In an emergency meeting of the Sachem Central School District’s Board of Education on Thursday, December 22, the district resolved to sell a 4-acre parcel of land located at 245 Union Avenue, Holbrook, New York, for an undisclosed amount to Bello Poultry.
The hasty manner prompted Assemblyman Doug Smith (R-Holbrook) to pen a letter co-signed by other elected officials and community leaders both chastising the board for its decision, which Smith believed was held “in violation of the New York State Public Officers Law” and urging community members to petition the nine-member board to reverse its 5-3 razor-thin vote (one member was absent).
Smith noted that local media outlets, such as The Messenger, were not notified in accordance with Public Officer Law. The possible violation of Public Officers Law also prompted Smith to refer the matter to the Department of Education, the Attorney General’s Office and the Officer of the Comptroller for review.
Neither the Attorney General’s Office nor the Department of Education could confirm if they were investigating the matter before publication.
Smith’s letter outlined efforts already underway by the Suffolk County Legislature, which voted unanimously to extend an offer to Sachem to purchase the land to preserve it as a park. The sudden sale of the property contravened these efforts.
Through Smith’s conversations with board members, he came to understand that “these loose notification protocols for emergency meetings had been utilized routinely over the last several years, including an emergency meeting to fill a board vacancy with a former board member who had chosen not to seek re-election just months before.”
Legislators Anthony Piccirillo (R-Holtsville) and Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) joined Smith in signing the letter along with Kevin Guilfoyle, vice president of the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce; Kevin Hyms, president of the Greater Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce; Dawn Hopkins, president of the Lake Ronkonkoma Civic Association; Evelyn Vollgraff, President of the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group; David Bligh, Holbrook Community Leader; Marisa Pizza, Farmingville Community Leader.
The outrage generated prompted the owner of Bello Poultry to withdraw their offer, stating that “I am 100% for it to be a park,” according to Smith.
The next board meeting is on January 11 at the Samoset Board Room at 7:00 p.m., located at 51 School St., Ronkonkoma, NY 11779.
“It’s imperative to preserve open space in western Suffolk,” said Piccirillo. “The threat of overdevelopment is serious and will encroach on the suburban way of life.”
With the buyer backing out of the decision, Smith still believes the decision requires a review from state authorities to ensure community input is always taken into account.
Some community leaders remain skeptical over the fate of the 4-acre parcel, given the board’s previous decision. However, some in the community also took the time to voice concern about the reversal of the sale, believing it would cost taxpayers in the long run.
A spokesperson for the Sachem Board of Education did not reply for comment.
Assemblyman Doug Smith’s Office provided a concept created in 2016 for what a park could look like at this location: https://messengerpapers.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Union-Avenue-Park-Concept-LR-1.pdf