A push this week by Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby to suspend or rescind a resolution to sell a piece of public land in Montauk and first obtain an appraisal on it was rejected and prompted angry outbursts by Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley.
Ms. Overby and Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc had voted against the sale of a 3,700-square-foot piece of a town alleyway, which bisects the Ronjo motel, for $35,000 to the motel’s new owners, Chris Jones and Lawrence Siedlick, in the absence of an appraisal and an assessment of the purpose and need for the alleyway system.
Supervisor Wilkinson defended the sale price, which, he said, he had pulled “out of the air.”
Mr. Jones and Mr. Siedlick, who were at the meeting on Tuesday, had offered to pay for the appraisal, Ms. Overby said. Mr. Wilkinson at first agreed with the idea.
But, he asked, “What does having an appraisal have anything to do with the board’s action [in approving the sale]?”
“I’m saying they’re two independent actions,” he said. “If you wish to do an appraisal, we don’t have to suspend the original resolution.”
New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said in a telephone interview this week that, though there is no express provision in state law requiring an appraisal before selling town land, according to the New York State Constitution, “you cannot make a gift of public property.”
He said that “you need an appraisal to be able to document” that officials, in approving a sale, have properly maintained their fiduciary duty to taxpayers and their property, and to defend the sale in case of questions by the state comptroller or a lawsuit by taxpayers.
Ms. Quigley said Tuesday that she didn’t support getting an appraisal because she believed appraisers would set the price for the alley piece at $5,000. “I think the rest of the money is a gift to the town,” she said of the difference in the sum offered.
She railed against Ms. Overby and Mr. Van Scoyoc, accusing them of following a policy of “delay, delay, delay, and stall, stall, stall.”
“I don’t believe in your way of doing government,” she said. “I believe that government should be made by us. That’s what we’re here for.”
Ms. Overby noted that the land is not owned by the board, but by the taxpayers. “We need to make sure we are doing our fiduciary responsibility — getting an appraisal,” she said. “It is not trying to stop government. It is trying to act responsibly.”
“You’re going to have a permissive referendum on this property,” Ms. Overby warned. Taxpayers can challenge the sale through the permissive referendum process provided they collect a certain number of signatures on a petition within a limited time.
“Go ahead, let’s have it,” Mr. Wilkinson said.
Councilman Dominick Stanzione provided the third vote against Ms. Overby’s request. However, later in the meeting, Ms. Quigley announced that she had received a text — from whom she would not say — saying that an appraisal on the land had already been ordered. She questioned Ms. Overby about why an appraisal had been commissioned without board authorization.
Ms. Overby said yesterday that it had not been requested by anyone representing the town.