A microphone almost struck the head of Manorhaven’s village attorney after a speaker spiked it during a contentious Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday marked by obscenities.
After an hour-long executive session, the board had just returned when hostilities erupted.
The trustees had left to talk about a resolution regarding the improper sale of wetland-protected property to a resident by the village.
The approved resolution gives the village the authority to take whatever steps are needed to prevent it from happening in the future, according to the meeting’s agenda. They will take legal action to enjoin the current owners and any other parties involved to reverse the deed and transfer the land, as well as take other appropriate remunerative steps.
The property owner, Scott Balterman, and his father, Randy Balterman, expressed their frustration with the board for directing Scott Balterman to purchase the wetland-protected property.
“My son’s bulkhead had fallen into disarray and washed into the bay. Turns out we didn’t know the last 10 feet of the land was owned by the village,” said Randy. “They said in order to proceed [with a permit to replace the bulkhead], you have to buy the land from the village.”
Scott bought the required property in May. But Genevieve LoPresti, the new village attorney, discovered this month that the site was wetlands.
Mayor John Popeleski said this has made an already challenging issue even harder.
Randy continued by labeling the town leaders’ conduct as “despicable.” He said that by subjecting his son’s family to a trying situation, they lacked care and decency.
“I’m 63 years old, and I own a lot of property in Nassau County and I’ve been in front of a lot of village boards,” said Randy. “I have never seen such an injustice in my life. And there’s nobody that can say, ‘well, we want it this way or we want it that way.’ Everything is beyond the back door.”
The tense atmosphere in the room was already rising. Then, Anthony Soldano, a friend of Scott Balterman, spoke.
“Why didn’t you look at this last year? Why are you causing these people all kinds of problems and money and trouble?” he said. “Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, this is a f***king scam.”
As Soldano concluded, he threw the provided microphone on the ground and stormed out of the room. The ricocheting object narrowly missed LoPresti’s head.
He re-entered the room again a short while later after the meeting concluded.
“You should be ashamed of what you’ve done to these people,” said Soldano.
Around 1999, the village received underwater land parcels from the county. The underwater parcel of land was known to be “maintained as wetlands preservation” as early as May 2001, according to the meeting agenda.
Wetlands are places where water covers the soil or is present at or close to the soil throughout the year. They are among the world’s most prolific ecosystems.
To preserve, protect and conserve freshwater wetlands and their benefits, the State Legislature approved The Freshwater Wetlands Act in 1975.
Popeleski said no one had revealed the property’s wetland status prior to the issue surfacing. He said the revelations of the property were recent.
“I have a duty as the mayor of the village to watch out for the public,” said Popeleski. “But also, with any sort of land transactions, that they’re legitimate.”
He said a meeting with the property owner and village officials will happen soon.
He also denounced Soldano’s actions and said an apology to the board and LoPresti were in order.
The next Board of Trustees meeting will take place on Aug. 31 at 6:30 p.m.