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Jul 31, 2012 3:42 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Board Members Consider Using CPF Funds To Buy Mobile Home Park

Jul 31, 2012 4:49 PM

Three East Hampton Town Board members are exploring buying out residents of the Three Mile Harbor Mobile Home Park in East Hampton to preserve the property the park is developed on.

Republican Dominick Stanzione and Democrats Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc met with Town Director of Land Acquisition and Management Scott Wilson on July 3 after a Town Board executive session and gave him the go-ahead to order an appraisal for the 2-acre parcel of land.

Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, both Republicans, blasted the move last week, calling the action inappropriate and claiming it violated the town’s policies governing Community Preservation Fund expenditures.

In light of the previous administration’s raiding the CPF, the town drafted an “ironclad” protocol for CPF-related expenses, said Ms. Quigley. Recommendations for appraisals of land must originate with the town’s CPF Committee. Also, the Town Board should have approved an appraisal in while in session, she said.

“That’s not what we’re elected to do,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “That’s not what we pledge to do to citizens. And this, unfortunately, brings up nightmares of what we inherited, and what we have done ever since to try to remove that stain from the Town of East Hampton.”

A failing septic system on the property, and a $600,000 town project to upgrade it that was recently rejected by the three board members, who have formed a coalition across party lines in recent months, is what piqued their interest in acquiring the land, said Ms. Overby last week.

“There was a feeling when we talked about it then, at least among three board members, this is not the right place for a huge septic system to be going in at the head of the harbor,” Ms Overby said. “...If we don’t have numbers to understand what this is even worth or how much we could even pay to buy the trailers back, then before we spend $600,000 for a septic system, I’d like to know, what is the property itself worth?”

Mae Bushman, the president of the board of directors of the Three Mile Harbor Mobile Home Park, said at least one Town Board member had reached out to the park’s directors informally to find out if they would be interested in selling the land.

She said informal conversations with at least two board members led to a discussion of price. She said she named a figure the owners of the park’s 16 units would be interested in, but the board members rejected that price. She would not disclose either the price or the identities of the Town Board members.

“It was informal, and I’m not going to say who or what or when,” she said. “Nothing. I’m not going to say anything on who it was or when or anything else.”

An earlier appraisal of the park came in at $1.2 million, she said, adding that the price she suggested for a buyout was well in excess of that.

“If the numbers line up, all but one would say ‘yes’ in our membership,” Ms. Bushman said.

Mr. Stanzione and Mr. Van Scoyoc didn’t return calls seeking comment last week. The Town Board was expected to discuss the topic at a work session on Tuesday but did not.

Alex Balsam, the attorney for the residents of the mobile home park, said that they are not looking to vacate their homes. But if the price was right, there might be an interest. He also underscored that conversations about the subject between residents and the town were informal.

“If the town decides to offer something, obviously we’d listen, but [the residents] are definitely not looking for a buyout,” Mr. Balsam said.

The town shouldn’t be approaching residents about buying their land out, said Ms. Quigley.

“I think it’s a very troubling story for a million levels, some of which are more about the role of government than about the specifics,” she said.

Ms. Overby said she could understand her colleague’s concern.

“I guess I wouldn’t have said yes if I thought it was the wrong thing to do,” Ms. Overby said. “But do I think that in hindsight there’s always, you want to be very careful in making sure that you do everything within the public in the right order of things, yes. That probably should have been done. Do I think it was wrong? I don’t think it was wrong to go out for an appraisal. Evidently, they were willing to sell.”

It’s unpredictable when the Town Board will have an executive session to discuss acquisitions, said Ms. Overby. That in part led board members to hurry and okay the appraisal, she said.

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Is it true the owners have started work on the septic system using their own financing??
By Board Watcher (532), East Hampton on Aug 1, 12 8:47 AM
Hasn't the town learned anything about improper use of CPF funds?
By hohum123 (91), springs on Aug 4, 12 9:28 PM