April 12, 2006

DEC Takes Lead In KACE Review

It's official: The Department of Environmental Conservation has rendered its decision and agreed to assume lead agency status for KACE LI, LLC's proposed annexation.

According to a letter written by Janice Taylor, assistant Attorney General of New York State, the DEC's decision will "allow the SEQRA process to move forward pending resolution of other issues in the litigation."

The proposed annexation and development of the property is a hot-button issue that has pitted Southold against Greenport. But Greenport Mayor David Kapell said the DEC's decision is significant for the village and KACE LI, LLC.

"This is an extremely important development for the KACE LI, LLC annexation proposal," said Kapell. "The DEC's decision to lead the environmental review is recognition by a state agency of the critical regional importance of the underlying issue: balancing the critical need for affordable housing against any environmental impacts that might accrue from its development. Given the DEC's superior expertise and resources, this will ensure a thorough and objective review."

The mayor said that the DEC's decision "forces the town to reconsider its premature rejection of the proposal and moves the process forward to the careful analysis needed prior to making a thoughtful decision on the merits" of the proposed project.

KACE LI, LLC's proposal involves bringing 17 acres of land, currently owned by KACE LI, LLC from Southold into the Village of Greenport for the purpose of creating a 128 residence mixed-income community. Of the 128 residences, 64 workforce homes, priced from $175,000 to $266,500, will be constructed without public subsidy or taxpayer contribution.

In the past, both the town and the village agreed to allow the DEC to determine who should serve as lead agency in the SEQRA review. The SEQRA process was cut short, said Kapell, by the town's decision to deny the village's petition for annexation.

The town's decision to deny the petition sparked a hotbed of controversy between municipalities.

In an affidavit filed on February 9, Southold Town Attorney Patricia Finnegan said the proposed annexation is a "a thinly veiled attempt at a municipal 'land grab,' committed by a municipality seeking to raise its property

tax revenues, while at the same time granting a windfall to an allied private developer."

Kapell and Constantine Kontokosta, principal and member of KACE LI, LLC fired back with affidavits of their own.

"It is indisputable that the record and experience of the village in producing and preserving affordable housing is vastly superior to that of the town, which has essentially done nothing," said Kapell.  "Southold's dirty little secret" is to "concentrate low and moderate income and minority families within the existing village boundary."

This week, the town, the village, and KACE LI, LLC all agreed in writing with the DEC's decision.

In the past, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said, "This issue is before the court for adjudication and I am confident that Southold Town cannot be forced to surrender its jurisdiction of lands to satisfy the business interests of a developer."

After the DEC's recent decision, however, Russell said that he supports the town's decision to request that the DEC act as lead agency. "This is the best way to ensure that the property's environmental features are accounted for."

Kontokosta said the DEC's offer to "take lead agency" is a significant step forward for the village, our workforce housing proposal, and the working families of Southold Town. "We look forward to starting, and completing, the SEQRA process without delay and we are encouraged that the DEC is making workforce housing a priority," he said.

Added Kapell: "It ain't over till it's over."

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