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Sep 11, 2018 5:11 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Sets Public Hearing On Purchase Of Land Where Remains Were Found

The property on Hawthorne Road in Shinnecock Hills where skeletal remains were found.
Sep 12, 2018 10:42 AM

The Southampton Town Board will hold a public hearing on October 9 to discuss Supervisor Jay Schneiderman’s plan to use Community Preservation Fund revenues to purchase the Shinnecock Hills property where human skeletal remains, thought to be an ancient Shinnecock Indian Nation leader, were found in August.

Konstantin Beladidze, the property owner, under KB Southampton LLC of Water Mill, has agreed to a purchase price. Mr. Schneiderman said the transfer of ownership could happen in mid-October.

The town is prohibited from paying more than fair market value for any property purchased. Last month, an appraisal came in at $390,000, which was $185,000 below what Mr. Beladidze wanted in order to be compensated for “substantial costs” and improvements already made to the land.

In an interview this week, he noted, for instance, that the loan he used to purchase the property back in March has cost him about $250 per day in interest. “Not to mention the closing costs, [which] actually includes the tax from CPF,” Mr. Beladidze said. “Sure, I bought the property for $370,000, but at the end of the day it cost way more.”

The town returned to the appraiser with new information about the improvements, and the amount the town can pay was raised to $450,000.

Meanwhile, members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation have been working to raise $50,000 to meet the difference in the asking price, which is now $500,000. As of the Town Board meeting Tuesday, the tribe had raised about $3,600.

“I understand it’s not coming overnight,” Mr. Beladidze said. “We’ll work something out.”

Shinnecock Indian Nation Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs said he is confident the Tribal Council will, through a number of means, including potentially borrowing money, raise enough capital.

“The Town Board and the supervisor did their due diligence,” Mr. Gumbs said. “It was the hope of the nation that they would come up with the means to preserve this land. Everybody worked together to make this happen, and is an example of how the town and the nation can work toward a common goal.”

A deadline of when the money is expected is unclear. Mr. Gumbs said it may be before the land is transferred to the town. He added the town will likely have the nation be the steward of the land.

“It should not be this difficult, in 2018, for a sovereign nation to come up with $50,000 for land preservation of an ancient burial,” said Rebecca Genia, who has been leading the nation’s crowdfunding campaign. “And politics better not rear its ugly head.”

All told, Mr. Beladidze said he’s still taking a loss of about $63,000 on the deal.

“I am not okay with the loss, but I want to do the right thing,” Mr. Beladidze said. “I want to make right by the nation and by the remains. It’s their ancestors, their history. It’s something you cannot replace.”

Mr. Schneiderman said those funds will likely be used to “put the bones and the earth in order,” but will be worked out in a separate agreement between the nation and Mr. Beladidze.

Mr. Beladidze has promised to not resume construction on the property while negotiations are underway. The town has threatened to issue a stop work order on the property, although Mr. Beladidze said the town doesn’t have the authority to do so—and, at this point, Mr. Schneiderman will have to just take his word.

“I obtained everything legally,” he said. “All of the permits, I have them on hand. I am not a criminal. … I could have pushed those bones to the side and moved on. But I am trying to do the right thing. Who else would take a hit for $63,000?”

After a decade-long push by Ms. Genia, the town is also pursuing possible legislation to offer a procedure for when ancient human skeletal remains are found on private property.

“This is not the end of the story,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “And I can’t promise that we will acquire land when remains are found in the future. It must be done on a case-by-case basis. But we need to have an idea of what to do when remains are found.”

Ms. Genia said she still holds the town responsible for the lack of foresight for not doing a proper review of the property before construction started.

“Southampton Town should be ashamed of themselves for allowing the destruction of that property in the first place,” Ms. Genia said. “We have told them for decades the Shinnecock Hills are filled with the graves of our ancestors. It is sacred territory—that makes it intentional desecration, not accidental unearthing.”

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$250/day in interest?......hmmm..... Eminent Domain.....
By North Sea Citizen (503), North Sea on Sep 11, 18 7:04 PM
Great, just keep taking tax paying properties off the tax rolls. CPF money is like a politician's dream come true.
By HamptonDad (174), Hampton Bays on Sep 11, 18 7:22 PM
$250 interest per day multiplied by 365 days equals $91,250 in interest per year.

If a loan was taken out for the full cost of the property ($370,000), that would represent an APR of 24.66%. Fortunately, the interest rate on my mortgage is significantly lower : )

It does sound like Mr. Beladidze does want to do the right thing and is being reasonable but I suspect that somewhere along the way some figures got mixed up.
By Aeshtron (184), Southampton on Sep 12, 18 11:10 AM
1 member liked this comment