21 Aug 2014
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Trustees Differ on Latest Winston Development

Mineola Village Board approves final permits as Werther, Durham abstain from vote.

Trustees Differ on Latest Winston Development Trustees Differ on Latest Winston Development Trustees Differ on Latest Winston Development Trustees Differ on Latest Winston Development

The by the , but just barely. During its meeting on May 2, the board voted by a 3-0 margin to issue the final permits for the rental apartment and senior complex, with trustees Lawrence Werther and George Durham abstaining from the vote.

The main points of contention for the two trustees causing their abstentions was the designation as a Nassau County Industrial Development Agency project and the details about a swap of parking spaces in a multi-story garage which is no longer to be built and a new to-be constructed lot on Willis Avenue and Third Avenue.

Werther said it is “not yet” an IDA project, noting that the application was made on February 10 and has not yet been voted on or accepted.

“The financial arrangements sound good and I would probably go for them except for the fact that... the IDA negotiates the PILOT and that all taxing entities within the project get a proportional prorated share of the PILOT that comes in,” he said, citing conversations with an IDA contact.

Werther clarified that he was still in favor of the project, but that the village was characterizing it one way “and then in conversations with the outside counsel or the IDA, the guy who puts it all together said this is not an IDA project yet and until it is and until they say that they’re going to accept our negotiations, I’ve got a concern with that.”

Trustee Paul Cusato said that “I’ve been in favor of this project since day one,” and “right now we’ve got vacant land, vacant buildings. To me it’s a sure thing.”

The main point of disagreement came between Werther and deputy mayor Paul Pereira, who was “sure that obviously this agreement is conditional on the fact that the IDA will approve the project,” adding that he had not previously heard about Werther’s discussions with the IDA.

“A number of years ago, this brought to mind when the police hearings were going on, certain members of the board went to the county and had side meetings and got side information; those very members were blasted and now it certainly seems that without the knowledge of the rest of the board, certain board members are taking it upon themselves to get this information without sharing it with the rest of the board until 5 minutes ago.”

Saying that the deputy mayor’s characterization of his statement was “vapid,” Werther stated that “to try to represent that I’m against this project is insulting. I’m not trying to nuke a project. What I’m trying to do is verify that what’s being represented to us is true.”

stated that he could have reached out to the IDA and ask the questions on behalf of the entire board, “you didn’t even give me that opportunity, you sprung it on us last minute and I agree with deputy mayor Pereira that it was the same tactic that was used as those former members of the board at the time went to the to seek information and members of the board blasted them for going behind the board’s back.”

According to village attorney John Spellman, “this is a step,” as before a project is designated by IDA status, the permit has to be issued by the local municipality, the IDA holds a local hearing – May 30 at the Mineola Village Hall – and then finalize an agreement with the developer and revise the PILOT agreement.

“This is not the in 2007, we wish it were. We wish it had been approved, we wish it had been built, but this is the hand that we’re dealt now,” Pereira said, noting that currently the village gets about $60,000 from the properties, $30,000 if they remain vacant and close to $300,000 if the project is built. “That is close to 90 percent of the original amount presented in 2007.”

Durham stated that as a former chairman of the downtown revitalization committee he was for the project “but I do have a problem with the proposals that we are making tonight,” explaining that it was his feeling that the village would be losing 160 parking spaces in the downtown area and have to build a parking garage on the lot they would be receiving.

While Durham said that in the original garage, only 40 were for the village with the rest being overflow for the , Pereira issued a correction saying that the garage was to deal with the parking for the nearby Benchmark building.

“The current site where the senior housing is going to be built is a parking that they are going to be using for the people to be parking at,” Pereira said. “So obviously once you put a building on there, those spots go away and those spots were going to be put in the garage. There is no garage, they are going to be put where they’re saying here,” indicating Third Avenue and Willis Avenue.

“I don’t understand what happened between that door and this door, I would have certainly had a lot more respect if people vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” Pereira said, explaining that Werther and Durham had allegedly indicated in closed session that they were going to vote against the project. “In my estimation, trustee Durham’s concerns, if they were about parking, were addressed, clearly, plainly. So vote ‘no,’ don’t abstain and especially not  minutes after you said ‘I’m voting no’ and the other trustee said ‘so am I’.”

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