Eminent Domain Battle Over Hurricane Sandy Brewing On Long Island

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Eminent domain powers are being exercised by Long Island officials to force the closure of a store owned by World War II veteran Frank Whitney. Village of Saltaire, New York is reportedly preventing the Whitney family from rebuilding their own grocery store, which was damaged during Hurricane Sandy, so the municipality can resell the land.

Frank Whitney has been unable to garner the permits necessary to repair and reopen his 25-year-old Long Island grocery store. The World War II veteran and his sons Chip and Scott, told Fox News that the village wants to control the property. Whitney contends that local officials are manipulating the building permit approval process to the town’s own advantage. If the store damaged during Hurricane Sandy cannot be repaired, the Village of Saltaire can condemn the property and ultimately seize it, through eminent domain.

Scott Whitney stated during the same interview that the Village of Saltaire wants to prevent the family from reopening the grocery store so the town can acquire and then sell the land to another party who use the space for a different purpose. The Whitney store is the only commercial property in Saltaire and the only place along Fire Island to buy groceries. The supermarket also contained an ice cream shop, liquor store, and a deli.

The Long Island village claims that the damage sustained during Hurricane Sandy was tremendous and that the owners must complete significant and expensive permit and paperwork processes in order to rebuild. The veteran and his clan do not agree with the damage estimate.

Scott Whitney had this to say about the continued closure of the Long Island grocery store:

“The only building that has been turned down is ours. Why is it that everybody else in the village and in fact every building on Fire Island was aided in repairs but we have to turn in tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of documents.”

The Fire Island village maintains that architectural plans and permits are indeed necessary because more than 50 percent of the Whitney store was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy flooding. The owner’s son went on to state that a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) damage report and four separate engineering reports, support the family’s claims.

A private yacht club also allegedly sustained at least the same amount of flooding and garnered a rebuilding permit. Other property owners within the village only had to complete a one-page form in order to be granted rebuilding approval, according to the Long Island store owners.

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