Plandome Manor to continue Leeds Pond hearing next week

Plandome Manor to continue Leeds Pond hearing next week
Frank Picininni speaks to the Plandome Manor Board of Zoning Appeals on Thursday, June 22. (Photo by Brandon Duffy)

The Plandome Manor Board of Zoning Appeals will continue a public hearing to consider approving an application for a developer to place 500 cubic yards of site fill in the backyard of a property that sits on Leeds Pond. 

The first hearing on June 15 was continued to July 20 after the board reserved a decision on the matter and to keep the record open until June 29. Additionally, opponents of the application submitted by 1362 Plandome Road LCC—primarily led by attorney Christopher Murray, who is representing adjacent neighbors at 1 Stonytown Road—had two weeks to review any documents with the application and submit any written correspondence they might find necessary.

1362 Plandome also had two weeks following that to respond as well.

Village code allows up to 50 cubic yards of site fill, which is the use of soil, sand or other building materials to change the existing ground level of an area of land according to the code. Civil engineer for the application, Michael Rant, presented to the board a different plan to regrade the backyard, which would then require only 300 cubic yards of fill.

Ahead of the June 15 meeting, a petition called “Save Leeds Pond & Beyond!” was created to bring awareness to preserving the pond, calling on multiple government entities including North Hempstead, which owns the pond, to “enforce the law to ensure the health of Leeds Pond.”

Leeds Pond is part of Nassau County’s 35-acre Leeds Pond Preserve, which overlooks Manhasset Bay. It is approximately 21.4 acres in size with a tributary watershed area of about 2.275 acres. 

Plandome Manor Mayor Barbara Donno said the petition and accompanying flier disseminated to residents contained inaccurate and misleading information. 

Donno said the application itself has nothing to do with Leeds Pond and is entirely about the property at 1362 Plandome Road. The mayor stressed that the project has full approval from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which is the authoritative body on wetlands like Leeds Pond.

“All necessary precautions and measures have been taken to adhere to the guidelines and regulations set forth by the DEC, ensuring the environmental sustainability and integrity of the area,” Donno wrote in a letter posted to the village website. 

Donno emphasized the inaccuracy of the information provided in the petition and flier and asked residents who have questions on any applications to come to the village.

“I urge you to disregard these documents and trust the expertise of the relevant authorities who have ensured that all appropriate protocols are followed,” Donno said.

John Wagner, attorney for the applicants, also submitted to the board the letter issuing a permit from the DEC, an order of consent from the DEC and a restoration plan as exhibits during the hearing. Wagner said the reason for fill is so the future homeowners’ two kids can play in the backyard.

Save Leeds Pond, the community-based organization that created the petition, uploaded the documents opponents of the application submitted to the public record before it closed in June. 

Included are letters from multiple organizations detailing the damage the pond could face if the application is approved and local residents opposing the application. 

Murray said at the first hearing that Leeds Pond has already been harmed by neighboring residents who have elevated their backyards and removed trees and bushes. Additional opponents against the application include Frank Picininni of Spadefoot Design and Construction, Chris Gobler, chair of coastal ecology and conservation at Stony Brook University, and Bret Bennington, a geology professor at Hofstra University. 

Each spoke against the application on the grounds of the apparent damage the pond and reserve have sustained and adding more discharge to the waters that contain chemicals. 

“The developer has not demonstrated any benefit of the dirt plateau to neighbors, the ecosystem, Plandome Manor or the surrounding community,” the opposing letter to the application said. “A child’s play area cannot substantiate the destruction of a community resource when there are multiple alternatives including the play in the flat front yard of 1362 Plandome or a lowered regraded section without the 300 cubic yards of unnecessary toxic landfill that would be safer for the young children.”

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