In warm weather, you might not notice the water tower in the Beacon Hill section of Port Washington. But come autumn, when the lushness of the foliage clears, the tower, set back off of Longview Road is hard to miss.
Now residents in the area worry that the Port Washington Water District tower, erected in 1917, will be an eyesore in their otherwise picturesque neighborhood.
That’s because the , which maintains the tower, purchased 89 Longview Road on Tuesday; the property sits adjacent to the tower. Residents fear that the district, which hadn’t notified the community about the purchase, will tear down the existing home at 89 Longview, leaving the tower in full view. They worry too that the district will convert the property into a parking lot for its trucks, decimating surrounding property values, and perhaps posing a safety threat to their family neighborhood.
But that’s not the case, said water district officials, who met with Beacon Hill residents at district headquarters Tuesday to hear their concerns.
As David Brackett, the district's chairman explained, the agency always had ingress and egress onto the property. But the district hadn’t enjoyed a good relationship with the property’s previous owner, Robert Tarleton, now deceased.
“Rather than aggravate Bob, we talked to the Sands Point Water District to get access” to the tower, Brackett said, noting that the Sands Point district’s tower was adjacent. That worked well, up until recently, when Sands Point, which had erected a building and cellular antenna on its property, no longer wanted to grant the Port district access, for security reasons and concerns about having too many people on its land, Brackett said.
“We had to find another way to service our tank,” he noted.
Property in Port Washington – and in a high part of town, necessary in order to provide the proper water pressure – is hard to come by, not to mention costly.
In early December, however, Tarleton passed away, and the district purchased his home for $600,000. The district had scoped out other properties, including the aerodrome on West Shore Road, would have cost the district four times as much, and wasn't a feasible option given the parameters of the land.
As the new owner of 89 Longview, the district assured residents it would not convert the property into a parking lot. However, a worker would check the tower daily, parking off the street. What’s more, landscaping and screening would help to hide the tower. At some point in the future, the district would have to paint the tower, as a matter of maintenance.
Still, residents had hoped a developer would build a new beautiful home, boosting their property values. They worried now that the district might tear down the tower, and build another one, install big lights, and erode their quality life.
The district, however, said its plan was strictly to maintain the existing tower.
Residents wanted to know why, if the district had ingress and egress to the property, it couldn't simply park on the street, and save taxpayers $600,000. "We all have to park on the street at times," one resident pointed out.
Others asked why the district didn’t notify the community through local media or even in material sent with the water bill. And they asked about violating any building codes or zoning laws. The district noted that it had the same right to purchase property, just as any individual.
Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio, R-Port Washington, who attended the meeting, said she didn’t know that the district would get any different treatment from the town’s building department when it came to demolition permits, a notion residents questioned.
Speaking about landscaping for the property, Italo Vacchio, the district’s superintendent, said he would mail preliminary plans to the neighborhood, and ask for input.
But rather than simply develop a landscaping plan, residents had other ideas. They suggested subdividing the property, carving out what the district needs to maintain the tower, and then in a second phase, build a new home and sell it, putting the home back on the tax roll.
In considering residents' suggestions, the district aims to speak with its engineers to see how much land it would need. Next, they would notify Cindy Osman, Beacon Hill Residents Association president, who would notify residents.
"We will try to do better," Brackett said. "We've heard your concerns. We're not opposed to thinking outside the box."