Just three topics dominated the Village of Dering Harbor Board of Trustees meeting on Saturday, July 19, attended by over a dozen residents — a letter regarding the 2014 run-off election, on-going discussion of the Goldfarb/Paredes property line and the annual organization of village governance.
Mayor Timothy Hogue opened the meeting with the distribution of 18 resolutions, beginning with the confirmation of village officials and ending with the date of next year’s organizational meeting.
The board quickly approved the appointment of trustee Heather Brownlie as deputy mayor. Other reappointments included Joseph Prokop of Prokop & Prokop as village attorney; Richard Surozenski, highway supervisor; Hap Bowditch, water commissioner; Arthur Bloom, fire marshall; Laura Hildreth, village clerk, treasurer and records access officer; Charles Modica, harbor master; and Narwocki Smith LLP, auditors.
JP Morgan Chase was designated as the official village bank and the Reporter was confirmed as the newspaper of record.
Heather Brownlie and John Colby Jr. will continue as chairs of the Architectural Review Board and Zoning Board of Appeals respectively; Ken Walker replaces Marion Brownlie as chair of the Planning Board. Other board assignments are as follows: ARB — Susannah Rose, Mickey Kostow, John Colby and Rob Ferris; Planning — Robert Ruttenberg, Mickey Kostow, John Colby and Linda Adams; ZBA — Kirk Ressler, Marian Brownlie, Marianne Chort and Bridg Hunt.
Mr. Hogue announced the recent run-off election results for the position of mayor and one trustee seat, won by the incumbents, himself and trustee Mary Walker.
He also read into the record a letter received from Jonathan Modica in which he described “voter intimidation’ at the polls by attorney Steven Leventhal, the challengers’ poll watcher. He also reported being video-taped in the polling area by village resident Kate Moxham. In part, he wrote, “I’m not sure whether someone looked into who I was before I voted and decided my 12 years as a resident wasn’t sufficient to vote in this election or whether they took one look at me and thought I wasn’t a part of the community … If the former is the case then I would like to know what exactly qualifies me as a resident. There should obviously be clear guidelines for this … For the sake of other voters and for future elections, I think it is essential ,,, to address the egregious treatment of voters in Dering Harbor.”
James Goldman, from the audience, suggested that the board appoint a committee to come up with eligibility guidelines for the village. “That’s not a good idea,” resident Charles Modica, the letter writer’s father, said. Professional, legal advice would be more helpful.
Attorney Joe Prokop said there were two issues — proper procedures at the polling place and how to deal with residency questions. Allow the county to run the elections, not the village, Mr. Goldman said — “that’s the perfect solution.” It’s a question of home rule, the mayor responded. All the villages I am aware of, he said, “run their own elections.”
Resident Karen Kelsey commented that it was sad to have to have lawyers monitoring a village election and questioned how they were paid. Mr. Hogue explained again that Mr. Prokop represented, and was paid by the village and that the other two attorneys were paid for by the candidates, not the village.
In response to another comment, Mr. Hogue added that there were 18 challenges at the run-off election, none of which were made by his party.
The behavior of the poll watcher in question was “very inappropriate” but it’s time to move on, another audience member said.
Goldfarb/Paredes lot line
As discussed at previous meetings, the issue is whether the property — or the lot line where Brad Goldfarb and Alfredo Paredes had planned to plant a hedge — belongs to the residents or the village. Further discussion had been tabled until after the election and resumed at Saturday’s meeting with considerable input from the audience as well as Mr. Goldfarb, Mr. Paredes and their attorney Valerie Marvin.
Mayor Hogue opened the discussion by indicating there were two possible alternatives, one of which he had learned is used in similar cases in the Heights, where the municipality leases the property in question to the residents, The second alternative would be for the resident to purchase the property from the village for its assessed value, in this case, $45,000.
Mr. Goldfarb was not in favor of the lease option, pointing out that in similar cases in the village the land had reverted to the property owners. The lease arrangement also did not protect the owners in terms of the resale value of their property or, as Mr. Paredes pointed out, in the case of inheritance.
On the other hand, Bridg Hunt spoke strongly against the question of selling disputed land to any residents. The “privatization of public land” is very dangerous, he said, and set a bad precedent for the village.
“We came to the village,” rather than the courts, looking for a remedy, attorney Marvin said. And Mr. Prokop commented that turning the matter over to a judge for a decision might go either way; the outcome couldn’t be predicted.
There continued to be questions raised and disagreement on both sides about the accuracy of the deeds, various surveys, tax maps and whether or not precedent would be set for other situations in the village.
Mr. Hunt commented that the question of the Goldfarb/Paredes ownership of this particular strip of land probably should have been raised with the title company at the closing, rather than with the village.
However, the bottom line seemed to be that if a lease agreement could be negotiated to be in effect in perpetuity, as one audience member suggested, there might be a solution in sight.
The board adjourned to meet in executive session to consider options in resolving this situation and did not reconvene in a public meeting.
The next meeting of the board will be held on Saturday, August 16 at 9 a.m.