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Munsey Park to hold its first planning board hearing in decades

The vacant lot at the southeast corner of

The vacant lot at the southeast corner of Manhasset Woods Road and Bellows Lane in Munsey Park is pictured Friday, April 25, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

Munsey Park has dusted off its planning board rule book -- unused for at least three decades -- to consider a proposal to subdivide vacant land and build two homes on the site.

The planning board has scheduled a second hearing on the proposal Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

The village planning board, which is also the board of trustees, only meets to hear applications for subdivisions, which it hasn't done in at least 30 years, village clerk-treasurer Barbara C. Miller said.

Manhasset-based developer DJD Residential NY LLC has applied to split a roughly half-acre property at Manhasset Woods Road and Bellows Lane into two nearly 11,000-square-foot plots. The developer is under contract to buy the land from the trustees of an estate.

Neighbors have opposed the subdivision through an online petition they say has gained about 300 signatures, and they crowded the first part of a Nov. 13 planning board meeting on the issue. They say the property is better suited for one house in the village of more than 800 homes, many valued at more than $1 million.

"It seemed unlikely two houses could be put there tastefully, and in keeping with the integrity of Munsey Park and the community," said Kelly Towers, 45, who lives behind the site with her family. "This would give this property smaller pieces of property, right on the corner of two roads. The way the houses would be situated, it seems it is ambitious to fit two in because it would look like they were jammed."

The debate over the site has so riled the community of 2,700 residents that after the November hearing, the estate trust filed a lawsuit against two of the neighboring families, citing an attempt "to interfere with the plaintiff's efforts to sell a subdivisible lot," court records show.

The families filed a counterclaim in State Supreme Court in Nassau County, asking for the suit's dismissal.

Judge Daniel Palmieri dismissed the case in March, ordering the estate trust to pay court and attorney fees, documents show, and fining an attorney for the trust, Edward J. Boyle, $10,000 for "frivolous conduct," documents show.

The 320-acre village has strict rules for residential development, discouraging neighboring homes with "excessive uniformity" and, alternatively, "dissimilarity."

But Michael Sahn, attorney for the developer, said the proposed homes would blend with the neighborhood's character.

"We're proposing two new homes that are the same, or totally consistent with the character of Munsey Park," Sahn said. "They'll look like they were part of the neighborhood from the beginning. We think they'll improve everybody's values."

Mitchell Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute, said the dispute mirrors the nature of Nassau County, where land is scarce and change is often resisted.

"It reflects the surrounding residents who believe two houses on one lot would reduce their property values, and on the other hand, the builder who needs to build more than one unit because of the price of land. You have often that battle between the two interests."

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