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Sep 27, 2017 1:36 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Main Street Park's Days Could Be Numbered In Westhampton Beach

Corner Park in Westhampton Beach. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Sep 27, 2017 1:36 PM

The owner of a Main Street lot in Westhampton Beach, converted into a temporary park two years ago using taxpayer money, said he wants to extend his agreement with the village—if it is willing to compensate him for his land.

Barry Bernstein of Ambar Realty Group LLC in White Plains has been paid $10 a year for the past two years by the village, in exchange for allowing it to use his half-acre lot on the corner of Main Street and Library Avenue as a park with benches. The agreement was reached after the village spent $3,000 to clean up the lot, which had been overrun by vegetation and blocked off by a stockade fence, as part of an effort initiated by Mayor Maria Moore to clean up blighted properties in the village.

But at a recent meeting of the Village Board, Mr. Bernstein—who previously rejected an undisclosed offer from Southampton Town to purchase his land using Community Preservation Fund proceeds—said he is not yet ready to develop his commercial property. Therefore, he said he would be willing to continue leasing the land to the village so long as it is willing to pay him rent.

Though he did not offer up a specific number, Mr. Bernstein made it clear to board members that he would like for them to help him cover some of his personal costs, such as village and town taxes, as well as the fees that come with extending a building variance. He eventually wants to build a 3,500-square-foot building on the land, adding that it could house a restaurant or a retail shop, though he still lacks village permission to do so.

“If I leave it the way it is and let it be used as a park, what’s it going to cost me?” Mr. Bernstein said. “I still have to pay for it … There’s an incentive pushing me to develop it. Whatever the timeline is, I think it’s great the way it is and why not continue to enjoy it? But I need an incentive.”

But village officials were less than receptive, explaining that while they would like to continue having a park until the land is developed, they cannot waive fees for Mr. Bernstein, or help him pay his taxes. Ms. Moore also pointed out that the developer would have to continue to pay taxes on the lot, regardless of when it is developed, and noted that the village has already covered the cost of cleaning it.

“We can’t say, ‘You were nice to us with the park, so you don’t have to pay your renewal fee or your variance,’” Ms. Moore said. “So we should set that aside. Also, we do maintain the property—there is some benefit to you with that. If we weren’t doing it, you would have to.”

The agreement between Mr. Bernstein and the village expired on September 5; the village is continuing to pay for regular maintenance of the park, however.

It was still unclear when Mr. Bernstein, who has owned the land since he bought it for $350,000 in 2003, intends to break ground on his building.

“We have not yet determined the date to start the construction of the project on Main Street,” he said. “We are anticipating that we will start construction sometime in the fall; however, this may change based upon our discussions with the village.”

Ms. Moore said she would have liked to have purchased the land outright, so it could continue to be used as a park. But Mr. Bernstein said he rejected the offer made in May because it was too low. Neither Mr. Bernstein, or Town CPF Manager Mary Wilson, would disclose the offer amount.

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Stick to your guns Mayor, he is a con-man.
By tenn tom (201), remsenburg on Sep 28, 17 8:06 AM
If the village taxpayers hadn't cleaned it up it would still be an eyesore.

I wouldn't support waiving any fees!
By susgeek (40), Speonk on Sep 28, 17 5:48 PM
In fact, he should pay the taxpayers back every dime if he sells that property.
By susgeek (40), Speonk on Oct 5, 17 7:01 PM
halloween, party, sag harbor,