Eminent Domain Not Imminent in OB

 Bone-chilling winds off the ocean might have kept some folks at home that morning, but it was a full house in the Fire Island School gymnasium for the OB Board of Trustees meeting on Saturday, March 4 – largely in anticipation of the scheduled public hearing on the much publicized public hearing for proposed eminent domain of 473-475 Bayberry Walk, the Estate of Eugene Clegg. So when it was announced that the matter had been deleted from the agenda, a wave of bewilderment could be felt rippling through the audience.Item eight was additions and/or deletions to the agenda. It tends to be a little more than a formality in most meetings, but this time it adjourned the hot-button topic before proceedings even got started. The matter was not postponed, or rescheduled – but simply dropped. Furthermore, Tyler Sterck, grandson of the late Mr. Clegg and executor of the estate was not seen as present at the meeting.“We were not trying to take Tyler’s property – that’s untrue. This is part of an ongoing discussion we’ve had with Tyler Sterck and his family for the past two years,” said Ocean Beach Mayor James Mallott as he recounted events.He further stated his intentions that included visions of an expanded wagon park, additional recreation buildings, as well as moving the modular police station building being what had been among his plans for the property until Sterck and his lawyer halted negotiations.“That’s what the story is. We don’t want years of litigation. I don’t want to pay this law firm $300,000. It’s not worth the aggravation. We’re going to come up with another plan. We are working on drawings and sketches. It’s not done yet, but we plan to present a sketch at the OBA [Ocean Beach Association] meeting on March 21, be there or be square. There will be a presentation of what we are thinking, not doing – there is going to be a lot more conversation on this and the police station will go back where it was.”The Mayor’s answer in some ways left the audience even more confused.“Wasn’t there already an architectural rendering done by Joel Silverburg?” asked longtime resident Gail Stamler. “It looked pretty good to me.”To this Mallott stressed that even though the OBPD “liked” the present police station, it was still temporary, furthermore the structure was not “bathtub ready” (watertight from beneath) therefore could not be incorporated into the future ferry terminal structure.“When was it decided to take this off the table?” asked former Village Trustee Steven Einig.“This morning at executive session,” replied Mallott.“If Tyler does not want to talk with us, Tyler does not want to talk with us. I’ve got to live here for the remaining years of my miserable life,” he added as the audience chuckled. In closing Mallott stated that since the modular police station could not be moved to Sterck’s parcel, it would instead be moved to the basketball court while ferry terminal construction is underway next fall.By unanimous vote the public hearing was officially removed from meeting’s agenda, but not before Trustee Jason Bendicksen also had an opportunity to address the crowd:“No one ever wanted to take someone else’s property away,” said Bendicksen. “It was never a thought in anyone’s head, and it’s a shame it came out that way.”Other business of the day’s meeting continued on. Item 12 in the agenda was to approve a new ferry terminal design proposal from L. K. McLean Associates, P.C. Item 14 approved an additional $1,150,000 bond for the new well/safe house. And an April 8 public hearing has been set to consider demolishing a house at 123 Bungalow Walk – a property that has been abandoned since Hurricane Sandy. After over two hours the hearing of the citizens portion of the meeting was uncharacteristically quiet, as the weary audience in a cold gymnasium just wanted to go home. It did not take long for discussion to flare-up on Facebook once again.“Aside from everything, everything we heard was accurate,” quipped Josh Bloom in a heated comment thread on the Ocean Beach Bulletin Board, in which Tyler Sterck declared it was “time for all to move on.”However customers at Fire Island Liquors were still examining what transpired after the weekend.“Things seemed just a little too perfect at that meeting,” mused one gentleman while purchasing a bottle of white wine.While spirited debate continues in multiple forums among Ocean Beach residents, there does appear to be consensus of relief that the Community Gardens Outdoor Living & Gift Center has been spared, for its closure would have been inevitable if eminent domain proceedings had gone forward. They also seem eager to view plans to be unveiled at the OBA meeting scheduled for March 21, first day of spring.