Plandome Heights residents seek relief from planning board on backyard erosion issues

Plandome Heights residents seek relief from planning board on backyard erosion issues
Village of Plandome Heights Mayor Kenneth Riscica points to Summit Drive property site plans as the board mulls over a resident's erosion issue on their property. (Photo by Karina Kovac)

Summit Drive residents in Plandome Heights may get relief soon from erosion on their property.

Christopher and Lisa O’Conner went before the Village of Plandome Heights planning board on Tuesday, seeking to nullify the non-disturbance line on part of their property, established in 2018 during the planning of a subdivision to demarcate the transition from flat terrain to a steep slope.

Over the years, this slope, along with construction activities behind their property on Bay Driveway, has contributed to erosion, loss of trees, and the formation of mud patches, the O’Conners told the board.

Village of Plandome Heights Mayor Kenneth Riscica said at the meeting that it has been five years since the village’s planning board last addressed an issue within the community.

As the village lacks a dedicated board, the village board of trustees now temporarily assumes these responsibilities.

Several board members have personally visited the affected property, particularly during rainy conditions, to witness the severe impact of runoff on the land, the mayor said.

In 2018, the approval of a subdivision introduced a stipulation that a portion of the property should remain undisturbed by the non-disturbance line.

The O’Conners are now seeking permission to forgo the line and install new drainage facilities and retaining walls to combat the persistent runoff and erosion issues.

The village board will vote on a resolution on the issue at the next board meeting on Nov. 6.

Michael Rant, president of civil engineering at Northcoast Civil, gave an overview of the O’Conner’s backyard to the board.

“It wasn’t discovered until recently after the O’Connor’s had purchased the property that the improvements that were constructed by the developer all encroached into that nondisturbance area. So there’s a small portion of the house that actually encroaches this small corner,” Rant said pointing to the site plans.

“So during the development of the lot in the construction of the home, it had been previously disturbed,” he said. “The land had been regraded, structures have been built in this area, and in its current state is the way that the O’Connors had purchased the property and they were not aware of this easement.”

Christopher O’Conner expressed concern over the effects of the erosion.

“The trees are buried, and they’ve been buried for at least two, maybe three months alive. So those trees are at risk of dying,” O’Conner said.

Former Planning Board Chairman James Madison, who presided over the approval of the 2018 plans that created the non-disturbance line, shared his insights on the matter.

“We didn’t want the developer to cause or create an issue with runoff down below,” Madison said, “So we’ve put that demarcation line, if you will, and there were a lot of trees on that property just to keep vegetation on there to alleviate any water running down. And it was one of the major concerns was during construction, we didn’t think it was going to be a big problem after construction, but it was during construction. And I never heard any complaints.”

“Obviously, with the changes that have happened over time, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to remove that condition,” he told the board.

“The area in that nondisturbance has already been disturbed,” Rant said, “So I don’t think we’re creating any additional disturbance by implementing the plan.”

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, a neighbor engaged in construction work adjacent to the O’Conners’ property who was said to be contributing to the runoff on the neighboring property explained she started construction work due to water flowing down the property, damaging the retaining wall.

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