The Lynbrook village board unanimously denied a zoning change request from the owners of the Monday night that would have allowed the hotel on Sunrise Highway to build a parking lot where three vacant residential homes now stand.
The board's decision brought to an end a debate that has played out across several months as village officials listened to arguments from Alan Stein, an attorney representing the hotel's owners, and a group of residents who vehemently opposed the plan.
The Morash family, which owns the Holiday Inn Express in Lynbrook, had purchased three neighboring homes – 417 Ocean Ave., 3 Merton Ave. and 9 Merton Ave. – with the intent of demolishing the houses to build an additional parking lot, but the plan required the village board to grant a zoning change (from residential to commercial), and a special exception permit.
After hearing from both sides, Mayor William Hendrick that the proposal was too "aggressive" and most likely wouldn't get approval, but gave Stein and his clients one more chance to work out a "real compromise" with the concerned neighbors.
The amended proposal Stein presented Monday night reduced the overall side of the parking field, preserved some existing trees and kept one of the homes (9 Merton Ave.) intact with a slight modification to the property line.
"It appears," Stein said, "the position that has been adopted by the neighbors is one of just simply being against the application with there being no possibility of having any compromise.”
"We feel we are compromising, Patti Nicoletti, a Merton Avenue resident, told the board. She explained that originally she and her neighbors were against seeing any of the homes demolished for the sake of erecting a parking lot, which she says the Morash family admitted they didn’t need but wanted. However, they were now willing to sacrifice 417 Ocean Ave., a house that is in dire condition.
Nicoletti admitted that the homes on Merton do have sentimental value to the residents (Her husband even grew up in 9 Merton Ave, and they now live across the street.) but she said the driving force for their opposition to Stein's proposal was the detrimental impact it could have on their property values.
"We appreciate the concession," she said referring to the elimination of 9 Merton from the amended application, "but we feel our homes are our major investments."
Mayor Hendrick asked Stein if his clients would be willing to further amend their application to only include 417 Ocean Avenue, but they decided to keep it as is.
"That [property] is really insufficient," Stein said. "It's long and narrow and really would not afford us any opportunity to create anything that would be of any significance for us."
Hendrick responded, "People have made a point that they just don't want commercial moving in on them.” Then, the board -- with the exception of Deputy Mayor Alan Beach, who was absent as he is recovering from surgery --unanimously denied the request.
“We will continue to help our local businesses including the Holiday Inn,” Trustee Hilary Becker added. “But in this situation, I felt the neighbors were right that the parking lot would have devalued their properties.”
As the Holiday Inn Express does own the three homes, they could still seek out a permit to demolish them but would be responsible for maintaining the properties.