Manorhaven Village board seeks planning board powers

A Google street view image of the Manorhaven A Google street view image of the Manorhaven Village Hall. Photo Credit: Google

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Manorhaven Village officials are debating who should have the final say on what gets built: an elected board or an appointed one.

A pair of laws proposed by the elected village board would take the power to rule on development applications away from the village's appointed planning board.

The proposal comes as the panels clash over competing visions for the waterfront of the community tucked within the hamlet of Port Washington on Manhasset Bay.

Residents and planning board members criticized the move at a public hearing Thursday night. The village board agreed to continue the hearing at a later date.

Planning board chairman Gary Pagano said trustees ruling on development applications from potential voters or political donors "gives the appearance of impropriety."

"There's a reason why planning and zoning boards are appointed members rather than elected officials," he said.

But village board members said they would refer many applications to the planning board and would still rely on its advice.

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Deputy Mayor Lucretia Steele said consolidating power with the village board would make things "easier and more cost-effective."

The five-member village board currently rules only on applications that propose nonresidential or multifamily projects on sites of a half-acre or more. All other proposals fall under the planning board's authority.

Under the proposed laws, the village board could designate the planning board to rule on an application, but in all other cases, the village board would vote and the planning board would be reduced to an advisory role.

The village went without a planning board for 10 years or more before appointing five members to the panel last summer.

But since then, the boards have clashed over what types of construction should be allowed on the waterfront, Pagano said.

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The village board is considering allowing senior housing for residents 55 and older, including dining facilities and first-aid treatment centers, on some waterfront properties.

Pagano, however, said the waterfront "should be for the public to enjoy, and all uses on the water should be water-dependent and water-related, period."

More than 100 people packed into a senior center in the village to weigh in on the measure Thursday night.

Bob O'Brien, 73, said he was concerned about how the proposal would affect public access to the waterfront. "I want my village the way it is," he said. "I want to be able to enjoy it."

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