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Jun 25, 2014 10:39 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Quogue Village On VFW Property: No Sale

Jun 25, 2014 10:39 AM

The Village of Quogue will not purchase the Quogue Veterans of Foreign Wars property.

At Friday’s Village Board meeting, Mayor Peter Sartorius announced that, after reviewing suggestions and comments from residents during a special forum held nearly two weeks ago and attended by more than 100 people, both he and his fellow trustees opted to stay the course and not buy the 4.4-acre property.

“We discussed it after the informal meeting, and decided it isn’t worth it,” Mr. Sartorius said when reached on Tuesday.

At the meeting on June 15, residents pitched a plethora of ideas of how the village could utilize the facility—including making it a municipal baseball field, community center, public pool, playground and tennis courts—all of which were rejected by the mayor and trustees, who cited unforeseen and long-term expenses. They estimated that the village would have to lay down about $3 million to cover the purchase, complete renovations and then maintain the property.

“We have all of these facilities in one way or another,” Mr. Sartorius said at that informational meeting.

From the onset, the mayor said he had no interest in buying the land that sits off Montauk Highway, which was put up for sale this past spring by the VFW and has an asking price of $1.8 million. Still, he agreed to host the community forum and, after reviewing the suggestions, said he would not change his position.

Bill Hughes, the commander of VFW Post 5350 in Quogue, had been lobbying for either the village or Southampton Town to step in and acquire the property, which has been in the group’s possession since the early 1960s, serving as its headquarters. But declining membership coupled with a desire to be closer to the Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing, which is based at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, have forced the veterans group to sell its longtime home, according to Mr. Hughes.

He noted that VFW leaders are now dealing with private buyers, including those who are interested in developing the property. The land sits in a residential zone; up to three new houses can be constructed on the land. He added that he does not yet have a closing date.

“I’m disappointed,” Mr. Hughes said when reached on Tuesday evening. “I was waiting for them to call me,” he added, referring to Quogue Village officials, “but I didn’t get that courtesy.”

Mr. Hughes added that his repeated calls to Mr. Sartorius went answered and that on Sunday—two days after the board decided not to pursue the purchase—he received a brief text message from the mayor stating that the village will not be making an offer.

Prior to learning about the village’s lack of interest, Mr. Hughes had been lobbying for either Quogue or Southampton Town to buy the property, which boasts a baseball field, a picnic area, the main building and a parking lot, and keep it available to the public. Southampton Town made an offer for the land this past spring, but it was below the asking price, according to Mr. Hughes. He has declined to say how much the town offered, and town officials have refused to disclose the amount, stating that they are not sure if their offer is off the table.

“I have no update at this time,” said Mary Wilson, manager of the town’s Community Preservation Fund, when asked if any progress has been made in negotiations with the VFW.

Some village residents, namely those who have been urging Quogue officials to either buy the land outright or partner with the town, said they were disappointed to learn the news.

“It’s a lost opportunity,” said Douglas Greeff, a village resident who recently had a Viewpoint published in The Press urging the Village Board to acquire the property. “There’s a lack of land available for village use that’s of that size and centrally located.”

Mr. Sartorius and Ms. Wilson toured the property this past spring, with the town later making an offer that was rejected.

Unless the town acts quickly, and increases its offer, Mr. Hughes said he does not envision it being preserved. He also expressed his disappointment that a deal could not be struck with one of the municipalities—a feeling echoed by Mr. Greeff.

“There’s no lack of money in Quogue,” Mr. Greeff said, referring to comments made by the mayor and trustees about not wanting to raise taxes. “That’s what’s so silly about this whole thing.”

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