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Vote set for land near Cerro Wire site next month

A temporary restraining order blocking the sale of

A temporary restraining order blocking the sale of the 54 acres adjacent to the former Cerro Wire site has been in effect. Credit: Newsday, 2004 / Karen Wiles Stabile

A referendum will proceed next month on the Town of Oyster Bay's planned sale of its public works complex to a competitor of the developer trying to build a mall on an adjacent site.

The vote will be held Aug. 20 after a judge late Monday dismissed a lawsuit by residents opposed to a mall on the former Cerro Wire property in Syosset.

State Supreme Court Justice F. Dana Winslow in Mineola ruled in favor of the mall developer, Taubman Centers Inc., which had organized a petition drive to force a referendum on the $32.5 million sale to developers who promised to build a mixed-use facility.

Winslow ruled last week that Taubman, which has said it would pay more for the land, had submitted 4,976 "facially valid" signatures on a petition seeking the referendum after they were reviewed by the Nassau County Board of Elections. Taubman needed 4,599 valid signatures to force the vote.

Monday, the judge dismissed the remaining objection in the lawsuit filed by opponents -- that the wording of the petition itself and the statements made by canvassers to get signatures constituted fraud.

Winslow vacated his temporary restraining order, and the residents who had filed the lawsuit said there were no plans to appeal.

The judge said that while the petition "may have been inartfully drawn, it was not misleading and did not contain latent ambiguities."

Winslow also said the signatures were not obtained fraudulently, "though the questions posed by the witnesses may well have been designed to be more advocacy than informative."

The judge also noted the town clerk is responsible for drafting the wording on the ballot and could make sure it clearly describes the proposed sale of 54 acres.

"The public will now have the opportunity to learn all the facts surrounding the town's noncompetitive land sale," to Oyster Bay Realty LLC, said Kyle Sklerov, spokesman for Long Island Jobs Now, created by Taubman to push for the mall stymied for 18 years. "When budgets are tight, it's imperative that people understand that the town could be missing out on millions of dollars."

Todd Fabricant, head of the Cerro Wire Coalition fighting the mall, said his group has prepared "a full-court press to inspire the residents to vote yes."

Supervisor John Venditto said the referendum would give "our residents a full and fair opportunity to vote yes and once again stop Taubman's misguided efforts."

A separate lawsuit by Taubman seeking to block the sale is proceeding in State Supreme Court in Riverhead.

But if there is a ruling in that case before Aug. 20, whichever side loses is likely to appeal and it's unlikely the appeal could be heard before the referendum, which would likely make the case moot.

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