Bruce Bent is not the only one that has tried to develop 1029 Plandome Rd. Tim O’Sullivan, a developer who owns O’Sullivan Developers, used to be a tenant of 1029 Plandome Rd. and lived there with his family between 2015-16.
As part of the lease agreement O’Sullivan had with the owner, James S. Thompson III, he had an option to buy the property. He submitted an application to subdivide the property, one very similar to Bent’s application, hoping to get approval from the Plandome Planning Board by the time his option to buy the property deadline came up. After two years and only two planning board meetings since submitting the application, O’Sullivan decided to pull the plug on the project.
“The village, they slow walked it,” O’Sullivan said. “When my option was nearing an end, I didn’t have a strong indication of which way it was going and I had a real estate opportunity that came up that made more sense for me at the time. I’m currently building 45 houses in Whitestone; that came up and I just decided to go with that opportunity.”
O’Sullivan was planning to live on the property, build a new house that would face Manhasset Bay, but similar push back came from residents of Willets Lane. He believes the village slow-walked his application to appease those on Willets Lane.
“They were trying to slow it down,” O’Sullivan said. “After we would submit something, there would be questions and more questions and more studies and more this and more that. It was just clear that they were trying to run out the clock. As a developer, at a certain point, time is money, you have to make a decision on whether it makes sense to continue.”
After O’Sullivan withdrew the application and decided not to exercise his option, Bent bought the property from Thompson for $9.4 million on March 14, 2016. Bent allowed O’Sullivan to stay as a tenant until his kids finished school that year.
Bent immediately started working on the landscape of the property, putting in 150 Norway spruce trees along the perimeter and 30 crepe myrtles. He also has a tri-color beech tree on the property that he covets so much he put a fence around it to make sure workers would not intrude on it. He plans to add more spruce trees to the perimeter, which would close the current gaps and has also re-sodded parts of the land.
“It was an overgrown mess when I bought it,” Bent said. “It had never been maintained, it was awful. The stone wall along Plandome Road was falling down, the trees were falling down one on top of another. It was a terrible eyesore. I cleaned up all the junk. I have proceeded to plant approximately 150 trees on the property. Rebuilt the stone wall, which is not on my property; it belongs to the Village of Plandome, but I nevertheless thought it would look better for me and everybody if I rebuilt it.”
Some of those Norway spruce trees went into Frank Lupino’s backyard on 7 Willets Lane after Bent asked to plant them on the edge of his backyard that faces 1029 Plandome Rd. Lupino agreed to the spruce trees, but he vehemently disagrees with the subdivision that Bent is proposing.
“As I have stated in the past, we are not opposed to development,” Lupino said at the Planning Board meeting in August. “We are opposed to development that infringes on the right of others. As proposed, the development would devalue our home and affect our quality of life.”
When asked why he wants to subdivide the property, Bent responded, “Because that’s a proven thing to do with managing your assets. Whether I subdivided or not is my option, what I want do is get the permitting done on it, which should be a matter of just due course. I don’t need any variances. And then when I die—and I will die—my kids can just say, ‘Okay fine, we’ll turn around and develop it or turn around and sell it to a developer,’ or something like that. Which to me, is one of the foolish things of the residents who have reservations.”
Family is important to Bent, he initially wanted his kids to live next door to him on the property after getting approval for the subdivision. He has three grandkids and he says he wants more, but loves to be around them. However, they live in New York City and it seems unlikely that they will make the move.
“He was going to build his house, which is fine,” said Josephine Braca, a resident of Willets Lane. “That’s great, and then a house for his son and possibly another house. He was going to have the maximum of three houses. Which we thought was fine. Now it involves five houses. That’s a little different.”
Bent is not determined to develop the property immediately after getting approval. He is in his 80s and he may leave the decision to his kids on whether to subdivide it or not, but he wants them to have the option.
“It would not happen right away and it may not happen ever, it depends,” Bent said. “A comment my wife made the other night after the meeting at the village hall, ‘These people are not nice, they’re not honest and they don’t like us and I don’t want to live where someone doesn’t like me when they don’t even know me.’ That’s not very nice vibes to send out.”