Written by Michael Scro Thursday, 08 August 2013 00:00
On August 20, residents of the Town of Oyster Bay will vote whether to approve the sale of the town’s 54-acre Department of Public Works complex consortium consisting of Simon Property Group, the Albanese Organization and Castagna Properties.
If the sale goes ahead, the town will get $32.5 million. The consortium has indicated it intends to build a mixed-use facility on the site, but has no legal obligation to do so.
The town board already approved the sale, unanimously, back in May.
But there’s another contender vigorously fighting for a right to buy the site. Taubman Centers Inc., a Michigan-based developer, bought the property adjacent to the DPW complex, the Cerro Wire brownfield, 18 years ago. Taubman has said it would best the consortium’s offer in an open bidding process, and criticized the town for what it characterizes as “back-room discussions.” It was Taubman that collected the signatures to force the referendum, hoping enough residents would vote ‘no’ to block the sale.
For nearly 20 years, Taubman has been fighting local opposition to its plan to build a 750,000-square-foot mall on the 39-acre Cerro property, even as it cleans up the contaminated site. The additional acreage of the DPW site could allow it to expand its plans, although that would require zoning changes that the town has already indicated it is disinclined to grant.
At the May board meeting, Ronald J. Rosenberg, attorney for Taubman, requested that town officials wait to hear their offer before voting. “We are able and prepared to beat any offer for this property to the benefit of the Town of Oyster Bay,” he said. The board then voted unanimously in favor of the sale. Taubman subsequently filed suit against the town in State Supreme Court, stating the town’s approval came without “public bidding or a public process where all the interested purchasers have an equal and fair opportunity to share.” Venditto responded that the town is not obligated to hold a formal bidding process, that it had consulted “many developers” and that it acted “lawfully, appropriately and reasonably.”
The ballot was issued to the Nassau County Board of Elections, is worded thus: “Shall the resolution of the Town Board of the Town of Oyster Bay to sell 53.783 acres of certain surplus real property for the sum of $32,500,000.00 be approved?” A ‘yes’ vote means the property will be sold to the local development consortium. A ‘no’ vote will cancel the sale and send the town and the developers back to the drawing board.