Lindenhurst residents will head to the polls Tuesday to decide whether the school district should sell an elementary school to a developer who wants to build senior condos on the site.
The public referendum comes after years of often heated debate about the fate of Edward W. Bower Elementary School on Montauk Highway. Bower was closed in 2011 due to the building’s age and declining enrollment. A Western Suffolk BOCES study found the district lost 17.6 percent of enrollment from 2004 to 2014 and anticipated another 10.7 percent loss by 2019.
The building was rented out to several groups but never fully leased and maintenance costs continually increased so the board decided to put the property on the market after receiving an appraisal of between $5.5 million and $6.6 million in 2013.
The board went through two real estate organizations and several offers for the property before voting 7-2 in December to sell the property to The Engel Burman Group of Garden City, pending a public referendum.
Engel Burman has offered $5.5 million to the district to develop the property for 98 senior condominium units, plus a clubhouse. The condos would be 1,000-square-foot, one-bedroom, two-bath units with a den, marketed for around $400,000 each.
The property would have a 55 and older restrictive covenant with no school age children permitted. If the owner dies, the condo must be sold to someone 55 or older.
Engel Burman partner Steven Krieger said at an information meeting last month that although the property is only zoned for one-bedroom units, the company would seek to get village approval to make the units two-bedroom.
Some residents question whether the units are too pricey and won’t sell. The company has several senior housing developments on Long Island and said they always sell out, believing Lindenhurst would have a similar result.
“There are literally lines of people who want to get into these because they don’t want to move from Long Island, they don’t want to move from their children and grandchildren,” said Engel Burman attorney Albert D’Agostino of Valley Stream.
Residents appear to be split on the sale. Some argue that it’s time to stop the financial bleeding Bower is causing and that senior housing would be the most agreeable use for the site, without putting an additional number of school children into the district. Others say that enrollment is cyclical. They say classrooms in the district’s six elementary schools are already full and that planned apartment complexes on Hoffman Avenue and elsewhere in the village could potentially add more elementary school-aged children to the district.
If sold, after debt service is retired the district stands to receive nearly $4.3 million, as well as between $350,000 and $460,000 in tax revenue each year. Engel Burman estimates it will take at least 18 months to get approvals and permits and another nine months to build the condos.
The building this year is expected to cost the district nearly $206,000 to maintain. If the referendum fails, the board can put the matter up again for a vote, remarket the property to other potential developers or entirely revisit their decision to sell the building.
The referendum is expected to cost the district about $25,000, with Engel Burman picking up the tab.
Voting on the sale of the Edward W. Bower Elementary School takes place Tuesday, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the following polling locations:
Albany Avenue Elementary School, 180 Albany Ave.; Daniel Street Elementary School, 289 Daniel St.; Harding Avenue Elementary School, 2 Harding Ave.; William Rall Elementary School, 761 N. Wellwood Ave.; and Lindenhurst Middle School, 350 S. Wellwood Ave.