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Wording on Syosset land vote called vague

The sale of the Town of Oyster Bay

The sale of the Town of Oyster Bay public works complex, adjacent to the former Cerro Wire site, is up for a vote Tuesday. Credit: Newsday, 2004 / Karen Wiles Stabile

The attorney for Oyster Bay residents contesting a petition for a vote on the sale of the town's public works complex contended in court recently that the wording was too vague.

But when they go to the polls next month to vote on selling the Syosset facility for $32.5 million, residents will have even less information on the ballot to help guide their decision -- not even the land's location.

After a judge ruled two weeks ago that the public vote, set for Aug. 20, could proceed, Town Clerk James Altadonna Jr. sent the official wording for the referendum -- just 29 words -- to the Nassau County Board of Elections.

What the voters will see when they cast their ballots is this wording:

"Shall the resolution of the Town Board of the Town of Oyster Bay to sell 53.783 acres of certain surplus real property for the sum of $32,500,000.00 be approved?"

There's no mention of the location or what's on it or that the town can keep using the land for eight years.

Kenneth Gray, the attorney for residents opposing Taubman Centers Inc.'s plan to build a mall on the former Cerro Wire site adjacent to the public works complex, criticized the wording on Taubman's petition seeking the vote.

Gray argued in State Supreme Court in Mineola that the wording on the petition was inadequate and misleading.

He noted the petition did not identify the property other than giving its tax map block and lot numbers.

The judge responded that any problems with wording could be remedied in the actual referendum, whose wording would be decided by the town clerk.

"The reality is they will use any means possible to sneak this deal past the public," said Kyle Sklerov, spokesman for Long Island Jobs Now, a group formed by Taubman to push for the mall.

"The proposition wording was created at the advice of counsel, and a description of the property, including location, acreage, intended purchaser and price, will be available to residents in the abstract provided by the Board of Elections the day of the referendum vote," according to town spokeswoman Marta Kane.

Todd Fabricant, head of the Cerro Wire Coalition, said, "The issue is whether the residents of the town should vote yes to stop the mall."

Another issue in the community is who will or should pay the $200,000 cost of the referendum.

"Payment is now the burden of the town, thanks to Taubman," Fabricant said.

Sklerov countered:

"More than 8,000 residents rightfully demanded a chance to weigh in on this non-competitive backroom deal with mall developers , and it's the town's responsibility to give it to them."

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