A bond vote that would have authorized the Village of Plandome Manor to relocate and utilize the Richardson House on Circle Drive as their new village hall was rejected on Wednesday.
The referendum, which was voted down 119-87 on Wednesday, would have permitted the board to acquire the 300-year-old home, located at 149 Circle Drive, and turn it into the new village hall, something for which all the trustees previously expressed their support.
Village officials planned on moving the house roughly 1,000 feet down the road to a vacant village-owned parcel north of Stonytown Road, if the vote passed.
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 resident Sarah Meriggi, who helped spur community efforts to oppose the referendum, said her group of residents “are very happy with the results” of the vote.
“This is a tight-knit community, and it was a collaborative effort,” Meriggi said on behalf of her group in a statement to Blank Slate Media. “We worked very hard to create a website ( preservethegreen.com) where everyone could access full and evolving information. The group is especially proud to have run a campaign that was honest, transparent with supporting facts, and above all with the highest integrity. We could not have won without the support of other neighborhoods in our village, and for this we give heartfelt thanks. We look forward to partnering with the mayor to explore alternative solutions.”
Village Mayor Barbara Donno previously 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, in a statement to Blank Slate Media on Friday, thanked all the residents who came out and voiced their opinion but acknowledged the board is “disappointed” about the outcome of the vote, hoping that the “pristine 300-year-old home can still be preserved and saved from demolition.”
“The village board has always based their decisions on what they felt was in the best interest for the whole village and its residents, and will continue to do so,” Donno continued. “This vote does not end our pursuit of finding adequate space within the Village and moving our village hall back to Plandome Manor where it belongs. We will continue to discuss and evaluate all other possible options.”
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 Trulia.com, 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 previously 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 was “railroading” the process through the proposition. Despite residents’ claims, officials said the project would have been beneficial for the entire village and that the Village Hall upgrade is much needed.
Meriggi and fellow Plandome Manor resident Kate Dunn previously submitted a letter outlining the concerns they, and other residents had surrounding traffic concerns. The two 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.
Robert Eschbacher, the 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.