WWII vet fights village seizure of private property for public market

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A World War II veteran on Fire Island, N.Y., is fighting off a taxpayer-funded attempt by his local duly elected officials to take over his privately owned grocery story via eminent domain and build, in its place, a market that would be owned by the village.

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that the village would have to raise property taxes to help pay for $2.5 million in necessary renovations to the property, which was damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, The Blaze reported.

The veteran, Frank Whitney, says he’s owned the store for 25 years and that Saltaire village officials are purposely preventing him from fixing the structure by refusing to issue him permits, The New York Post reported. Instead, the village board of trustees voted months ago to pursue eminent domain against the property.

“Our choice was to rebuild,” Mr. Whitney said, in a video he recently made with his family to draw attention to the issue and fight the village decision. “It’s not fair. What they did is not fair.”

Meanwhile, locals don’t know why the village would try to take the property.

“There is almost nobody I have spoken to in the town that supports this eminent domain action,” said resident David Fisher in The New York Post. And another, Kathleen Butle, said: “[It’s] disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful.”

The village officials for their part said they’ve tried to “engage the Whitneys in substantive discussions” about necessary renovations these past months but to no avail, The Blaze reported.

“[A]t various times they have clearly stated their inability or unwillingness to undertake the renovation requirement and, despite statements to the contrary, no building plans or architectural drawings of any kind have ever been presented to the village for review,” it said.

The family, however, says village engineers already ruled that their storm damage was not “substantial,” and that the local government has been actively opposing their fix-up work, The Blaze reported.

Mr. Whitney served in the U.S. Air Force in World War II.

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