The owners of the Holiday Inn Express in Lynbrook have one more chance to negotiate a compromise with residents who are strongly against their plan to demolish three neighboring homes and replace them with a parking lot.
The owners of the hotel located at 1 Sunrise Highway purchased three properties in the area – 417 Ocean Avenue, 3 Merton Avenue and 9 Merton Avenue – with the intent of demolishing the houses to build an additional parking lot. To do so they would need the village board to grant a zoning change, from residential to commercial, and a special exception permit.
Both sides spoke on the issue Monday night before village officials at a public hearing held during the board’s August business meeting. The hearing had been scheduled for July, but Alan Stein, the attorney for the Morash Family, which owns the hotel, requested to postpone it, as he did in May, so they could meet with the concerned residents.
They did meet. The residents were willing to sacrifice the dilapidated home on 417 Ocean Avenue and possibly 3 Merton Avenue, which the hotel says is in poor condition too, but did not want all three homes demolished. However, the hotel owners would only agree to increase the amount of landscaping between the lot and the homes to create a buffer.
“They are not compromising. We are the ones compromising and we have the most to lose,” Patti Nicoletti, a Merton Avenue resident, told the board.
Testifying as an expert witness for the applicant, Barry Nelson explained the lot would not have a negative impact on real estate taxes. He also argued that home values and quality of life would not decline since these residents already live in close proximity to Sunrise Highway, a maintenance yard and commercial properties.
Trustee Hilary Becker disagreed. “You can put up all the landscaping you want but at the end of the day … if a house is next to another house, it’s going to be worth more than a house next to a parking lot,” Becker, who works in real estate, stated. About a dozen residents applauded his remarks including Jim Nicoletti, who has lived on Merton Avenue for nearly 50 years in three separate homes including 9 Merton Ave. (He now lives across the street from the vacant home.)
“I was there before the hotel … and the gas station,” he said. “Little by little, the commercial property just keeps encroaching on us … it’s too close to home, it is my home.”
All the residents who spoke described the Morash family as “good neighbors,” but said they “wanted” the additional parking but didn’t “need” it.
Ellen Trione, an 18-year Merton Avenue resident who lives across the street from the homes in question, stated, “I know [the Morash family] invested millions of dollars and time … but I have invested a life.”
Once everyone spoke, Stein requested the board not to close the hearing to give his clients one more chance to find a compromise. After polling the audience, which was divided, Mayor William Hendrick agreed to continue the hearing at the September meeting, but told Stein the residents want a “real compromise” this time.
In its current form, Mayor Hendrick said, “the project that is being planned seems to be very, very aggressive. It’s not going to happen.”