Village Issues Statement Regarding Middle Neck Road Application

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The Village is issuing this statement with respect to the application by 124 Middle Neck Realty LLC to give you the facts. As you are aware, the applicant has withdrawn the application, and has advised the Village that it intends to await the determination of pending requests from the community to designate the property as landmarked. We regret the anger, resentment, factual misstatements and mischaracterizations that have been generated from a procedure intended only to provide a process for public consideration of a development application that could have benefits for the Village. Other, existing, legal procedures for such a development application would not provide the Village with as much flexibility in considering such an application.

The Village has always involved the community in the public hearing process for land use applications. Our residents have an invaluable role in, are an integral part of that process, and we will always welcome everyone’s participation. I and all of your Village Trustees cannot imagine any circumstance in which the Village would approve any application that is met with overwhelming opposition by our community. In this instance, following all applicable State and local law requirements, the Village enacted a local law to establish a particular procedure by which certain applications could be made. Even if that law had not been adopted, the property owner could have made the application under other procedures already available under State law, but under which the Village would have less flexibility in reviewing the application. Whether authorized by local law or State law, the required procedures always recognize and provide for notice to the public, and public hearing(s) with opportunity for our residents to be heard. As required by both the State law and applicable local law, the Village must review any such application, including its potential environmental and other impacts.

The local law adopted by the Village did not obligate the Village to approve the development application in whole or in part. Of utmost importance to the Village, Local Law 3-21 established a procedure more advantageous to the Village than other procedures already available to the applicant. Upon the conclusion of the public hearing process, the Village Board of Trustees would be able to accept or reject the application, in whole or in part, and to include reasonable conditions if appropriate, without the applicant having a basis to challenge any action which it did not view as favorable. State law requires the Village to engage in environmental impact review for every land use application, and also requires the applicant to bear the Village’s costs of that environmental impact review. Under State law, the Village would be responsible for the costs for review of other aspects of an application.

The applicant was also required to send out a legal notice to nearby properties in order for the Village to commence and conduct the public hearing(s). The applicant chose not to make a requested deposit payment, and chose not to send out the legal notice required for the public hearing. As a result, there was no jurisdiction to proceed with the hearing on Nov. 15. As already noted, the applicant instead chose to withdraw the application, stating that it wishes to work with the community to put forth a plan which addresses the concerns of the community.

 

As you are also aware, several requests have been made to the Village to issue a landmark designation for the building. The Landmark Commission will proceed with its review and make its recommendation and findings. Further details as to the process before the Landmark Commission, will be made available shortly. As provided in the Village Code, the Landmark Commission will determine whether to recommend to the Board of Trustees that the property be designated for landmark status, and the Board of Trustees will determine whether to accept or reject that recommendation.

Property taxes are a central issue of public concern. Tax certiorari and grievance proceedings, especially for commercial properties, have been unpredictable and have had a negative impact on the Village’s budget. One of the advantages of the incentive zoning process is that it allows the Village Board of Trustees to impose conditions in any approval of an incentive zoning proposals which would protect the Village from tax certiorari or tax grievance petitions. In addition, other agencies (not the Village) have authority to grant tax abatements in proper cases. The Village has no authority to grant or deny them, nor does the Village have authority to prevent an authorized government body (such as an IDA) from granting them. If an IDA grants such abatements, the IDA sets the amounts of payments to be made to the Village over a period of years in lieu of property taxes, and for several years after an IDA approval such payments would be less than the taxes otherwise due to the Village. The subject of a tax abatement possibly being granted by an IDA would be discussed as part of the hearing process. In the event the Village Board were to approve an incentive development application, legally permissible conditions related to a possible tax abatement application may be included to protect the Village from a loss of tax revenue.

It saddens me to have to specifically address certain reckless falsehoods, especially for those of you who know me personally. I and your entire Village Board of Trustees did not, have not and will not take anything of any value and did not, have not and will not take any deals with the applicant or any applicant. Any incentive use payment is not a bribe; any incentive required from the developer must be used solely for the benefit of the community. There is nothing to hide because there was no ‘deal,’ and only after a full public process can any application be approved or rejected by the Village.

The Village cannot, and will not, act precipitously and intends to follow all legal due process requirements. Let’s be respectful and maintain decorum, so that everyone has an opportunity to be heard, so that the process complies with legal requirements and is as fair as reasonably possible for everyone.

—Steve Weinberg
Mayor Village of Thomaston

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