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Owner: Town not ‘serious’ on Fresh Pond purchase

View from Vincent Novak’s house overlooking Fresh Pond.

It looks like a plan by the town to acquire property on Fresh Pond owned by Vincent Novak is slipping away.

“I’m not going to wait forever,” Mr. Novak said, he said Monday, noting that he was never consulted about a plan for the Peconic Land Trust (PLT) to raise money to help the town purchase the property. Even if he had been consulted, “I wasn’t thrilled about it,” he added.

If the town wanted to purchase the property and then wait for money that the Peconic Land Trust would raise, that would have been acceptable, Mr. Novak said. But to expect him to wait while the PLT tried to raise funds would be a deal breaker, he said.

“I got the feeling the town wasn’t serious,” he said.

Supervisor Gary Gerth said earlier that pricing on the property kept changing and that made the PLT as well as town officials unhappy. Without disclosing the amount raised, the supervisor said the PLT was at a point where it had raised the money it thought was needed toward the purchase.

It had appeared that at least four of the five-member Town Board would have voted to acquire the 0.54-acre site if the financing was in place.

Mr. Novak had offered the developed property to the town at a price of $819,000 that was to be paid as $719,000 in cash and an acknowledgement of a $100,000 donation of property to the town. The donation was to offset Mr. Novak’s capital gains tax, netting him approximately the same amount he would have received if he had been paid $819,000.

A squabble between the Community Preservation Fund Advisory Board (CPFAB) that had unanimously turned down the purchase and the Town Board ensued. CPFAB Chairman Gordon Gooding argued that money from the fund had only been used to acquire undeveloped properties and that the price would set a bad precedent for future land purchases by the town.

Ultimately, the town had the property reassessed based on the land alone and that assessment came in at between $450,000 and $480,000. That money was to come from the CPF 2 percent tax — money paid by property buyers to preserve open spaces and farm land on the East End. The balance was to come from PLT and town money.

The PLT’s interest was in helping to decrease septic wastes flowing into Fresh Pond.

The Fresh Pond Neighbors Association supported the purchase, arguing that with the house razed from the property, the septic system on the site would be removed, adding to the health of the pond.

Mr. Novak said he had offered the town a “bargain price,” but since no sale had occurred by the end of 2018, he no longer felt bound to hold to that price.

He now has an open house scheduled this weekend and said he has a few potential buyers who have looked at the house more than once.