The Nassau County proposal for the use of Chelsea, Nassau Hall and the Jericho barn is very interesting. The best thing about the proposal is that it will be overseen by the Village of Muttontown.
That might not be what the village officials wanted to hear - it will mean a great deal of additional work for them. What we like is that there is a process that will see to it that the work will be done correctly.
That has been the problem with the Town of Oyster Bay. We have seen projects go through with a nod from the board without the proper environmental controls. The town asphalted over the parking lot at Centre Island beach which resulted in runoff going directly into the West Harbor area instead of it percolating down in the ground. When the town erected the Quonset hut on Beekman Beach as a matter of right, that too created problems in the community. Had there been a public hearing about the request of the Sagamore Rowing Association to build a boat house on the western end of Beekman Beach at their own expense, we might have had a great private/public solution to the proposal. The town also created the small parking lot at the end of Park Avenue and Berry Hill Road without the proper drainage.
So, while the Village of Muttontown will have a great deal of work to do, it will give the public a chance to participate in the process and we think whatever the outcome, it will be better for that.
We've watched the wheels of democracy turn, and they often turn very slowly. Muttontown was involved for a long time in the process of creating the St. Dominic Sports Fields.
Muttontown Mayor Richard Murcott said the cost of the process was not covered by the fees they are allowed to charge. He said, "It is a big burden on a small village." He explained there was a cost to the village because the state limits the amount of money a municipality can charge for an application to a zoning board. The state doesn't want the municipality to charge so much as to limit development.
The biggest expense is in legal fees, and there is a maximum charge to applicants. "No matter what it costs us, we can't charge the applicant the full amount. In the St. Dominic Fields application there were so many meetings it cost the village a great deal of money. But I say, 'You can't get a nickel out of every rock.' And, St. Dominic's is trying very hard to educate the kids and they feel it will be very beneficial, and, they said community kids can use it. It will be a facility that will be available to other groups. I've been through the complex and they have done a great job. The only concern is that in the future they will have the economic ability to pay for the expenses of upkeeping that facility. That does concern me. Last year they lost $1.1 million in revenue. That is a real loss. The question is can they keep it up or will they say we have to make money and have to sell memberships or rent out the facility for weddings. That concerns me and it puts the village in a bad position. If they have a wedding for 500 guests and we say no, we look like an ogre, the villain, and that concerns me greatly."
The mayor was also concerned with the Nassau County proposal for the Equestrian Center. A lot of things have to fall in place, he said. "It needs someone with a lot of money to build the barn, about $3 million. So far their idea is only for a 15-year contract. That means the operator has a limited amount of time to recoup their money before the county will go out to bid again."
The mayor said there is a lot that has to be ironed out, but he was appreciative of the county efforts. "They are trying very hard to make some money for the county. We have to deal with the county since there is an agreement with them to have an Equestrian Center. Still, the county charter says the village has to agree with their plans, and they want some revenue from these parks."
So we think there is a long process that is beginning. It will be very interesting to see how it turns out. If this is any indication of what should happen, we already have a friend who wants to stay at the bed & breakfast at Chelsea.
On the other hand, we heard a negative about the Equestrian Center expanding into the Muttontown Preserve. The comment was "It's supposed to be a preserve for open space." So there will be some controversy to look forward to, and so, the democratic process begins.