While the town looks to negotiate with the property owner, it will also entertain the idea of eminent domain as a means of acquiring and preserving nearly 10 sensitive acres known as Steinerís Woods in Sound Beach. Photo by Erika Karp
January 31, 2013 | 09:48 AMThe Town of Brookhaven set an April 23 public hearing to discuss the acquisition of property known as Steiner's Woods in Sound Beach for drainage and open space purposes.
The town has been trying to purchase the nearly 10 acres of land, located off of Lower Rocky Point Road, with the hopes of preserving it, Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said.
The property serves as a natural drainage site for much of the area, with water from surrounding locations running into it, she said.
More than 25 years ago, Robert Toussie, a Brooklyn-based developer who owns the property, proposed to develop the site as Villages on the Sound, a 15-home subdivision.
Bonner said preserving land along the already sensitive bluff is important because development could lead to more issues. Bonner said the bluff serves as protection for Scott's Beach and development along the bluff could lead to negative environmental affects due to stormwater runoff into the Long Island Sound.
"It's kind of a win-win situation," Bonner said of the preservation proposal. "We get open space. We get drainage."
On Jan. 23, the Town Board voted in favor of holding a public hearing on the resolution to acquire the property. According to the resolution, which was introduced in December and is sponsored by Bonner, the town would be authorized to acquire the property by negotiation or eminent domain for drainage and open space purposes.
In 2011, the town began an appraisal process for the property. According to Bonner's office, the property was appraised at $3.15 million. Bonner said the town is unable to purchase the property for anything more than the appraised amount. In the past, the town has been unable to reach an agreement with Toussie.
Toussie could not be reached for comment.
According to the resolution, $350,000 will come from the town's Open Space Preservation Fund and $2,800,000 will come from the Land Acquisition Fund. Toussie has sued Brookhaven Town and other surrounding homeowners due to stormwater runoff from neighboring properties and roads draining onto his property. Bonner said trying to mitigate this natural system would cost about the same amount of money required to acquire the property.
"The public is very supportive of this opposition [to develop] because they know the history and the purpose the property serves," Bonner said in a phone interview Monday, Jan. 28.
Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach Civic Association, said that for years the community has opposed and the civic association has advocated against development of the land. Besides being a natural recharge basin, the property is one of the few remaining undeveloped pieces of land in Sound Beach, home to various species of birds and once a burial ground.
Beth Dimino, a Sound Beach resident and science teacher who lives adjacent to the property, said she believes any attempt to stop the water from draining onto the Steiner's Woods property would be costly and just wouldn't work.
"As a scientist what I know for sure [is] you will not control water," Dimino said. "Water will go to its lowest point."