Circle Drive residents say traffic study for Richardson House proposition is flawed

Circle Drive residents say traffic study for Richardson House proposition is flawed
The Village of Plandome Manor will hold a vote on a proposition that could potentially permit the board to take steps to relocate a 300-year-old house and convert it into their new village hall on April 6. (Photo by Mark Povzner)

Some Plandome Manor residents claimed that the traffic study conducted for a proposed new village hall location contained flawed information.

Village residents will be voting on a proposition that would permit the board to acquire a 300-year-old home and turn it into the new village hall, something all the trustees said they support. The building, known as the Richardson House, currently sits at 149 Circle Drive. If the proposition passes, the village would plan on moving the house roughly 1,000 feet down the road to a vacant village-owned parcel north of Stonytown Road, officials said.

Some village residents have opposed the project and the proposition at meetings, with some claiming the board rushed the process and adequate studies addressing environmental impact and drainage have not been conducted. Plandome Manor residents Kate Dunn and Sarah Meriggi, in a letter to Blank Slate Media on behalf of Circle Drive residents, said the traffic study, conducted by VHB Engineering, did not properly compare the current traffic flow with the estimated flow if the Village Hall was relocated.

“The estimation of the traffic generated by the Village Hall includes an estimation of trips made by the three employees plus the average number of visitors to the village office between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.,” according to the letter. “It does not account for any comings and goings of non-employees, such as the mayor, other Board of Trustee members, the village attorney, stenographers, or village justice. There is no accounting for the night-time meetings of the: Board of Trustees, Board of Zoning Appeals, Architectural Review Board, Planning Board, or Village Court.”

Robert Eschbacher, principal engineer at VHB, concluded that the relocation of the Richardson House would “not have any measurable impact on the existing traffic flow conditions along Circle Drive.” VHB’s study said the weekday average of vehicles near the proposed village hall location on Circle Drive was 219 vehicles per day. If the Richardson House was moved there, the study said, 11 trips per day would be added, six of which would be by staff members.

Eschbacher said the projected traffic flow for the tentative new village hall would be “generally equivalent to the traffic generated by a single family home.”

“Furthermore, the additional 11 trips per day would be spread out over the 7 hours that Village Hall is open, and would not result in any surges in traffic flow,” Eschbacher continued.

Village trustees expressed support for the proposition in a press release last week. 

Village Mayor Barbara Donno said the proposition “is an extraordinary opportunity for the village to own its Village Hall” and that the village would purchase the building for one dollar so it could issue a bond to finance the estimated $660,000 project. Donno said the bond would not exceed $600,000 and the remaining funds would be obtained through a variety of grants and from the village’s capital reserve fund.

The village pays $55,000 a year to rent the current Village Hall, a multipurpose room located at 55 Manhasset Ave.

“From a financial perspective, approving the proposition makes sense,” Deputy Mayor Matthew Clinton said. “Plandome Manor would own outright the building and the land on which its Village Hall sits in 10 years while no longer paying rent for office space.” 

“Preservation Long Island has recognized the historic significance of the Richardson House and publicly asked Plandome Manor to save the building from demolition when it was sold to a developer last year,” Trustee Patricia O’Neill said. “The village then consulted with land use and architectural experts before bringing this proposal to the voters.”

The house was built in 1730 in Massachusetts. In 1923, 10 years before Plandome Manor was incorporated, resident George Richardson had the house dismantled, moved to its present site and rebuilt. The house is approximately 2,700 square feet and has an attached garage.

According to the real estate website, the Richardson House was sold on Dec. 20, 2021, for $1.3 million after being on the market for more than two years. The buyer is a developer who has filed for a demolition permit and a building permit for a new house.

Donno said the issue for the village board is not saving the house, but finding a new village hall. “As for the Village Hall, we have outgrown it,’ she said. “The lease is up. We need a bigger space. [The house] fell into everyone’s lap.”

Linda S. Agnew, an attorney representing homeowners on Circle Drive, said the board is “railroading” the process through the proposition. Despite residents’ claims, officials said the project will be beneficial for the entire village and that the Village Hall upgrade is much needed.

Officials said the vote on the proposition will take place from noon to 9 p.m. at Village Hall on April 6.

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