Town Board notes
ISLIP TOWN—Two Islip Town residents voiced concerns during the public session at Tuesday’s board meeting. One noted a possible conflict of interest regarding a board member and the other about a number of topics, including tax breaks.
Joe Fritz, a former Islip Town zoning board member who unsuccessfully ran for numerous public offices in recent decades, pointed to a nationwide report published earlier this month that focuses on requests for tax deductions for buildings bought by big-box retailers and corporate giants, such as Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walgreens.
“The large stores would use vacant buildings’ ‘valuations’ to justify a tax break,” he said. “Moreover, these are the same corporations who got a whopping tax break from the Trump administration last year and increased their bottom line while citizens lost their deductions [for] property taxes over $10,000.”
One of the points made in the report, which Fritz referred to, is that residents in a Wisconsin town had their property tax bill increase by $300 per year due to the practices mentioned above. “Now, I hope that Islip Town does not have tax reduction applications [from] these big-box stores asking [officials] for a tax break,” he said. “Our property taxes are high enough that we don’t need to subsidize big business.”
But, from Fritz’s perspective, big business is getting tax breaks in Islip Town. He cited a 10-year tax break that Heartland developer Jerry Wolkoff received in 2013. The Islip Town Board, according to reports at the time, unanimously approved the $1.4 million tax break for a 150,000-square-foot building within the larger complex.
The developer, which was investing $7 million in the building, would have originally paid about $2.7 million in town property taxes over the course of 10 years, according to past reports. But, after the tax break, they ended up paying around $1.3 million.
Heartland Town Square has been a highly contested issue since the developer purchased the 450 acres on the grounds of Pilgrim State Hospital in Brentwood from New York State in 2002. This newspaper published a breakdown of the project with “Learn about Heartland,” which ran on March 23, 2017. The $4 billion plan looks to include 9,000-plus apartments, one million square feet of retail space and three million square feet of office space, amounting to 15 million square feet of development.
Fritz, a Brentwood resident and practicing attorney in East Islip, also suggested that town officials consider extending the amount of time speakers are given during the public portion of the town board meetings.
Speakers are currently given three minutes each during the public portion. Fritz said this should be extended to six minutes since town board meetings are currently held once a month, as opposed to multiple times a month like they were in the past.
Islip resident Greg Pepe voiced concerns about councilman John Cochrane serving as CEO of Long Island Electrical Inspectors Inc., a Bay Shore-based electrical company that performs electric inspections for certificates of occupancy on behalf of Islip Town.
Pepe, a frequent speaker at town board meetings, referred to a New York State code of ethics that prohibits such an affiliation for elected officials and noted, “How is this fair to other people waiting to be an electrical inspector for the Town of Islip?”
“This is a direct conflict of interest,” he added.
After the public portion, the town board addressed a full agenda of resolutions that included supervisor Angie Carpenter being authorized to enter into a five-year extension of lease agreements for five parcels of town-owned bay bottomland for the purpose of shellfish cultivation in the Great South Bay.
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