By Connor Beach
A Huntington councilman is questioning the town board’s move to convey a 0.5-acre, town-owned property in the heart of Huntington Station to a developer for free.
The town board voted Tuesday, 4-1, to turn over the 1000 New York Ave. property to Renaissance Downtowns, master developer of the revitalization project for Huntington Station, so that Renaissance can move along with the second phase of the project -- a 15,000-square-foot three-story mixed-use building with retail space and 66 apartments.
Councilman Ed Smyth, who voted against the conveyance, said, “As part of this project, the developer is purchasing three parcels adjacent to the town property. The owners of these adjacent properties are all being paid a considerable sum of money for their property.
“Yet, the town is getting zero.”
Ryan Porter, Renaissance president, said both the town and Renaissance had independent appraisals of the property done two years ago. Both, he said, came back within ten percent of each other.
Smyth said the appraisal for the town property came out to “negative $872,000.”
Porter said, “It is a very complex appraisal process because it entails infrastructure improvements and years of risk and coordination with different agencies, so it’s not a normal appraisal that would happen in a normal real estate transaction.”
Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said the contract with Renaissance was signed under the previous administration and that the town is obligated to honor it.
“I can either vote yes and perform the act that the previous administration has required us to perform, or I can vote no, knowing the town will be immediately sued,” Lupinacci said.
Smyth challenged that idea after the meeting. He said any lawsuit against the town regarding the property transfer would be an “easy win.”
“All you have to do is explain to a judge that the way this thing was drafted comes up with an appraisal methodology where that piece of property is valued at negative $872,000.”
Councilwoman Joan Cergol, who cosponsored the conveyance resolution with Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, said the transfer was not actually free because Renaissance over the past five years had to “invest dollars into the property to prepare it for development.”
She added, “To characterize the transfer as a free gift is unfair and actually inaccurate. There has been consideration made for the property, and that has been embodied in the appraisal methodology in the Master Developer Agreement.”
Cuthbertson urged Smyth to view the property transfer as part of the Master Development Agreement “in its totality.”
The property was originally acquired by the town in 2008 through eminent domain for around $700,000, according to town documents.
With the conveyance finalized, Porter said he’s excited to move forward with the revitalization project and expects to break ground on the Gateway Plaza project by the end of the year.