The $35,000 that the East Hampton Town Board’s Republican majority agreed to accept for a portion of a town-owned alleyway that bisects the old Ronjo motel in Montauk has been confirmed by an independent appraiser, who told the town board on Tuesday that the parcel is worth between $30,000 and $40,000.
“We went to American Institute of Appraisers, and reached out to get another appraisal of an alleyway in Montauk,” Republican Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said as he introduced the appraiser, Ronald Paradiso of Jerome Hains Realty in New York.
“For the press: We’ve never met,” Mr. Wilkinson said, adding, “I better stay away from humor and Ronjo.” The supervisor had previously been quoted as saying that he had pulled the original price of $35,000 for the alleyway, “out of the air,” a statement he has since said was a joke. The two Democrats on the board had called repeatedly for an independent appraisal of the 20-foot wide alley and opposed the sale because the property’s value had not been independently established.
Mr. Paradiso took the board through the steps he used to determine a fair-value appraisal, telling the board that he reviewed previous appraisals commissioned by both the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee and by Chris Jones and Lawrence Siedlick, principals of the Montauk Beach House, as the motel is now called.
Mr. Paradiso inspected the alleyway and the adjoining properties, concluding that, as with both earlier valuations, the motel site was the only adjoining property that was a logical buyer for development.
The owners’ appraisal, done by Stephen H. Schuster of Sag Harbor, came in at $22,500, but was flawed, Mr. Paradiso said, since it did not use sale prices of comparable properties in the area.
The appraisal commissioned by the Democrats and done by Cynthia Marshall, whose firm, Clark and Marshall, is often used by the town, placed the value of the property at $184,000, using sales of nearby properties to determine value. That was a correct procedure, Mr. Paradiso said. However, “she did make a special assumption” that the land would be purchased only for development, and that improperly skewed the final number, he said.
In end, Mr. Paradiso said, “There is only one buyer and one seller for this land,” which greatly discounts the value of the alleyway. Mr. Paradiso gave the alley a top value of about $72,000 and a low value of $12,275, but stressed that a proper figure could not be determined by averaging the two numbers, because of the discount required since there was only one seller and one buyer. The true value for the property, he said, was between $30,000 and $40,000.
That is when the fireworks began.
“Were you aware that this land could be used without any structure?” Democratic Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc asked Mr. Paradiso.
Mr. Van Scoyoc argued that the land could be put out for bid for mobile food vendors, just as the town does with beach vending locations.
He went on to question the assumption that there was only one bidder, since the property has never been put out to bid. He also questioned whether the property’s value could be enhanced by using it for parking.
Mr. Wilkinson pointed out that Mr. Paradiso had extensive credentials working with dozens of state and town governments and agencies, as well as hundreds of private sector businesses.
Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, also a Democrat, told the board that at least one food vender had expressed interest in the alleyway, and said that it should be put out to bid.
Ms. Overby asked whether Mr. Paradiso had ever done business with Farrell Fritz, the law firm that Ms. Quigley is a member of.
“So then if they have done work with Farrell Fritz, so?” Mr. Wilkinson asked.
Ms. Overby said that she would have used an appraiser who was familiar with the East End.
“Knowledge is a great thing, Bill,” Ms. Overby said.
“You’re impugning his integrity and my integrity,” Ms. Quigley said. “I have no relation with Mr. Paradiso.” She called the question “completely inappropriate.”
“I think that Mr. Paradiso has done a good job with the information that he had,” Ms. Overby said.
At that point Ms. Quigley and Mr. Scoyoc began talking over each other.
Mr. Wilkinson thanked Mr. Paradiso for coming.
“I hope you will consider me again in the future,” Mr. Paradiso said as he left.