Thypin Steel says moratorium not legal

Stephen Romano
Much of the waterfront moratorium focuses on Manhasset Isle (bottom right)

The lawyer representing the 11-acre Thypin Steel property in Manorhaven said the village’s waterfront moratorium does not meet legal standards.

Michael Sahn, who represents MBA-Manorhaven LLC, the owner of Thypin Steel at 5 Sagamore Hill Drive, said “there is no basis for a moratorium.”

The moratorium, which was implemented in June and ends on Dec. 22, prohibits any waterfront development in Manorhaven.

“MBA continues to oppose any moratorium that affects, in any way, its rights to use, develop, or operate its property, now or in the future,” Sahn said in the letter. Citing prior cases involving municipal moratoriums, Sahn said the Manorhaven action does not meet the legal requirement of acting in response to a “dire necessity.”

“The village is not acting in response to a ‘dire necessity’ or that its action is reasonably calculated to alleviate a crisis condition,” Sahn said.

Sahn said the letter sent to the village isn’t threatening a lawsuit, but is “the position of my client as to whether or not a moratorium should apply  to the property.”

The Thypin property, which stored steel at its Manhasset Isle facility until 1988 when it closed, was approved for a 96-unit residential development in 2003, but the moratorium is preventing the developer from moving ahead with the plan.

Guy LaMotta, the chairman of the village’s waterfront committee, said in September the Thypin property was “the most important piece of land on the eastern part of the United States,” saying it had a valuation of $100 million.

Manorhaven Village Attorney Steve Leventhal rejected Sahn’s argument.

“I am confident the village is proceeding properly and legally,” he said. “The village respects the rights of property owners while at the same time respects the interests of members of the community.”

Mayor Jim Avena, who created an advisory committee in July to develop recommendations for the waterfront, said he’s in favor of extending the moratorium six months.

“I am proposing tonight a six-month extension to the moratorium on new development or construction in the waterfront area,” Avena said at last Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting. “To be fair and responsible representatives of our community, we must listen to all points of view and carefully evaluate the alternatives.”

Trustees didn’t vote on extending the moratorium, saying  it first must be submitted to the Nassau County Planning Commission for approval.

Residents asked why the moratorium needs to be sent to the county, noting that the original moratorium was not.

“The previous administration put the moratorium in place,” Avena said. “It was not done correctly the first time.”

The county has 30 days to review the proposal, Leventhal said, and then the village can vote on it.

If the county approves the moratorium, the board will then vote on it, but if the county denies it, the board with need a four-person super majority to approve the measure, Leventhal said.

Because it takes 30 days for the county to review the proposal, there will be a gap between the end of original moratorium and the start of the extension if it’s passed.

Residents said they were concerned a developer would submit an application in the gap period, especially Thypin Steel.

Village Clerk Sharon Natalie Abramski, who processes applications received by the village, said any application received before the moratorium is extended would be too late to process before February.

The county planning commission’s next two meetings are Jan. 5 and Jan 26.

Leventhal said he sent the proposal and expects it to be processed by the next village board meeting.

Resident Barbara Ruemenapp asked the board how the village would prevent a developer from submitting an application, saying the county planning commission process will benefit potential developers.

“Even if an application were received tomorrow, it would be received after notice that the board has introduced the extension of the moratorium, and the case law is clear that in order to get the benefit of a prior code after a new code is enacted, the developer has to have shovels in the ground,” Leventhal said. “The developer would have to have gone through all of the process.”

Sahn said Thypin does not intend to submit “anything more than is already on record.”

“If the board in January votes to extend it, then at that point, we’d have to discuss what options they might have to take,” he said. “I don’t want to speculate.”

Residents also criticized the mayor’s waterfront advisory committee, saying it has only focused on development and rezoning of the waterfront and not  preservation of the waterfront.

Avena said he is in the process of making changes to the committee, which will include the hiring of professional consultants.

“We know what the next step is and we will take action to get the professional help that we need,” Avena said. “I understand the positives and the negatives of the waterfront committee. I will now make an adjustment to the waterfront committee. I promise you that and hopefully we’ll be able to make more progress.”

A waterfront advisory committee was originally proposed by the prior village administration, but after the election Avena started his own committee.

Trustee Ken Kraft, a member of the waterfront committee, said the group lost “two to three” months when the administration changed after the June election.

“I feel like we’re making some progress for hopefully being able to make some recommendations about what can be done to the village’s waterfront,” said Patrick Gibson, a member of the waterfront committee and chairman of the Board of Zoning Appeals.

“I understand there is a lot of concern still for some reason that there is going to be some development in the lapse of this law but in my understanding, even in the event of a lapse, the most someone could possibly do is conceivably submit a plan according to the current zone, but of course that’s something nobody wants to do, which is why we have the waterfront committee looking at things,” Gibson said.

The majority of waterfront property is zoned for R4 developments, which  allow multiple dwellings, or apartment buildings, at a maximum height of 28 feet, according to village code.

Thypin Steel is zoned R3, which is similar to R4, but is zoned for residential cluster developments.

A couple of days before the board meeting, the Manorhaven Action Committee, a residents group, distributed fliers through an email attachment, advocating  extension of the moratorium.

The night before the meeting, information was added to the flier, and it was placed on streets and car windows around Manorhaven.

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