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Deal or no Deal? Novak property decision looms

COURTESY ART Artist rendering of a proposal for 48 Lake Drive.

Artist rendering of a proposal for 48 Lake Drive.

Some news emerged in the controversy surrounding a proposal to use the town’s open space preservation money to buy a .54 acre developed lot on Fresh Pond.

At a September 7 public hearing before the Town Board, it was revealed that the Peconic Land Trust has become involved as a potential contributor to the purchase; a new assessment by the town has been made; and an artist’s rendering of a plan by an architect for the property has been distributed.

At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, four of the five members seemed likely to vote on buying the property (see story, below).

The information revealed at the public hearing last week came as news to some members and to many residents. Nothing was resolved at the hearing — with more than 15 people making statements either to buy or to pass — and it has been held over for more input before the Town Board will vote.

At issue is a proposal to use Community Preservation Fund (CPF) money to purchase Vincent Novak’s property at 48 Lake Drive. Money for the CPF comes from a 2 percent tax that buyers pay when purchasing East End properties and is used to buy open space for preservation and to fund water protection programs.

An appointed committee, the Community Preservation Fund Advisory Board, reviews possible purchases and makes recommendations to the Town Board, which makes the final decision.

Earlier this summer, the Advisory Board unanimously voted not to recommend purchasing the Novak property, but nevertheless, the Town Board has entertained the idea.

Advisory Board Chairman Gordon Gooding said after the September 7 meeting that the Town Board has never gone ahead with a purchase after the Advisory Board has turned thumbs down.

One reason to reject the offer is that the property is developed, with a house and garage on the site. Advisory Board members and other residents at the hearing noted that traditionally land bought with CPF money, especially small parcels, have been vacant, and purchasing a developed lot now would set a dangerous precedent.

Also, the price is too steep for such a small parcel, Advisory Board members have said, and buying it would set a benchmark price that could be used in future offers of small plots.

It was learned at the hearing that the town has assessed the property — if it is undeveloped — at somewhere between $450,000 and $480,000.

Mr. Novak’s developed property was offered to the town at the price it had set at an assessed value of $819,000. If accepted, it would be paid to Mr. Novak as $719,000 cash and acknowledgment of a $100,000 donation of property value to the town. This donation will offset his capital gains tax, netting him approximately the same amount as if he was paid $819,000.

The Fresh Pond Neighbors Association and others have come before the Town Board to ask it to override the CPF’s recommendation, saying the property should be purchased.

Infrastructure would be razed, pro bono, the septic system on site would be removed — adding to the overall health of the pond’s water — and the public would have easier access to a recreational asset, they claim. In addition, the Neighbors Association is involved in a process of remediation of the pond’s water, and in the future, equipment might be needed for that effort and could be staged on the property once it’s vacant.

Most people in favor of the town buying the property also noted it is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed by preserving the property and giving easy access to the pond for all residents.

Also revealed is that The Peconic Land Trust is involved in contributing to buy the property to preserve. In addition, an artist’s rendering of a plan for the property by Island architect Pamela Pospisil was distributed just before the meeting started to several board members and to the Reporter. It calls for parking on Fresh Pond Road next to the property, a gravel patio and kayak storage and a structure that would house an electric outlet for the possible equipment staged on the property for remediation efforts.

Councilman Albert Dickson, near the end of the meeting, took exception to people talking about a proposal or plan for the pond, saying he had seen neither, and was first hearing about the Peconic Land Trust’s involvement at the public hearing.

Town Board leaning toward buying Fresh Pond property


There’s no decision and still a number of questions to be answered, but as of Tuesday’s Town Board work session, it appeared that four of the five members are leaning toward acquiring the property owned by Vincent Novak on Lake Drive.

Only Councilman Albert Dickson remained firmly opposed to the acquisition. His four board colleagues seemed to be in favor of a deal that would use $450,000 from Community Preservation Fund money toward the purchase. Supervisor Gary Gerth said the only thing holding him up was whether the Peconic Land Trust — late to the party — could raise the money necessary to pay the balance.

The $450,000 is based on assessor Craig Wood’s report that, if structures on the property were razed, the undeveloped land would be worth between $450,000 and $480,000. By tradition, CPF money has only been used to acquire undeveloped land.

But Gordon Gooding, chairman of the Community Preservation Advisory Board, which vets potential town purchases for preservation, raised a question at the work session about all the costs involved.

He noted that once Mr. Novak’s house is removed from the site, money would have to be expended for landscaping to buffer the Novak property from an adjacent residence whose owner objects to the town purchasing the property.

Mr. Gooding added that after the Novak house and garage is removed from the property, it could reveal that the soil needs remediation and no one knows what that would cost.

The town needs to know the potential cost of any excavation of potentially hazardous material, Mr. Dickson agreed.