A West Hampton Dunes Village Board of Trustees request that the ownership of two Dune Road properties, valued at $3 million in total, be transferred from a local nonprofit to the village has stirred questions about the legality of such a move and created friction between the two groups.
The proposal states that the Barrier Beach Preservation Association, a nonprofit incorporated in 1984 that works to protect the environment, should return the 1.5 acres of land that it owns at 906 and 914 Dune Road to the village—even though BBPA officials insist that the village, which was incorporated in 1993, never owned the land.
The request, outlined in a letter written by West Hampton Dunes Mayor Gary Vegliante and the Board of Trustees and sent to the BBPA in late September, also states that both properties, including the home at 906 Dune Road and the land on which the West Hampton Dunes Police Constabulary office sits, should be returned to “their true original pledge and mission of complete and open community access for the entire Village community.”
It goes on to explain that the transfer will benefit the village by providing a meeting place for all residents, as well as a suitable location for a court so that the village would no longer have pay a fee to Westhampton Beach Village for use of its court. The letter also states that the BBPA would continue to have access to the building at 906 Dune Road for its meetings and events free of charge, and that no development on the properties would occur without a “public vetting.”
The BBPA currently utilizes the building at 906 Dune Road for its meetings and community events, according to BBPA President Mike Rossi, who added that it has always been available for public use. The West Hampton Dunes Police Constabulary has been based at 914 Dune Road, in front of a vacant waterfront property, though the village has never paid rent to the BBPA. Richard Agins, an attorney who sits on the group’s Board of Directors, said the nonprofit has offered to give the land on which the constabulary office sits to the village, but Mr. Vegliante turned down the offer; instead, Mr. Agins said, the mayor is seeking the transfer of the entire property.
The half-acre property at 914 Dune Road was assessed at $1,541,800 in 2012, and the 1-acre property at 906 Dune Road was assessed at $1,493,100 in 2011, according to Southampton Town records. The BBPA also owns two other lots, 908 and 912 Dune Road, that total almost 2 acres; those properties, which are valued at almost $3.3 million combined, are located between the other two properties and face Moriches Bay. Mr. Vegliante said the village’s focus is to secure ownership of the two properties that sit directly off Dune Road.
The nonprofit used approximately $353,000 that it received in 1994 as part of a lawsuit settlement reached with Suffolk County, New York State and the federal government to buy the 914 Dune Road property. Vincent J. Pellicane Jr., who previously served on the West Hampton Dunes Zoning Board of Appeals, donated the other property to the BBPA in 2000 in exchange for a tax deduction and a variance from the village that allowed him and Robert Strecker, who currently serves on the BBPA board, to build homes on lots across the street, according to the property deed provided by Mr. Agins. At that time, Mr. Vegliante served as mayor and headed the BBPA, which began as a homeowners association.
Mr. Agins said the village never owned either property, though Mr. Vegliante insists that it was the village that facilitated the transfer of the land from Mr. Strecker, first obtaining ownership before transferring it to the BBPA under the condition that it would be forever available to the public. The village’s efforts to claim both properties, which started about five years ago, prompted the BBPA to start renting the home at 906 Dune Road in the summer, limiting its availability to the public, Mr. Agins said.
As part of the latest proposal, Mr. Vegliante said the village is offering to compensate the BBPA for the money it spent on recent renovations to the house at 906 Dune Road. But Mr. Agins said both properties must be appraised first to determine their value, and the BBPA would need to be fairly compensated for the transfer, as required by the New York State Not-For-Profit Corporation Law. He said the law also requires that two-thirds of the BBPA Board of Directors, the New York State Attorney General and the courts approve the transfers.
“The law is very clear,” Mr. Agins said. “If an entity is going to dispose of its assets, it must be fairly compensated.”
On August 10, the Village Board hired a lawyer to represent it in a potential lawsuit against the BBPA in order to “recover” the two properties, though Mr. Agins said they have yet to file the suit. The mayor said the village plans to file the lawsuit on the grounds that the BBPA “violated the trust” of the village by renting the house at 906 Dune Road to a private party for months over several summers.