Written by Michael Scro, firstname.lastname@example.org Wednesday, 24 July 2013 00:00
In a court ruling last Monday, NY State Supreme Court Justice F. Dana Winslow ruled that 4,976 signatures were valid to place a referendum before the residents of Oyster Bay next month on the sale of the town’s public works complex to Simon Property Group, the Albanese Organization and Castagne Properties.
A total of 4,599 signatures were required for the referendum - the vote will take place on August 20.
Organized by Taubman Centers Inc., the developer behind a proposed mall on the site adjacent to the town’s property, had put fourth a petition campaign to force a referendum. The sale of the town’s property was approved for $32.5 million, and the current plans are to construct a ‘mixed-use’ facility.
Judge Winslow dismissed a lawsuit by petitioners-objectors that the petition for permissive referendum is invalid, stating that while “such referendum may have been in-artfully drawn, it was not misleading and did not contain latent ambiguities.” The ruling also stated that signatures were not obtained ‘fraudulently,’ “though the questions posed by the witnesses may have been designed to be more advocacy than informative.”
Reacting to the ruling, Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto announced that they will not appeal the court ruling. Issuing a statement on the town's website, Venditto said: “You (Town of Oyster Bay residents) may have recently heard some defamatory and false information regarding this issue. I believe it’s time that you heard who these falsehoods are coming from and what their motives truly are.” A link to the statement in its entirety can be found on Supervisor Venditto’s Facebook page.
“This is a victory for transparency” said Kyle Sklerov, spokesperson for Long Island Jobs Now, an organization incorporated by Taubman. “Those opposed to allowing a public vote on Oyster Bay’s secret land sale have finally realized that their legal challenges lacked merit and are not appealing the judge’s ruling. With the referendum date and language officially set, we will now get to work on educating voters about why they are getting a bad deal and encourage Oyster Bay residents to vote to stop the Town Board’s non-competitive land sale.”
Howard Avrutine, an attorney for civic associations opposed to the mall’s construction, issued a reaction statement, saying: “The Court ruled that the referendum will proceed but certainly acknowledged that over 40 percent of the petition signatures submitted by Taubman were invalid. The Court also noted that legitimate issues were raised regarding the question posed to residents and the methods used by Taubman to convince residents to sign.”
“Now the residents of the Town will have the chance to “Vote Yes to Stop the Mall,” Avrutine said. “People already understand that Taubman only wants to stop the sale so that it can try to buy the land and build its mall. We are confident that the residents will not be fooled and will 'Vote Yes'."
Chairman of the Cerro Wire Coalition Todd Fabricant commented on the recent ruling as well. The Cerro Wire Coalition has been opposed to the development of a 750,000 sq ft mall for over seventeen years. The Taubman Company yet again with this forced referendum is using nasty and misleading information to trick the residents into a vote to build their mall.”
“A vote of YES to Stop the Mall is what all my concerned Coalition members can and must do to send a clear message yet again, to Taubman, we do not need or want a mall,” Fabricant said. “We the community, want alternate development and smart growth. This is what the purchasers of the surplus land will do. The sale will create jobs, will create a tax base and will preserve our quality of life—Simon Properties, Castagna Realty and the Albanese Organization will not build a mall like Taubman wants.”