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Oyster Bay votes unanimously to seize private golf club by eminent domain

"Our intention was to, if anything, improve the

"Our intention was to, if anything, improve the golf course and make it a real showcase for the town of Oyster Bay," said would-be buyer Richard Schaub Jr. Credit: Morgan Campbell

The Oyster Bay Town Board voted unanimously Tuesday to seize the privately owned Peninsula Golf Club in East Massapequa by eminent domain.

The use of eminent domain to expand the town’s park system sets up potential legal challenges. Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino declined to be interviewed Tuesday, but Councilman Steven Labriola said at the July 13 condemnation hearing that "we expect and anticipate that there will be some litigation."

Arthur Feldman of Uniondale-based Farrell Fritz PC, the attorney for the 50-acre golf course’s owner, P.G.C. Holding Corp., declined comment Tuesday.

Town officials have portrayed the government takeover of the private business as necessary to protect the land from development, even though it has been protected from development for 75 years under a restrictive covenant with Nassau County, and the would-be purchaser has offered to enter into an agreement with the town to keep it a golf course. Town officials have said the county could remove the covenant in the future.

"There is an importance to preserving open space in this town," Saladino said during Tuesday’s meeting ahead of the vote. "There are numerous environmental benefits to this."

Richard Schaub Jr., principal of Florida-based Great American Properties, said he intended to make investments in the golf course and had no intention to build housing on the property. The golf club’s board agreed in March to sell the property to Schaub for the $4.4 million asking price.

"I’m disappointed," Schaub said in an interview following the 7-0 vote. He said he was disappointed none of the town board members mentioned the Aug. 10 letter he sent them stating his intentions to preserve the golf course.

"Our intention was to, if anything, improve the golf course and make it a real showcase for the town of Oyster Bay."

Town officials have made conflicting statements over engaging Schaub in discussions.

"The town did reach out to the buyer and ask if they would support our changing the zoning of that property from residential to park and they said, no," Saladino said Tuesday at the meeting.

"That is totally, 100% false," Schaub said Tuesday, adding that no one from the town had ever contacted him or responded to his letter.

"If they have a way of strengthening that restrictive covenant, whether it’s a rezoning or whatever, we’d be happy to do that," Schaub said.

In response to questions about engaging with Schaub, town spokesman Brian Nevin wrote in an Aug. 24 email that "the Town cannot negotiate with parties that do not own the property."

Saladino also said during the meeting that if Oyster Bay purchases the nine-hole golf course for $4.4 million it would be getting the land at "1970s prices."

"That’s a phenomenal price when you think of the value of that land," Saladino said.

The final price taxpayers will pay for the property could take years of litigation to determine.

"Valuation of property in eminent domain takings is based on the court’s assessment of the highest and best use of a property (not necessarily existing use)," Jennifer Polovetsky, an eminent domain attorney at New York City-based Sanchez & Polovetsky PLLC, wrote in an email. "Each party submits expert appraisal reports, and if there is a trial, each expert testifies and the Court will eventually make a decision on valuation based on this expert testimony."

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