Eminent Domain Surprise? You bet. We’ve got the story here: two sisters, Fran Gandarillas and Angela Camarda, have a property in Islandia, Long Island, that is up to date on its taxes and is under contract to be sold. So you can imagine their surprise when a Newsday reporter called them asking them about the Islandia village’s plans to take the property by eminent domain to build a new public works and truck yard facility.
“We know nothing further unfortunately,” Gandarillas, told the Newsday reporter. “We thought it was some kind of prank.” They questioned how the village could take their property, citing that it is up to date on taxes and is under contract to be sold.
They found out about the plan a day before a public hearing was initially scheduled. According to Islandia Village officials, they are proposing to seize the 1.7-acre residential property on Old Nichols Road by eminent domain.
When asked by the reporter, officials did not immediately say how they sought to notify the property owners. Officials said they commenced eminent domain proceedings against a nearby property two years ago and stopped the effort because of an unrelated issue of illegal action, which they did not immediately specify.
The village has outgrown its current public works yard behind village hall, and officials have been looking for a property to store equipment for several years, Village Attorney Joseph W. Prokop said, noting a preference for a location on the north side of the Long Island Expressway. Prokop gave a pretty standard answer when asked about the proceedings, “This would allow the village to better service roadways and provide other services in this part of the village.”
According to the reports, municipalities have to notify property owners within 10 to 30 days of a public hearing either in person or by certified mail, but an “inadvertent failure to notify” them may not affect the validity of municipalities’ claim on the property, according to state law.
The sisters’ property has been used until now as a day care center called “The Nursery School, Too,” according to state records. The property is in a residential area that is surrounded by homes. There is also a nonprofit equestrian center serving people with special needs.
If the Islandia Village were to successfully take the property, they would have to pay fair market value. According to records attained by the Islip Town Assessor’s office, that would be approximately $745,000.
Village spokesman Hank Russell said a public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 7, despite a public notice listing it for July 31 — a discrepancy he attributed to an error. The hearing will be at 6 p.m. at village hall.