Daniel Ramos stands in his backyard on Orchard Street in Lindenhurst...

Daniel Ramos stands in his backyard on Orchard Street in Lindenhurst on Monday. A portion of the yard is on a village-owned road --  on paper, anyway. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Dozens of Lindenhurst village homeowners are going to face a choice in their backyard: buy it or clear it.

The village is asking about 50 residents on the north side of Orchard Street and the south side of Palm Street to either purchase 12½ feet of backyard space or remove any structures placed on the land. The reason is that there’s a village-owned 25-foot-wide “paper” road called Richards Lane that runs through the backyards of the homes, from South Wellwood Avenue to Shore Road.

In September the village board of trustees voted to declare the lane as surplus property and to sell it to residents at an appraised value of $3 per square foot.

“This gives us a way of legalizing everything and transferring this property,” said Village Administrator Doug Madlon.

The lane is no longer visible and exists clearly on village tax maps only. Richards Lane was never paved, Madlon said, and no one seems to know when it was designated a roadway or what the purpose was in creating it in the first place. Madlon said the lane is too narrow to have been conceived as a proper street. Village historian Anna Jaeger said it may have been created for delivering milk or other goods to the backdoors of homes or as a garbage collection route.

Over the years, many residents have assumed the land was theirs — or ignored any information to the contrary — and have placed sheds, garages and gazebos on the lane. Through different administrations, the village had pushed the issue aside, Madlon said. But in the past year the village has received queries as people make efforts to sell or buy homes on the two streets and discover the lane on property surveys. 

“It’s just time to address the problem,” he said. “We can’t ignore it anymore.” Madlon said the village will send letters to residents next year to outline their options.

Madlon said the village’s actions were spurred when Daniel Ramos purchased his Orchard Street home in April. Ramos said he was shocked to find out the survey showed his backyard was not all his own. He said he and his wife, Bita, "were already making plans for what we were going to do and how we were going to do it.” 

Ramos is paying $3,000 for the 12½-foot-by-80-foot section and will have to pay fees to lawyers and other professionals to create a lot number and deed. In total, he expects to spend about $5,500. But he said it’s “absolutely worth it” to know the property is his and not worry about the village taking it back years later.

But some of Ramos’ neighbors are not as happy with the village’s offer.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Carol Steinberg. “We’ve been here 25 years and they’re telling us this now in 2018?”

Bill Dunn, who has also lived in his Orchard Street house for 25 years, is worried that he will have to move his shed. “I’m certainly not going to pay anything,” he said.

Brian Lynch has not been able to get permits for his garage and shed, which sit on the lane, since he moved to his Orchard Street home last year. He said he plans on purchasing the property but questions the amount.

“I think it should be a dollar,” he said. “People in this area don’t have an extra $5,000 to spend. I can understand the village needs money but they should just give it to us.”

Pay to own

Residents who thought their backyards were all their own may soon have to pay up to keep that land:

50 Number of affected residents on the north side of Orchard Street and the south side of Palm Street

25 Width in feet of the "paper road," aka Richards Lane

12½ Feet of backyard space that residents must purchase or remove any structures from

$3 Appraised price per square foot of surplus property

$5,500 Estimated price one resident expects to pay in legal and other fees for creation of a lot number and a deed

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