Hempstead Town Approves New Development Zone For Lighthouse Site

With a stated goal of facilitating reasonable development of the 77 acres of property surrounding the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, along with the town board, approved a new development zone for the site during the Town Board meeting on Tuesday, June 21st. The new zoning district, which was crafted by the town, was presented to the Supervisor and council members as an alternative to the Lighthouse Project in an environmental report (Final Environmental Impact Statement [FEIS]). The zone provides for vibrant mixed-use development that is sustainable and will complement the suburban character of surrounding communities.

"Together, Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby and I have jump-started the governmental process, setting the stage for meaningful development," stated Murray. "I want to thank Councilwoman Goosby for working with me to have a zone created that sets the stage for reasonable development that will support several important priorities for our town at this site The zone accommodates development that will support our tax base, offer construction and long term jobs, stimulate the region's economy and complement a new Coliseum, which would help keep the Islanders hockey team here where they belong."

"This new zone will facilitate development that will fit on the property surrounding the Coliseum without overwhelming the local infrastructure," stated Goosby. "Significant projects can be built on this site without adversely impacting surrounding residential neighborhoods."

Providing for 5.4 million square feet of construction (includes all buildings and parking structures), the alternative zone is comprised of many of the same types of development that were sought by the Lighthouse Group. The town's zone, however, scales back the density contemplated under the Lighthouse Plan to a level that Murray termed "significant, yet reasonable." Among the types of development permitted in the newly created zone are convention facilities, hotels, retail, restaurants, offices, residential units, entertainment uses and a new or refurbished Coliseum.

The density included under the new zone is the most intense zoning in the township. The Floor Area Ratio (FAR [the ratio of total square footage of construction as it relates to the square footage of land upon which it is built]) for the proposed zone is 1.6. By contrast, the FAR for the RXR Towers is 0.89 and the Omni Building totals 0.56. Moreover, the new zone's development total of 5.4 million square feet contrasts with an estimated 10-13.5 million square feet of development under the Lighthouse proposal.

"The town's alternate zone provides for density that is both substantial and sustainable," stated Murray. "Construction under this zone can be supported by upgraded roadways while providing for needed growth at Nassau's hub," added Goosby.

The town-crafted alternative zone embraces smart growth principles such as mixed-use structures, roadways and pedestrian areas that encourage walking and bicycling, as well as "green technologies" in building construction. Mixed-use development accommodated under the new zone could include retail and/or office structures with homes above those facilities, all within the same buildings. Roadways that incorporate bicycle lanes, street furniture along pedestrian walkways, as well as street side cutouts for parallel parking, will all combine to create a walkable community and a genuine destination for people who are looking for an exciting location to live, work and enjoy recreational activities. Other smart growth elements considered in the zone include "shared parking" that helps optimize the level of development and integrated parking facilities that combine the parking structures and retail/offices.

Flexibility has been cited as a key attribute of the new zone. Officials noted that the zone does not dictate which specific types of development prescribed in the zone must be located on the individual parcels that make up the 77 acres around the Coliseum. The zone only requires that two of the permitted uses, other than the Coliseum, be included in the developer's proposal for each parcel.

The maximum building height prescribed under the town's zone is 100 feet, which applies to hotels. Mixed-use, office and most other structures are capped at four stories. Buildings which are exclusively residential are restricted to three stories. The new zone also provides for up to 500 new homes to be developed. Those housing units are required to include affordable and next generation/workforce homes.

An essential element of the town's zoning alternative is its provision for traffic mitigation. Included in the mitigation plan is a system of roadways within the Coliseum area, which would redistribute traffic, addressing burdens that would otherwise accompany development of this significance. The plan incorporates "smart" traffic signals and a reconfigured interchange at the intersection of Meadowbrook Parkway and Hempstead Turnpike.

"Hempstead Town has worked hard to accommodate reasonable development at the site surrounding the coliseum," concluded Murray. "Dorothy Goosby, as well as all of my colleagues on the town board, promised to provide for reasonable development at Nassau's hub; but, we've been clear that we would only approve a zone that can be sustained by the environment and the local infrastructure. This zone holds true to those priorities while accommodating development that complements the suburban character of our area, supports our tax base, stimulates the economy, creates jobs and facilitates a new or refurbished Coliseum for our hometown hockey team, the Islanders."

View information about the Mitchel Field Mixed Use Development Zone.