A lawsuit has been filed in Nassau County Supreme Court asking for a nullification of a decision made by the Village of Plandome Manor’s Board of Zoning Appeals on July 20 to approve site fill exceeding the village code at a home on 1362 Plandome Road.
The lawsuit names Great Neck property owner and New York Islanders center Bowie Horvat, his wife Holly, and the Village of Plandome Manor as defendants.
Eastern LLC, a limited liability company that owns property at 1 Stonytown Road, filed the suit and is represented by the law firm Rivkin Radler.
The lawsuit centers around a decision made by the BZA, which approved the deposit of 350 cubic yards of fill adjacent to and uphill from Leeds Pond in Great Neck. This amount of fill exceeds the maximum limit of 50 cubic yards that the Village of Plandome Manor’s Building Department is authorized to allow, according to village code.
“Instead of considering the environmental harm that would be caused by
granting the Application, and without doing any environmental review under New York State Environmental Review Act (“SEQRA”) the BZA stated that it would not consider any testimony about the environmental impact on Leeds Pound caused by the fill,” the suit states. “Instead, the BZA incorrectly asserted that only the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) could consider the environmental impacts of granting the application.”
The suit also said the BZA also violated “a number of procedural requirements, including utilizing absolutely no criteria to determine whether the application should be granted” and by going into Executive Session “without any explanation immediately prior to the vote to
grant the application, by refusing to allow the introduction of evidence showing runoff from the fill to Leeds Pond that occurred after the initial public hearing, and by refusing to allow a neighboring property owner to testify as to the runoff onto his property caused by the fill.”
Efforts to reach The Village of Plandome Manor were unavailing.
While the Horvats are mentioned in the filing, they have not been present at the BZA meetings and had the case for more site fill argued for them during the meetings.
The petition filed by Eastern LLC seeks to nullify the BZA’s decision and argues that the excessive fill poses environmental risks, including the discharge of nitrogen, into Leeds Pond.
Leeds Pond, part of Nassau County’s 35-acre Leeds Pond Preserve, overlooks Manhasset Bay and covers approximately 21.4 acres with a tributary watershed area of around 2.3 acres.
Village code 115-3 states that “no work shall be performed or commenced for the filling, excavating or grading of land within the Village, except preliminary surveying and engineering, unless a fill, excavation and grading permit therefore has been issued by the Village Building Inspector.”
It also says “the placement of not more than 50 cubic yards of fill material that, when placed, will not exceed the contour changes stated in subsection C(2) above nor adversely impact trees having a trunk circumference greater than 10 inches, measured at a point of four-feet-six-inches above ground level.”
According to the lawsuit application, qualified experts have raised concerns about the potential harm to Leeds Pond caused by the substantial fill. The lawsuit alleges that the BZA failed to consider its statutory obligation to assess the environmental impact of the application, despite New York State’s Village Law mandating such consideration.
“The dry wells do not meet DEC standards,” said Frank Piccininni, an environmental professional with 20 years of experience. “More importantly, the submerged dry wells clearly will not function as intended. The applicant and owners should remove the dry wells and all landfill from the property restoring the original pre-construction natural contours and topography.”
Furthermore, the lawsuit contends that the BZA wrongly categorized the application as a Type II action under the State Environmental Quality Review Act when it does not meet the criteria for such classification.
The BZA has previously asserted that only the state Department of Environmental Conservation has the authority to assess the environmental impacts of granting the application.
The lawsuit application includes exhibits featuring saturated dry wells, laboratory testing of dry well water and the surrounding soil, rainfall totals and drainage of silt, groundwater table water level charts and a presentation by Christopher J. Gobler.
Gobler holds the title of chair of Coastal Ecology and Conservation, director of New York State Center for Clean Water Technology, and is a professor at Stony Brook University in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.
Gobler’s presentation titled “Leeds Pond, Ecosystem at a tipping point” shows Leeds Pond on a map that’s bred Diarrhetic Shellfish Poisoning and can cause fish kill events. It also charts how more nitrogen in the water makes harmful algae grow faster and/or more toxic, which can be poisonous to animals.
Gobler writes that “500 cubic yards of soil contains thousands of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus” that “when washing into Leeds Pond, this will stimulate the growth of algae and harmful algal blooms.”
A notice of violation was issued by the DEC in April 2023.
The notice cited excessive fill, clear-cutting, and violations of Article 24 of the Freshwater Wetlands Act. At a June 2023 Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, experts representing Save Leeds Pond presented evidence suggesting flaws in the developer’s drainage plan, indicating potential harm to Leeds Pond.