The Lindenhurst Board of Education on Wednesday voted to sell the district’s shuttered elementary school to a developer who plans to build senior housing on the property.
The nine-member board voted 7 to 2 to sell the Edward W. Bower Elementary School on Montauk Highway to Engel Burman Group of Garden City.
The developer, who is also building senior housing on the site of former schools in Seaford and Deer Park, offered $5.5 million to the district for 100 senior condo units, plus a clubhouse and pool. The condos would be 1,000-square-foot, one-bedroom units marketed for around $400,000 each.
The board, in a unanimous vote, rejected the offer by the only other interested developer, Simply Self Storage of Orlando, Florida. That company offered $5 million to build a 150,000-square-foot building with 1,000 storage units. As part of the deal the self-storage company also promised to give back to the district a soccer field and to build 50 parking spaces for the field.
Bower was closed in 2011 due to the building’s age and declining enrollment. The board voted in October to sell the property, which costs the district more than $100,000 a year to maintain.
However, the board then could not obtain a majority vote for three potential development deals — Engel Burman, Simply Self Storage and Mill Creek Residential of Dallas, which sought to build multifamily rental units. Engel Burman and Simply Self Storage then slightly altered their original proposals for the second vote while Mill Creek dropped out.
Residents appear split on which developer was preferred, but residents living closest to the site lobbied board members to go with Engel Burman.
Former board member Patricia Ames said that while she understood the need for Bower’s athletic fields — the loss of which will displace several teams, officials said — a storage facility “does not belong in a neighborhood” and senior housing will keep “a sense of community.”
“I do not feel that it’s justifiable to destroy my neighborhood just to keep the field,” she said.
The two board members who voted against the senior housing proposal on Wednesday — Linda Aniello and Edward Murphy Jr. — had previously voted against the sale of the property. Aniello said she wanted to use the school for BOCES students while Murphy said a sale is “shortsighted” because enrollment declines are cyclical.
“What happens in 15 years from now when Lindenhurst needs another elementary school?” he said. “It’s going to cost us $100 million.”
Murphy also cited “misrepresentations” made by Engel Burman in their pitch to the board, namely a tax analysis they presented that claimed the storage facility would only result in $2.5 million in taxes paid to the district over a 15 year period while Engel Burman would pay almost $31 million for the same time period, including $1.4 million in the first year.
The district subsequently sought a tax estimate from the Town of Babylon and concluded that each development would generate about $400,000 a year in taxes.
The district must now sign a contract with Engel Burman, which is subject to approval by residents in a future referendum.