By Kathryn G. Menu
The Village of Sag Harbor will likely use eminent domain in an attempt to acquire a 16,405 square-foot waterfront parcel sandwiched between village-owned beachfront next to Route 114 and property owned by condominium developer Emil Talel, according to Mayor Brian Gilbride.
On Tuesday, Talel confirmed that his company has formally taken title to the property, which was owned by the Long Island Railroad. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced last year that it would sell the property, and both Talel’s company and the Village of Sag Harbor placed bids on the land.
Talel owns an adjacent property and he has long sought to develop condominiums there. Known as the Ferry Road condominiums, several versions of that project were under review by the Village of Sag Harbor when the village’s code changed, drastically reducing the number of condominium units allowed on the parcel.
As a result, Talel’s firm, East End Ventures, filed two lawsuits against the village, including a $30 million civil action that claimed the developers were led to believe they would be exempt from the new code. While a majority of that claim has been dismissed, one aspect of it — the project’s similarities with the approved condominium project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory, which was given exemption from the village code, is still being heard.
Talel, who hoped to use the LIRR property to meet setbacks on his now defunct project, bid $201,000 to gain ownership of the property. The village, which Mayor Gilbride said hoped to use the land along with adjacent village-owned waterfront to create a public park, bid $90,101, and despite the public benefit of parkland was not awarded the property.
On Tuesday, Talel said he had hoped that now that his firm owns the property they would be able to strike a deal with the village where his company would offer full easement for public access to the land, as well as put a hold on both pending lawsuits, while negotiations could begin with the village towards a project that would make “economic sense” for East End Ventures to proceed with.
However, on Wednesday, Gilbride said he was reaching out to village attorneys to look into commencing eminent domain proceedings to take ownership of the property.
Eminent domain is an action municipalities can use to seize private property to be used for public or civic use, or for the creation of infrastructure like public utilities, highways or railroads.
Mayor Gilbride said the village has long sought the property for the creation of a public park, which would increase public access to the waterfront — a tenet of the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP).
On Wednesday, Talel criticized the village, noting he has tried on several occasions to meet with village officials in an effort to move past litigation and towards a project both sides can be happy with. He also questioned why the village would expend what he said would be “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to continue this battle when his firm has already offered to create a public park in conjunction with their condominium project.
“I cannot speak to that yet,” said Gilbride, citing ongoing litigation.