.
Tubin said that since the board denied the hotel's request for a zoning change last month, the owners have continued to rip apart the homes landscaping and erected "unsightly" temporary fencing around each house. After speaking with one of the owners, Tubin said he got the impression that they have no intention of trying to sell the homes. He said many of his neighbors are considering picketing and reaching out to the regional press to bring more attention to the issue.
"We've done everything we can to support the community, because we do agree with their complaints," Mayor Hendrick said. "People are allowed to buy houses and knock them down, and we are doing everything we can under the law."