To be honest, some of us thought that the only hardware stores in town were Home Depot and Lowes, maybe a True Value here and there. As it turns out, when you get to Suffolk County on Long Island, Brinkmann's Hardware, which has locations in Sayville, Blue Point, Holbrook and Miller Place, as well as a paint store in Jamesport is seeking to open another location 12500 Main Road in Mattituck, New York.
Here lies the New York eminent domain story for our weekly blog post.
The parcel of land where Brinkmann's Hardware, Mattituck location is set to be has the community divided and the possibility of Southold Town seizing the land through eminent domain. The Brickman family wants their hardware store built, while some community members and town officials would like to use the land for a public park.
Supreme Court Justice Hon. William Ford ruled in favor of the Brinkmann family when he denied Southold Town's request for dismissal of the Brinkmann’s lawsuit. The family claims that they have seen their efforts thwarted by a moratorium imposed by Southold Town. The Town recently noticed a hearing for the extension of the moratorium for a third time.
Litigation was started by Brinkmann Hardware Corp., which filed an Article 78 against Southold Town over a moratorium enacted in February of 2019. The suit maintains that while the town said the moratorium was enacted to temporarily put a halt on the issuance of approvals and permits on Main Rd. in Mattituck (while an expanded corridor study, weighing traffic impacts and other concerns, was underway). The Brinkmanns allege that the true purpose of the moratorium was to prevent them from building another hardware store. The suit asked the court to declare the moratorium, a local law, "unconstitutional, null and void."
Members of the Brinkmann family accused Supervisor Russell of blocking the project due to personal reasons. They say that if the true motive was a public park, the town would buy the parcel directly adjacent to the property in question, which is currently for sale. In addition, they are also claiming that defending the moratorium would cost taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars. A new suit to fight eminent domain proceedings would be even more expensive.
As part of the new store’s development, the Brinkmann family said that they hired a local architect and reached out to the community to work together and be open about plans. The family has said publicly that they believe that Russell has personal reasons for stopping the project. Russell has claimed that he does not know the Brinkmanns, and that he had never heard of them or their hardware store.
Assistant Town Planning Director Mark Terry gave a timeline and said hamlet studies and the town's comprehensive plan urge that the property be used as a green space. Dr. Anne Smith, current president of the Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association, said the group supported the idea of keeping the parcel, "the last green corner," as parkland for the benefit of the community and visitors, while not supporting the seizure of the land by eminent domain.
The location seems to be an interesting spot for a public space. Mark Haubner, vice president of the North Fork Environmental Council said a traffic study in the town's newly completed comprehensive plan, listed the intersection of New Suffolk Avenue and Main Road as one of the "top 5 most dangerous intersections" in town.
In a public meeting, it was explained that the hamlet business zoned parcel, 1.775 acres, would feature two buildings that total 20,000 square feet, 80 parking spots, meet green space and Suffolk County Health Department requirements, and is sited to maximize solar gain. The building is being planned as a 12,000 square foot hardware store, with the 8,000 square foot building on the right including 3,000 square feet in the front for paint and 5,000 square feet in the rear for storage. There was an uproar from the community when a traffic light was discussed. The new store would add 25 local jobs.
Of course, we will keep you posted on the developments of this eminent domain case. Never a dull moment!
This summer, most people’s vacation plans have been cancelled or changed to options that are closer to home. For those of us in the Northeast, Martha’s Vineyard is a quaint place to relax for a few days. This post is like a mini vacation, focusing on a weekend getaway location instead of our hometown of New York.
Our eminent domain post takes place in the picturesque village of Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. As with most eminent domain cases, this one involves many years, neglect, a lengthy legal process, a public bid, and a successful renovation. Well, some say it’s successful because a derelict building is gone, but others feel it should have maintained more of its historical character. But we will leave that for another day.
The Hall family owns several properties on Matha’s Vineyard; and the subject property that was acquired by eminent domain was previously owned by them. Known as the “Yellow House” the downtown Edgartown building was the result of a unique public-private partnership. This was part of a project to help revive the historic area. It’s a prime piece of real estate that sat in disrepair for years.
In April 2017, town voters approved the acquisition of the building by eminent domain at a town meeting and town election. The voters authorized the board of selectmen to use $1.5 million in community preservation funds and $1.5 million in town taxes to take the building. In June 2017, Edgartown selectmen signed off on final approval of taking the building.
The town then began the process of putting the renovation of the building out to bid. Not surprisingly, issues arose during the first round of bidding over protecting a large linden tree on the property. Christopher Celeste, operating as Summer & Main LLC of Edgartown, stepped in and put in a bid and secured a 30-year lease with the town to renovate and operate the building, with a commitment that upon renovation the space would be suitable for retail use.
The plan is to create street-level retail, several year-round residential apartments on the second floor, a new plaza, a one-story addition for the retail shop, exterior landscape improvements, and improvements to the parking lot.
Celeste, the new lessee, said his intentions were to do something positive and that the restoration “is not a profit-making exercise.” His stated goal is “the creation of an asset that has long-term value for the town and a show of what can be done.”
Renovating the building has had its difficulties. Celeste said he and others involved in the project have faced legal challenges from Ben Hall Jr., an attorney who is a member of the Hall family. As an FYI, if you look in the comments section of the news reports, you will see that the family is known for several properties in disrepair and endless legal battles.
“I just frankly decided I wasn’t going to let someone’s litigious streak prevent us from doing the right thing,” Celeste said. “People kept putting their neck out to do the right thing, this is a great example — if people are willing to put their self-interest aside — what can be done.”
We’re taking a look at eminent domain issues that are close to home this week. On Long Island, New York, the Massapequa Water District is proposing to carve off a $21.6 million section which could result in a pubic takeover of parts of New York American Water’s Nassau County property. The State Senate is passing a bill proposing a new water authority.
The district has said that it is prepared to negotiate “immediately” over a purchase of the East Massapequa portion of the system which will “begin operation by January 1, 2021.” It will include a savings for customers derived from a lack of profit incentive and no tax payments. If the negotiations fail, guess what will happen next - you got it -- the district said that it would use its eminent domain authority to take over the system if the negotiations fail.
The Massapequa Water District valued the portion of the New York American Water’s East Massapequa district with approximately 5,359 customers and infrastructure of $21.6 million. This also includes three wells and one storage tank.
Like the old Ronco ads used to say...but wait! There’s more! New York American Water has already secured an agreement to be sold to Liberty Utilities of Canada for $607 million. The deal has been scheduled to close between July and December. The Public Service commission is trying to stop the deal by requesting bids from public authorities or water districts to acquire all or part of the 120,000-customer system in Nassau county by August 3. The PSC has extended the period for proposals through mid-October.
The State Senate passed legislation that would provide a framework to establish the North Shore Water Authority, part of a plan that would allow approximately 4,500 Sea Cliff customers of New York American Water to municipalize if a feasibility study finds it’s economical. A citizens group in that district call the North Shore Concerned Citizens, has proposed joining the territory with the Jericho Water district. A watchdog group said that these moves are a positive step away from private ownership of the water system.
State Senator Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) said that New York American Water, “for years has overcharged ratepayers and profited off the backs of Long Islanders.”
Companion legislation would have to pass in the Assembly and then be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The district covers ratepayers in Sea Cliff, Old Brookville, Roslyn Harbor, Glenwood Landing, Glen Head, and Glen Cove.
The Town of Hempstead, whose previous studies found the prospect of a water takeover to not be feasible, recently announced a new procurement for “valuation services and a feasibility study” related to “potential acquisition” of New York American Water assets within the town.
In 2018, the Massapequa Water District inquired about a takeover. Consultants had assured the district that acquiring the customer base and adding customers to its own billing and mapping system “would not be an overly difficult undertaking.”
It’s never difficult... until it is. Let’s see how this one unfolds!