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Northport planners approve construction on slope

The Northport Planning Board has approved an application to allow a home to be built on a steep slope on Woodhull Place -- a plan several village residents have opposed for years.

The planning board OKd village resident Douglas Baumgarth's application with conditions last month, two years after he submitted his proposal. The board's approval allows Baumgarth to apply for a building permit.

Christopher Modelewski of Huntington, Baumgarth's attorney and the Huntington Town Zoning Board of Appeals chairman, said that in his nearly 25 years as municipal lawyer, "I have never seen a single residential project that has undergone this level of scrutiny prior to approval."

Modelewski said he does not expect anyone to question the planning board's close review work.

Baumgarth purchased 87 Woodhull Pl. in 2011 and originally proposed a larger home and a pool, but later submitted plans for a smaller home and no pool, village officials said. The house, deck and patio will take up about 5,000 of the property's 73,390 square feet, according to village documents and Modelewski.

Several residents, many of them neighbors of the property, voiced concerns about the proposed development at Tuesday's village board meeting. Some questioned the planning board's July decision, and others worried about potential harm to their homes, because of the sloped property being built upon.

"This is a disaster waiting to happen," said resident Larry Spirn, who said he lives directly below the property. "There's a reason that property hasn't been developed."

"I don't want to go to sleep one night and wonder whether or not this experiment in engineering advancements is going to wind up taking my house," Spirn said.

Village officials said other homes in Northport are built on similar slopes and that Baumgarth's plan includes features, such as retaining walls, to ensure that a home can be safely built on the lot.

Village planning board attorney Edward Gathman said the lot was created by a subdivision in 1993. Another man tried to develop the property, but his building permit expired.

Village board officials agreed Tuesday night to hold a public session about the proposed development, where residents can ask questions and voice other concerns. Details, such as when the meeting would be held and who would be there, have not been decided.

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