Plandome Manor trustees hear concerns over Richardson House

Plandome Manor trustees hear concerns over Richardson House
The Village of Plandome Manor Board of Trustees provided an update on the Richardson House preservation during Tuesday night's meeting. (Photo by Mark Povzner)


The Plandome Manor Board of Trustees faced an irate crowd on Tuesday at a meeting to discuss moving the nearly 300-year-old house at 149 Circle Drive 1,000 feet down the road to a village-owned lot where it would become the new village hall.

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.

The residents at the meeting, mostly from the Circle Drive-Colonial Road neighborhood, firmly oppose the plan, objecting to the loss of open space at the lot which is opposite 24 Circle Drive. They also fear a worsening of the drainage problems in the area, increased traffic the reconstituted village hall would bring to the residential street, and the likely cost of the project. They also said they resented what is perceived as a project quickly moving forward with little transparency.

“We are still exploring the feasibility of the project,” Mayor Barbara Donno said. “We are still fact-finding.”

Nancy Solomon, executive director of Long Island Traditions, a Port Washington-based preservation group, urged that the house, one of the oldest on Long Island, be saved from demolition and told the board that state funds are available for historic restoration.

A village resident who lives across the street from the proposed site took exception to the suggestion. “Why do we, Plandome Manor taxpayers, have to do this?” she asked.
“Why is it our responsibility to preserve [the house] when the previous owner sold it knowing it would be demolished?”

Another resident said: “We do feel we are being railroaded and not listened to. This came on so quickly. It really feels done-dealish.”

Resident Sarah Meriggi told the trustees that the house was for sale for two years and the village could have had it for $1.2 million. “Where the house is now would be perfect” for a village hall, she said.

Donno and other trustees stressed that no decisions have been made. Trustee Matthew Clinton said that moving the house down the street, refurbishing the building and developing the site would cost an estimated $700,000 to $900,000. It would be financed by a 10-year bond that would cost approximately $55,000 a year, the same as the village pays in yearly rent for its current location at 55 Manhasset Ave.

Clinton said that if the village board decides to go ahead with the project the bond issue – and thus the project itself – would be put to a referendum, possibly by April.

Mayor Donno said she wanted to address how the issue came about. Someone asked at the November meeting if the village could come up with a way of saving the house. In December, a group of professionals volunteered to explore ways to save the Richardson House, including local architects, preservationists and village residents.

The village board discussed the plan for the first time with the residents at the January board meeting, which was conducted on line.

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.”

She said that an anonymous email of misinformation was sent to village residents. “I’m offended that people said we lied,” Donno declared. “No one came here and asked if the email was true. We are still fact-finding. We don’t even know if the house will still be available in a month.”
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.

In other business, Donno updated the board and residents on the New York Conference of Mayors winter legislative meeting in Albany where officials discussed a proposed zoning law that is part of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s budget and is causing considerable concern on Long Island.

The legislation would require municipalities to allow at least one “accessory dwelling unit” such as a garage or basement converted to an apartment on single-family properties. The proposed zoning law would also establish requirements for transit-oriented development, requiring municipalities to allow housing with a density of at least 25 units per acre on any residential-zoned land if it is within a half mile of any public transportation, such as a commuter railroad station.

This “pretty much decimates home rule,” Donno said. She said that while not all municipal governments opposed the bill, particularly upstate, “all Long Island is fighting this.” She urged  residents to contact state Sen. Anna Kaplan and Assemblywoman Gina Silletti to voice their opposition.

Donno said the governor said she would pull the bill from the budget proposal, but did not. While any village could allow the accessory dwelling units, “the state wants to mandate them,” she said. Plandome would be affected by the transit zoning proposal as well.

Donno noted  that inserting this legislation into the budget precludes hearings or debate. She said that the controversial no-bail law signed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo was passed the same way.

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