In response to fervent condemnation by some residents, the Quogue Village Board has dropped its effort to sell a Dune Road property—bayside land donated to the municipality for preservation purposes nearly 15 years earlier—to a pair of families for $250,000, so they could construct a walkway and dock on it.
“Obviously, we’ve read the comments,” Mayor Peter Sartorius said at the board’s monthly meeting on Friday afternoon. “Some of the comments I agree with, some of them I don’t, but I will certainly admit that I misapprehended what the public opinion would be in this matter. So we’ve determined we’re not going to go forward with this sale.”
The board’s decision satisfies the desires expressed by vocal village residents who expressed concern about the sale both publicly at last month’s meeting and in letters submitted to the board, as well as privately in conversations between Mr. Sartorius and other board members.
Two couples with homes on the ocean side of Dune Road—Robert and Micki Friedman, and Ray and Natharon Goodman—were trying to purchase the land with the intention of building a dock to service two 30-foot boats, as well as a walkway leading to the dock. Mr. Friedman initiated the sales talks in 2010.
The 1.3-acre lot at 155 Dune Road was donated to the village in 2000 by John J. and George B. Post and is primarily covered by wetlands. Before Mr. Sartorius said the village would no longer try to sell the land, Mr. Post’s daughter, Mary Post of Westhampton, voiced her concerns with the proposed sale that was introduced during the board’s December meeting.
“To turn around and sell it after it was donated in the hopes that it would stay green space is, I think, kind of a crime, to be honest,” Ms. Post said. “I really don’t feel it should be given to [build] a dock.”
Ms. Post said her father, who now lives out of state, had tried to build a house on the land but was told by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation that he could not do so because of the environmental sensitivity of the land. Because it was their understanding that nothing could be built on the property, she said her father did not believe it was necessary to place any covenants on the land when he donated it to the village.
Ms. Post added that she was not aware of the village’s intention to sell the land until after last month’s hearing, noting that she “couldn’t believe” the news. Now that the property is safe, at least for the time being, Ms. Post said she feels relieved.
“I’m thrilled,” she said.
Last year the property was assessed at just over $3 million, according to online town records, but was exempt from paying taxes to the tune of $9,259 because it is owned by the village. The $250,000 sale price is based on an appraisal done by the Southampton-based Hampton Appraisal Service Corporation, which took into consideration covenants that would be placed on the property prior to the proposed sale that would limit future development to only the dock and walkway. Mr. Friedman picked up the tab on the $2,750 appraisal.
Mr. Sartorius said the $250,000 would have gone toward future, unspecified public works projects and would have help offset the limitations of the state-imposed tax cap that prevents villages from increasing their tax levies by more than 2 percent each year. On Friday, the board also unanimously passed a resolution that would allow the village to pierce the cap in its upcoming budget, if necessary. This marks the third consecutive year that the board has passed such a resolution, and last year it pierced the cap by adopting a $7.7 million budget for 2013-14.
Prior to the board voting to reject the land sale, some residents questioned why such a wealthy village would resort to selling a valuable and vulnerable piece of property at such a low price, or without opening up a public bidding process. Others, like Quogue resident and Board of Education member Joyce Flynn, maintained that the village should not be in the business of selling waterfront land at all.
“We’re just so focused on water quality now, as everybody knows,” Ms. Flynn told the board on Friday. “To do this in the face of all the information that we’re getting about our waterways, I just think it would be foolish on your part.
“I also appreciate the fact that you want to save us money and get us money so we keep our tax below the cap,” she continued, “but it’s only money in this particular case, so I hope you don’t decide in [the prospective buyers’] favor.”
Friday’s decision ends a nearly four-year quest by Mr. Friedman, who has owned oceanfront property in Quogue since 2005, to acquire village land to build a dock on the Quogue Canal. During that time he tried getting access to two separate properties and with the help of two different families—first the Doctoroff family, then the Goodmans.
In 2010, he drafted legal documents for the Posts to sign that would give their consent to a dock and walkway being constructed. The documents are still on file with the village, but they were never signed.
Mr. Friedman, a real estate attorney with Manhattan-based York Resources LLC, is out of the country, according to his secretary, and is due back next week. Neither he nor the Goodmans attended any of the public hearings about the proposed sale.