Property Rights Foundation of America®

by Carol W. LaGrasse
reprinted from New York Property Rights Clearinghouse (Vol. 3., No. 2, April - July 1996)

Worthless Investments - 222 acres of land in Long Island's Pine Barrens
Local attorney's letter is a classic critique of the injustice of imposing Transferable Development Rights

Joseph F. Gazza, lawyer and investor in Quogue, on Long Island, understands the way the Long Island Pine Barrens law was supposed to work. When he, like the other 3,000-odd owners of small parcels in the pine barrens, received no offer from the Pine Barrens Commission to buy any of the 222 acres of small parcels he owns in the completely restricted 12,000-acre core area, he applied for hardship variances to the Commission to develop two of the parcels to meet his taxes and expenses. The Commission denied his applications after a protracted delay involving several hearings and related out-of-pocket costs. At about the same time, he asked to plant nursery grass on a 6 1/2-acre parcel to grow beach grass. That was also denied.
His February 1, 1996 letter to the Pine Barrens Commission reveals the barren expectations of compensation - through either eminent domain, purchase, or transferable development rights connected to genuine purchases at fair prices.
Fifty-four acres of Mr. Gazza's land were subsequently placed on the county's approved acquisition list.
The letter is printed in full.

 

JOSEPH FREDERICK GAZZA

ATTORNEY AT LAW
P.O. Box 969 5 Ogden Lane
Quogue, New York 11959
(516)653-5766 (Day and Evening)

February 1, 1996

Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning & Policy Commission
P.O. Box 587
3525 Sunrise Highway
Great River, NY 11739-0587

Re: Vacant Pine Barrens Core Parcels of Gazza

Dear Commission Members:

I have previously notified your commission that I am the owner of in excess of 200 acres of core pine lands comprised of numerous separate parcels. In order to continue to retain ownership to my land, which I acquired many years ago at considerable expense with much work effort, I must pay each year the ever increasing real estate taxes. My investment backed expectations have been devastated with the enactment of the Pine Barrens Act. The Act prohibits development in the core area and material alteration of natural vegetation.

The Act provides, as I understand it, three relief mechanisms to property owners such as the undersigned, in order for the Act not to have the effect of a regulatory taking, thus an inverse condemnation.

1. A waiver from the strict compliance with the plan or "Hardship Exemption"
I have two pending "Hardship Exemption" applications before your commission at present. Each has been going on for months, involving several hearings before your commission during the course of which I have devoted in excess of 50 hours of my time as an attorney to each application. My costs involving: stenographic record, legal ads, surveys, photos and secretarial time have added approximately $2000 to each application on my side. I realize that the commission and staff has equally devoted much time to these applications, however, you are all receiving a municipal paycheck for your time and effort. If my Hardship Exemption is denied, then my time and expenses have been wasted. If my application is delayed further or if your commission determines to POS/DEC my application under SEQRA then I shall be forced to spend much more effort and money to continue the exemption applications. The process itself deters landowners from seeking relief due to the time and costs to go through it. It is no wonder that very few property owners have even attempted to apply.

2. Government to acquire via condemnation or purchase agreement 75% of all Pine Barrens Core Land
I thought the plan provided this but no government agency has notified me or offered to purchase my land. My letter dated 6-16-95 (copy attached) has gone unanswered to date. I am ready to sell at fair market value, make me an offer, if you can't then direct my inquiry to the agency that can.

3. Transfer of Development Rights - TDR

I explained to your commission that if the TDR program could work I would do it. I own one tract of land in the "Compatible Growth Area" to which I have already TDR'd many rights through the Southampton Town Planning Dept. TDR process. The area the Act has designated compatible growth is presently infected with sand pits, town garbage transfer center and auto raceway. My tract is unsuitable for residential development with or without TDR's.

Enclosed with this letter is a package of 20 "Letter of Interpretation Applications" Appendix 1 of Pine Barrens Credit Program Handbook. I have completed these packages to enable your commission to determine how many TDR rights I have in order that your "Bank" or private purchasers of TDR's, that you may have knowledge of, may buy my rights. All my core parcels are within the CR-200 (5 acres residential zone) thus if your commission allocates one right per 5 acres of land, then any offer for a right will be tantamount to an offer for 5 acres of land, since only a bare residue of value will remain once the right has been lifted off my land. If your commission or your private purchaser buys my rights I will donate the remaining fee title to your commission.

Please advise,

Joseph Frederick Gazza

Via certified Mail
cc: Town of Southampton
Suff. Co. Dept. of Health Services

 

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