After an hour of courteous debate at a special meeting on July 23, the Village of Rockville Centre board of trustees voted to claim ownership of Killarney Lane, a new street that will lead into a cul-de-sac of a development at 220 Hempstead Ave.
The meeting, held on Zoom, included a public hearing on the dedication of the street.
“What’s proposed here is simply that the village would own the road,” said Christian Browne, attorney for the property owners, real estate developers James and Brett O’Reilly.
The O’Reillys plan to demolish the home at 220 Hempstead Ave. and build six new homes along with Killarney Lane, which would be perpendicular to Hempstead Avenue and allow access to four homes on the southern edge of the property. A resolution authorizing Mayor Francis X. Murray to accept the deed to the road once the developers complete it, as well as public development projects, including sewage and streetlights, passed by a vote of 3-2. Murray and Trustees Mike Sepe and Nancy Howard voted for it, while Trustees Kathy Baxley and Emilio Grillo voted against it.
The development has stirred controversy for several years now, with many residents opposing it due to its elimination of green space and the destruction of what some consider a historic home, as well as traffic and construction concerns. The site’s late-19th-century home is the former parsonage of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, which the church sold in 2013.
After an initial denial of the subdivision by the village Planning Board in November 2018 and rounds of litigation that followed, a Nassau County State Supreme Court judge ruled in May 2019 that the development could proceed. The July 23 hearing was the first time Murray and the trustees had discussed it publicly.
If the village did not accept donation of the road, the public could still access it, but the village would not maintain it. Browne noted that, either way, the road would adhere to county regulations.
Several residents who spoke at the hearing saw accepting the road as using taxpayer money to support the O’Reillys, who residents and village officials say have disregarded neighbors’ concerns throughout the development process.
“Approving and accepting this street would create a new and destructive precedent for future developments that would absolutely affect the quality of life in Rockville Centre,” said resident Jean Toomey, who also voiced concerns about traffic safety, including right of way, during and after the new road’s construction.
Murray, however, saw it another way. “If we accept it, we have control over the road,” he explained. “If we don’t have control over the road, the project goes forward. We don’t have the power to stop the project.”
“From the beginning, I was watching this development occur, and it’s completely disheartening and upsetting,” Baxley said, adding that voting on the dedication of the road was “one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make as trustee.”
Browne said that work on the road and the development’s infrastructure would begin immediately, and the houses would be built later in the process.