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Letter: What’s the August 20 Vote All About?

On August 20th the Town of Oyster Bay (the “Town”) is asking you to decide whether it should sell a 54-acre parcel currently used by the Department of Public Works (the “DPW Parcel”). The driving force behind the sale would be to decrease the Town’s debt in order to prevent a downgrade in the Town’s Bond rating.  

The influx of cash from the sale (approximately $32 million dollars) will be a temporary alleviation of the Town’s fiscal problems.

Although the Town has deemed the DPW Parcel to be surplus, the Town desires that any sale transaction for the DPW Parcel contains a lease component whereby the Town will lease the DPW Parcel for 5 to 10 years after the actual sale from the purchaser so that the Town may continue to use the DPW Parcel for necessary storage and related operations. Query whether the Town will need to purchase another site to continue such operations upon the expiration of its lease.

Your “yes” vote means that you believe the Town should sell the DPW Parcel to a consortium of developers of area malls and a residential community developer. This consortium states that it does not want another developer to purchase the DPW Parcel and build a shopping mall that would compete with their area malls.  Instead, the consortium has indicated that it plans to build a mixed-use development after the Town lease expires.

 A “no” vote means that you believe that the Town should not sell the DPW Parcel to the consortium. Taubman – a mid-west based mall developer would like you to vote “no”.  Taubman owns the adjacent 38 acre parcel and has been trying to develop a mall on that property for almost 20 years – if Taubman is able to purchase the DPW site in an open bidding process, they will more than double the space they currently own to build an even larger mall.

If the argument is to sell it to someone other than the mall developer (Taubman) to prevent the mall developer from buying it, then as long as the Town owns it and as long as the Town does not sell it, the mall developer will not be able to buy it, if it is “not for sale”.

The majority of the population does not want the mall, nor do I, nor the East Norwich Civic Association, but do we really want the Town of Oyster Bay to sell off such an asset to close a very deep financial hole.

How can it be surplus land owned by the Town if the Town still needs to use it for the next ten years?  Will the taxpayers ten years out have to pay for replacement of this acreage at what hopes to be a better economy at potentially twice the price of replacement?

As complicated as this whole matter appears, it is really very simple:  a Yes vote allows the Town to sell off an asset that they are using to partially close a financial gap that the public will need to find the funds to replace sometime down the road. Or, Vote No, not to sell it, neither to the consortium nor to the highest bidder (potentially Taubman).

Matthew T. Meng, President

East Norwich Civic Association