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Village reverses course on rehabbing former restaurant site

Mastic Beach Village trustees rescinded their resolution to

Mastic Beach Village trustees rescinded their resolution to purchase and rehabilitate the shuttered Violet Cove Restaurant and Marina. Oct. 14, 2016 Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The Mastic Beach Village board of trustees has reversed course on a $2 million project to rehabilitate a former restaurant and marina property owned by Suffolk County.

Board members, in a 4-1 vote on Oct. 5, rescinded their resolution to purchase the once popular Violet Cove building, which closed about a decade ago when its owner could no longer financially sustain it. Trustee Joseph Johnson voted both to purchase the building in September and to reverse the deal.

He said board members had agreed this summer to buy the property in the southwest section of Mastic Beach near Floral Court and Violet Road after being given short notice from county officials that they planned to auction off the building.

Against the advice of village treasurer Anne Abel, the board majority voted last month to purchase the building for $150,000 and revamp it into a nature center.

Johnson, however, said the move was met with some residential criticism and that the building had several unresolved environmental violations.

In addition, village officials said it would have cost $1.4 million to elevate and rehab the building and another $780,000 to landscape the property.

County officials last week confirmed they first contacted the village in 2014 and again in August about selling the property to the village for open space purposes. There were questions at the time if Mastic Beach would have been allowed to use the building to generate revenue.

Village officials said they would have worked with Stony Brook University and other organizations to offer educational programs at the site. They would have also used it to host weddings.

“I don’t think it was a terrible idea, but not under this budget,” Mayor Maura Spery said in a phone interview Tuesday. “This would have been good to have discussed earlier this year.”

Johnson agreed.

“It’s not practical. We’re not financially feasible,” he said. “Not a gamble we can afford.”

The village has faced several financial obstacles this year and a vote to dissolve Mastic Beach as an incorporated municipality is set for Nov. 16.

The village is mired in fiscal problems. Board members have anticipated $100,000 in revenue by imposing franchise fees on local businesses, and they planned to raise additional money through aggressive code enforcement on village homeowners. But both efforts have been slow to raise revenue.

Earlier this year, Spery’s proposed 125 percent tax increase was shot down in favor of a tax-neutral budget.

That in part led to Moody’s Investors Service downgrading Mastic Beach six levels to noninvestment grade, citing financial instability, overspending by $400,000 on a road project, a declining tax base and operating at a deficit for three consecutive years.

Also this year, a round of layoffs left Mastic Beach with five full-time employees and roughly 15 part-time workers.

Spery reiterated the reversal on acquiring the property was the best move for the village.

“With everything going on now, it’s the right decision,” she said.

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