What’s going on with Steve’s Pier property?

Another cancelled hearing leads to suspicions

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It wasn’t the first time that a hearing for the Steve’s Pier property was cancelled. It was actually the second, and like before, on March 13, the developer cancelled the day of the hearing, Sept. 14.

The hearing’s purpose was to allow for developer Craig Kirsch, and Greg Andrea, the architect, to present their latest plans for a seaside inn at 33 Bayville Ave., known as the Steve’s Pier property. They had held a presentation two years ago at Soundview Caterers to a large group of residents, many of which did not support the endeavor.

The architect had been working to make changes ever since, submitting them to the village. The hope was that at the hearing residents would become privy to the details of the revised plans.

“They didn’t have their act together,” said Trustee Tim Charon. “just like the last time. I don’t understand that. Like any process, if you’ve been waiting years to build something why wouldn’t you have the information you need to do so?”

At the Soundview meeting residents had questioned and opposed the plans that indicated there would be kitchens in the rooms. “What quaint seaside inn has two large rooms in a suite and a kitchenette?” said Trustee Bob De Natale. He said he remains dubious that the builder is planning a seaside inn and like some in Bayville, believes the building would eventually become apartments.

Trustees say the reason why the Sept. 14 hearing was cancelled was because the required paperwork was incomplete.

“There were a lot of errors and omissions,” said Michele Principe, a trustee. “Greg was supposed to fill it out.”

Principe says the environmental study portion of the application was not complete. There was never one done on the property she added, as far as she knows. “I think another needs to be done because the property backs up against a wetland,” she explained. “The development could threaten the endangered species there. Can the area hold that kind of domestic waste coming out?”

She believes a traffic study also needs to be done. “There is a tremendous traffic flow in that area,” she said. “We can’t have an emergency vehicle held up because a wedding is going on, for example.”

Deputy Mayor Joe Russo wasn’t surprised to learn that the hearing was cancelled. “I’m concerned because the applicant is not focusing on presenting its best case to the village,” Russo said. “They haven’t filled out the paperwork completely. It’s like in math when you are asked not only to show your answer but the work you did to get to that answer.”

Mayor Paul Rupp said the builders had not done a traffic study. “They were trying to piggyback on the study we did and I told them they can’t,” he said. “They need to use an independent person. They said they couldn’t do it in a week and half before the hearing, which was when they found out they had to do it, so they decided to cancel the meeting.”

Use of FOIL opposed by some

Former mayor Victoria Siegel went to Village Hall on Sept. 11 to see the file on Steve’s Pier so she could be prepared for the upcoming hearing. When she arrived, she said she was only given the plans. “I wanted to also see all of the correspondences from all of the agencies involved and municipalities,” she said. “I was told I had to FOIL for that. Since when can people not have access?”

Rupp said the rule was enacted when his administration came in. “I wanted a standardized policy and procedures and the village attorney said it wasn’t against the law to require the FOIL,” Rupp said. “Anyone can sit and look at plans but they can’t take them out of the village.”

Rupp said prior to enacting the use of FOIL, how and when residents received information depended upon who you knew at the village. “Everyone was treated differently,” he said. “If you were friends with Tom, Dick or Harry you could get the information. Someone else would have to come the next day and if they didn’t know anyone, wait two weeks.”

“Vicki is an ordinary resident now like I will be come next July,” he added. “We are just trying to correct things that were inconsistent in the past.”

De Natale doesn’t agree that filing a FOIL is necessary. “We are a little village,” he said. “I should be able to get what I need without a FOIL. If you are trying to hide something that’s a great way to be able to do so. Thirty days [the wait time for information] gives time to hide something.”

He added that he doesn’t believe that Rupp is trying to hide anything. “I just think he’s making it more difficult for people,” he said. “The last election tells you that people in Bayville don’t like nonsense.”

Siegel says the village is violating the Open Meetings Law. “If an entire file is set to be discussed at a meeting then the law would apply which says I don’t have to FOIL for the information,” she said. “I went back the next day and was given three additional pieces of paper. I said, ‘This is the file?’”

Her experience in government has led her to believe that she was not getting everything, she said.

Charon doesn’t agree with the use of FOIL to obtain records. “We are not an enemy agency, we are working for the people,” he said. “With transparency, no one should have to FOIL, especially an ex-mayor.”

But Russo is suspicious of Siegel’s motives. “Vicki is opposed to the project before she sees the presentation,” he said. “She’s looking for any obstacle to derail it.”

Siegel disagrees. “I wanted to review the file so if I had any questions they would be intelligent,” she said. “The mayor said they promulgated a rule with the village attorney so everyone was treated equally. Everything has always been equal. During my time in office if you asked for it you got it.”

Siegel was mayor from 1982-1990 and then again from 1994-2010.