By Timothy Bolger
SALTAIRE IS SELLING a vacant piece of oceanfront property preserved by late fashion icon Liz Claiborne to help pay off $5 million in debt the village accrued while building its new market.
The village board also approved a $6.2 million long-term borrowing plan to refinance short-term borrowing for the market due this fall, plus a new water main and fire truck. In addition, it passed a measure to ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency for approval to change the reconstruction of Lighthouse Prominade from concrete to a wooden boardwalk. And it debated proposals requiring children to wear helmets while bicycling, cracking down on village home rentals via Air BNB, as well as mandating fire sprinklers for all new or significantly renovated homes – but the finances were the main issue.
“We hope to get several million dollars,” newly elected Saltaire Mayor John Zaccaro said of the village land sale while leading his first full village board meeting July 2. When pressed for an asking price, he refused to disclose the plot’s appraised value for fear of suppressing potential bids. “We will not sell it for less than what we believe the value is,” he said.
The six-lot parcel – the minimum required to build on under village code – is one of two Claiborne and her late husband, Arthur Ortenberg, preserved in 1985. Three years after Claiborne died in 2007, Ortenberg lifted the covenant and gifted the land to the village, sparking lawsuits from neighbors opposed to the plots being developed. After five years of unsuccessful lawsuits and appeals, the village was cleared to sell the land this year, but is only putting one on the auction block to start.
The village hopes proceeds from the sale will offset the debt it took on acquiring, demolishing and rebuilding its lone market, which was flooded in Sandy nearly four years ago.
As for upcoming construction, the board is confident that FEMA will approve the village’s request to build Lighthouse Prominade as a boardwalk since FEMA previously approved a similar change to Bay Prominade. The board approved a measure to make that request during a special meeting June 18. One resident asked what the village will do if FEMA denies the request.
“We will cross that bridge when we get to it,” Zaccaro said, estimating that the odds of approval are good and predicting that the board would rebuild Lighthouse Prominade as concrete if denied.
In other news, the board approved the settlement of a lawsuit with a Pennant Walk homeowner that mistakenly built on a village right of way. Under the deal, the owner will transfer an equal-sized piece of land to the village to compensate for the loss.
The board discussed and then decided not to vote on a proposal to require children under the age of 14 to wear helmets while bicycling. Instead, the camp will be directed to teach a class on bike safety. The trustees also debated how to crack down on homeowners that rent out their homes through the popular AirBNB website, often violating village rental codes. And the village approved a plan to begin the process of changing the code to require fire sprinklers in new homes and homes that have more than 50 percent renovations.
At one point during the meeting, when the board voted to approve village personnel, Trustee Frank Wolf voted no, noting that there was one employee that he objects to, but he declined to name names. And at another point, the board debated moving village elections to after Memorial Day so more people can vote – an issue they plan to revisit.
Residents also got a feel for the new administration at the meeting. The new mayor switched the order of two agenda items, making the executive sessions – the portion of the meeting which is closed to the public – before instead of after the open portion, a deviation from what has been standard protocol in Saltaire. He also moved reviewing claims and vouchers from being one of the first agenda items to one of the last. In addition, Zaccaro rebuffed a resident who asked the mayor to open the meeting by pledging allegiance to the flag, as most government meetings do.
“Can we have a pledge of allegiance, please, since this is the Fourth of July weekend,” the resident said.
“I am not going to do a pledge of allegiance,” Zaccaro replied. “At the last meeting we did have a moment of silence for… the Orlando victims. I will do something similar for Labor Day and Memorial Day, but since today is actually not the Fourth of July, I have chosen not do to the pledge of allegiance.
“Not that I’m not American or patriotic, but I don’t feel comfortable going forward doing that,” Zaccaro continued. “I’m sorry if that offends your sensibilities, but that’s the way I’d like to proceed.”
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