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Commissioner: Stony Brook Downtown Project Won't Involve Eminent Domain

A letter from Brookhaven's planning commissioner says the use of eminent domain wouldn't be appropriate in the safety and beautification project.

As Three Village business leaders questioned the Town of Brookhaven's early handling of the the question arose of whether eminent domain would be invoked in the process. But at least one official has said that won't be the case.

In a letter to Assemb. Steve Englebright dated Oct. 10, Brookhaven planning commissioner Tullio Bertoli wrote: "I can with great certainty indicate that not only will eminent domain not be necessary but that it is also not appropriate, warranted or required in this project.

In the letter, Bertoli also wrote: "Eminent domain, if it is used in land use plans, generally is applied in those instances where blight has affected an area. That is not the case in the Stony Brook project."

Englebright, who read Bertoli's letter at Wednesday's Three Village Chamber of Commerce meeting, said it was time to "take a deep breath."

"Whether something comes out of it at all will depend on our ability to understand that this is a plan to make a plan, and not a plan to react to in terms of its details, because there are no details," Englebright said.

Eminent domain has been a sensitive issue in the community since New York State in 2005 condemned 245.5 acres of land owned by Gyrodyne Co. of America at its Flowerfield site so that it could build Stony Brook University's Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology and Advanced Energy Resource and Technology Center. New York paid the company $26.3 million and would later lose a lawsuit filed by Gyrodyne claiming that the state had greatly undervalued the property they annexed. Earlier this year, the state paid Gyrodyne $167.5 million to settle the suit.

At the meeting on Wednesday, Gloria Rocchio, president of Eagle Realty Holdings, said other business owners in the area may not receive the idea of redevelopment warmly. Rocchio said: "I talked to a couple of people and they said, 'Well we don’t want to sell our shops, we don’t want to sell our businesses. The only way they’re going to take it is eminent domain.'"

The discussion on Wednesday focused on the Chamber's request to the Town to retract its request for qualifications (RFQ) for a consultant to lead the planning and communication process, for which submissions are due Oct. 25. "The current action is moving too quickly to allow proper input from the many Three Village residents, businesses and individuals that would be affected," Chamber president Michael Ardolino wrote in a letter addressed to town officials.

Bertoli, along with town councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, told The Village Times Herald this week that the RFQ would remain open but that no decisions would be made regarding the idea of redevelopment until after a new town supervisor is elected on Nov. 6.

The project was originally introduced to the community in August by then-supervisor Mark Lesko, who stepped down in September to lead Accelerate Long Island.

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John October 18, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Just read an article in the Village times on this "project". Good for the Chamber of Commerce to step up and say something!! Like eveything else the so called community minded SUNY Stony Brook does, it wants to get the project started and finished before anyone has a chance to say or do anything about it. Just like the hotel project, and the flowerfield project, this will be rammed down your tax paying throats, and be told "what ya gonna do about it". It's obvious none of the current store owners have been asked for input on this. Chamber of Commerce is correct to ask for a let's slow down here and take a real look at all this.
LivingSmall October 22, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Gyrodyne wasn't blighted, yet that didn't stop SUNY from using eminent domain. How are we to believe Bertoli? Patch -- Please do your readers a tremendous favor by letting us know which of the candidates for Supervisor is in favor of or against this project.
Christine Sampson October 22, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Great idea there - thanks. I'll follow up on this idea.

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