Most of the 100 Glen Cove residents who turned out at a hearing on the historic Pratt mansion property objected to the owner subdividing it and building 46 clustered houses.
But some attendees last week supported the plan as the best way to preserve the Gold Coast house and open space, and no one advocated letting the former home of John and Ruth Pratt be demolished or having the entire property covered with single-family homes.
The City Council and Planning Board took no action after a joint 3 1/2-hour hearing on the owner of Glen Cove Mansion Hotel and Conference Center's applications to subdivide the 54.5 acres to construct homes on 17.5 acres on the northeast corner.
Neighbor Joe Jaworski was applauded when he called the project "a monstrosity" that would create traffic problems.
But Michael Stanco called the proposal a "reasonable compromise. I'm in favor of preservation of the mansion. The alternative is worse than this," he said of razing the house and developing houses on the entire property.
Property owner Montclair Hotels has not threatened demolition, but has said it needs to take advantage of the property's full value to keep the mansion viable.
But the specter of losing the 1910 Georgian Revival structure hung over the hearing on the first application filed since the council approved the estate preservation zoning two years ago. The council approved the zoning in response to losing the J.P. Morgan Jr. mansion in 1980 and later threats to other mansions.
The attorney for the applicant, Kathleen Deegan Dickson, said the 17.5 acres and two outbuildings on the site that would be demolished have "no aesthetic value or historical significance." Under the current 1-acre zoning, the owner could demolish the mansion and build probably 49 houses, she said.
Expert witnesses for the owner said traffic from the North Manor Estates development would not delay neighboring residents getting into or out of their streets.
They added that only eight to 15 schoolchildren would be expected to live in the new houses. Dickson said a bike path and walking trail would be created along Dosoris Lane and be open to the public.
Dickson said in more than a year of meetings with community groups, the owner agreed to requests to reduce the number of units from 50 to 46 and moved the location of one of the two entrances on Lattingtown Road.
But some residents said the project would be too dense with 46 homes. Others argued that placing two entrances on Lattingtown Road would cause accidents and suggested a third entrance on Old Tappan Road.
Dickson said if the project went forward and the hotel and conference center ever went out of business, the estate's Great Lawn would be deeded to the city as parkland.