Quogue Residents Speak Out Against Village Land Sale; Trustees Table Resolution

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In the face of vigorous opposition, the Quogue Village Board on Friday tabled a resolution that would have allowed the village to sell a piece of waterfront property on Dune Road to a pair of local families for $250,000.

Six village residents spoke out against the sale during the meeting, while several others submitted letters and reached out to village officials directly during the past month, all expressing concerns about the village’s intentions to sell the piece of canal-side wetlands to two families who live on the oceanfront side of Dune Road. The two families, headed by Robert and Micki Friedman, and Ray and Natharon Goodman, respectively, hope to build a dock and a walkway to it on the property.

The group of villagers who addressed the board, which included Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, raised questions about the precedent that a sale of this nature would set. Some, like Marietta Seaman, a former Southampton Town councilwoman and town clerk, said the village simply wouldn’t get enough in return for the valuable property.

Neither the Goodmans nor the Friedmans were in attendance on Friday.

“The people up here are just trying to do what they believe is in the best interest of the village,” Mayor Peter Sartorius said during the meeting, referring to his fellow board members. “We make judgments, but nobody up here thinks that we have a monopoly on judgment in the village, and if you think we’re wrong, just let us know directly.”

Meeting attendees proceeded to do just that.

The board first introduced the resolution to sell the property at 155 Dune Road for $250,000 during its December meeting. Despite Mr. Sartorius’s stance that a public hearing was not necessary to approve the sale, the board approved a motion put forth by Trustee Randy Cardo to table it for a month to allow for comments from the community.

Mr. McAllister said despite the board’s intention to limit development on the parcel to a low, unlit catwalk and a two-boat dock, it has no way of guaranteeing what the owners will seek to do with the property in years to come, or how future governing bodies will enforce the stipulations attached to the land during this transaction. The best way to prevent construction on the property, he argued, is for the village to retain ownership.

The 1.3-acre property is zoned residential, though the board has stated that it would place covenants on it prohibiting any development other than the addition of the boardwalk and floating dock.

“They can’t control the applications and permits that these owners go after when things change,” Mr. McAllister said. “And they’re changing rapidly.”

Ms. Seaman argued that the land would be worth far more to the Friedmans and Goodmans than the $250,000 the village would receive in the deal. She also noted that the village would receive little in the way of new tax revenues if the property is sold and put back on the tall rolls.

“What is the village gaining? What are the village residents gaining by this?” Ms. Seaman asked of the board. “They’re gaining $250,000. This is a very wealthy village—that’s not a great sum of money. It is a quarter of a million dollars, but, again, it’s not a great sum of money.”

Quogue resident Robert Kennedy said he’s not opposed to the sale as long as the asking price is fair, projecting that allowing these oceanfront homeowners to acquire canal-side land for their estates would increase the value of their properties by significantly more than $125,000 each.

Mr. Kennedy suggested having local real estate brokers calculate how much the addition of the canal-side land would increase each property respectively, then charge them the combined total.

“I think, in my humble opinion, that it would be more than $125,000 [each],” he said. “There aren’t too many parcels on the East End of Long Island that have ocean to bay [property]. Now, I don’t know what the difference is, but I think it would be more than $125,000, and this is what they’re getting.

“They’re getting a pretty good deal here,” Mr. Kennedy added.

The village based its asking price on an independent appraisal conducted by Southampton-based Hampton Appraisal Service Corporation, which took into consideration recent comparable sales, as well as the physical and legal limitations of the land, according to documentation.

Mr. Kennedy inquired if the Post family, who donated the land to the village in 2000, had any specific desires for its utilization. Mr. Sartorius’s response: “I think we know that the Posts know how to impose restrictions when the Posts want to impose restrictions. They’ve done it, as they have every right to do and should do.”

Ms. Seaman, meanwhile, also questioned why the village needs the money and what it would be used for. Mr. Sartorius declined to offer a specific answer, other than to say it would go toward future capital works projects in the municipality.

The mayor argued that the tax cap restrictions put in place by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration in 2011 has weakened the village’s ability to raise funds for capital projects through taxes and, therefore, other means must be sought out for generating new revenue.

“We definitely have capital needs that will be fulfilled one way or another and, unfortunately, the tax cap legislation the governor imposes doesn’t,” Mr. Sartorius said. “It’s a very blunt instrument that doesn’t really take into account capital needs.

“I think there’s a benefit to the village,” he continued, referring to the proposed sale. “I take it that this is $250,000, not $2.5 million or something hugely, hugely beneficial.”

The issue is slated to be picked up again at the board’s next meeting set for Friday, February 21.

At the same meeting, board members introduced legislation that would allow them to pierce the tax cap, if necessary, while formulating their 2014-15 budget. The public hearing on the resolution will be held during next month’s meeting.

The board approved similar legislation the past two years, but only pierced the tax cap last year when adopting its $7.7 million budget for 2013-14. The mayor explained that the resolution before the board allows the board to pierce the cap if needed.

The board also scheduled the annual village election for Friday, June 20. In addition to Mr. Sartorius, Trustees Jeannette Obser and Kimberley Payne are up for reelection as their two-year terms will also expire on June 30.

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