A report prepared by the Huntington Town Attorney’s Office challenges the feasibility of the town condemning and taking over the property of the Northport power plant, citing high debt accruing to the town, legal challenges and extreme cost to the Northport-East Northport school district.
Town Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci said Tuesday, “After reading the thorough report prepared by the Town Attorney, it is my position that eminent domain of the Northport Power Plant would not be feasible and would actually harm the Northport-East Northport School District, as well as all taxpayers in the Town of Huntington, by making the property tax-exempt.”
Condemnation of the plant has been proposed to push back against the Long Island Power Authority’s attempt to slash its taxes, based on challenges to the town’s assessment of the property. Read the Town Attorney’s report.
“Clearly, a potential acquisition of the Northport power plant by the Town of Huntington would raise a host of legal and practical considerations, with a town-wide impact, especially upon the Northport-East Northport School District.”
After laying out previous legal cases, and detailing how a condemnation might work, the report lists several steps that might need to occur if the town were to proceed:
Hire an accounting firm to analyze the public benefit, and a public referendum with a majority of voters throughout the town needed to approve. The report notes the possibility that residents outside the Northport-East Northport district might oppose the referendum.
The report says the town outstanding debt would double, necessitating a supermajority vote of the board to approve a bond; that the town cannot guarantee assistance to the school district with the loss of taxes caused by the property becoming tax exempt
The report notes that says that a payment from the town to a school district would “fundamentally change the nature of the relationship” between the town and the district, and leave the latter dependent on town decision-making.
The town itself, fire districts and libraries would also be affected by the loss of tax revenue.
State Sen. Jim Gaughran said, “I stand fully behind the Town of Huntington in their lawsuit with LIPA and I have led the fight in Albany to protect taxpayers threatened by LIPA’s wreckless lawsuits, introducing and passing bills that would do just that. My focus is on passing legislation that would protect taxpayers across Long Island from LIPA’s nonsensical attempts to destroy communities.”
A few lines of the report are redacted.
The report explores the history of court cases involving other municipalities’ ability to operate power plants and the multiple steps required to condemn a property and take by eminent domain.
LIPA has been challenging the town’s assessment of the plant for nine years. Attorneys for the town and the power authority are due back in court in July. The town collects $84 million annually in taxes, with $55 million going to the Northport school district. LIPA has challenged the assessment, saying the plant is not worth the $3.4 billion the town says it is, and wants to lower its taxes, saying the value is closer to $198 million.
Since 2007, the Northport plant has been owned by National Grid. The plant was previously owned by Keyspan, and, before Keyspan, by the Long Island Lighting Co. LIPA owns the transmission lines and as the power authority, reimburses National Grid on its taxes.
This story will update.