An appraisal commissioned by the East Hampton Town Board to figure out the value of a town-owned alleyway that bisects the Ronjo Motel in Montauk prices the 20-foot-wide strip at between $30,000 and $40,000.
The appraisal, conducted by Ronald Paradiso, the vice president of the New York City firm Jerome Haims Realty, Inc., appears to confirm the figure Supervisor Bill Wilkinson set when he moved to authorize the sale of the land to the motel’s new owners, Chris Jones and Larry Siedlick, on March 6. When asked where he got the number, Mr. Wilkinson, a Republican, replied at the time that he had “plucked it out of the air”—a phrase that lit a political fuse and prompted a sharp reaction from Democrats, who demanded the town conduct an appraisal before selling the land. Nonetheless, the sale was authorized by a majority vote, with Republicans Mr. Wilkinson, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley and Councilman Dominick Stanzione approving the resolution. Democratic Councilwoman Sylvia Overby and Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc opposed the resolution.
Because it called for the sale of town property, the resolution was subject to a permissive referendum, and the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee spearheaded a petition drive to force a referendum on the sale. At the same time, they supplied an appraisal of the land that valued the property at $184,000. The owners of the property supplied their own independent appraisal, claiming it was worth only $22,500. On April 17, the Town Board reversed course and unanimously approved its own appraisal.
Last month, after Town Clerk Fred Overton rejected their petition, a group of residents, including some members of the Democratic Committee, filed suit against the town in an attempt to overturn Mr. Overton’s decision.
“What is the cost of all these delays?” Ms. Quigley said on Monday. “In the end the number turned out to be almost exact, and yet we delayed three, four months.”
But Democrats this week questioned how the New York City appraiser was selected, and Mr. Van Scoyoc said there were issues with the way the appraisal was conducted. Jeanne Frankl, the chairwoman of the Town Democratic Committee and one of the individuals listed on the lawsuit, pointed out that the resolution approving the appraisal was flawed in that it didn’t list who the appraiser was. The appraiser was selected by Ms. Quigley—a point that Ms. Frankl also questioned.
“In the first place, we thought it was odd that they passed a resolution to get an appraisal that didn’t have the name of an appraiser of it,” Ms. Frankl said. “Second of all, the Town Board should have voted for an appraiser. And third of all, it was curious they went to an out-of-towner no one’s heard of.”
Mr. Van Scoyoc said the appraisal is in part based on the assumption that there’s no permitted uses on the alleyway—something he believes is inaccurate. He also said he felt the appraisal wasn’t an “independent analysis” because it “relied too heavily on the information supplied” in the other two appraisals.
Ms. Quigley rejected any implications of impropriety in selecting the appraiser, noting that the board voted unanimously to select someone who belongs to the Appraisal Institute, a global network of professional appraisers. Jerome Haims Realty, Inc. is on that list, she said.
The company’s appraisal is broken down into three categories: a minimum sale price, a maximum sale price and a final market value conclusion, according to a copy obtained from the Town Clerk’s office. It states that at a minimum, the value of the land is $12,390. At a maximum, the value of the land is $72,275. The final market value, as of April 28, should be somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000, it states.
“…It would be misleading to call the midpoint of $42,332 market value, since it would not be generated by market forces and does not consider who has the better position in the negotiation of the two parties,” Mr. Paradiso stated in the appraisal report. “Therefore, it is my opinion that the subject property ‘Alleyway’ would be valued at the lower to middle end of the range, considering that the owner of the motel does not have to purchase the alleyway, since they would still be able to develop their land, assuming that it was vacant, or continue to operate the existing motel.”
Ms. Quigley said she wasn’t sure what the next step would be now that the appraisal has been submitted. The Town Board was expected to discuss the appraisal at its work session on Tuesday. Ms. Quigley invited the appraiser to present the findings, she said on Monday.