2006: Exclusive N.Y. club fights seizure

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and television personalities Matt Lauer and Tom Brokaw might have to clean out their lockers at their Manhasset, N.Y., golf club if North Hills mayor Marvin Natiss has his way.

The Village of North Hills has taken preliminary steps to convert Deepdale Golf Club, which has a celebrity-laden membership, into a public facility exclusively for North Hills residents.

But Deepdale members aren’t giving up their tee times without a fight. Two preemptive lawsuits were filed on March 7, one in state court and the other in federal court, to prevent the village from using eminent domain to take over the 175-acre, privately owned course.

The federal complaint argues that the condemnation of Deepdale would violate the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

“This proposed condemnation may be the most extreme abuse of eminent domain in the country,” said John Wilson, a plaintiff and the only member of Deepdale who is a resident of North Hills.

The mayor said seizing the club through eminent domain would benefit the residents of North Hills and increase private property values. The Village of North Hills, a community of 1,800 homes covering 2.8 square miles in Nassau County, is one of the wealthiest towns in the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court last June ruled 5-4 in Kelo v. New London that municipalities can exercise eminent domain to obtain private land for revenue-generating commercial purposes.

The second lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court in Nassau County, alleges abuse of incentive zoning laws to cut secret deals with private developers to build up a war chest to pay for the club. Natiss denied those allegations and says the village has not made a formal decision on whether to pursue condemnation.

“We’re in the information-gathering stage,” he said.

At an October 2005 meeting, the village’s board of trustees authorized retaining the services of a real estate appraiser to assess the value of Deepdale and solicit proposals for an environmental and planning consultant. Frederick P. Clark Associates, an environmental consulting firm, was retained in December.

Deepdale’s exclusive membership once included President Dwight Eisenhower and the Duke of Windsor, and more recently actors Sean Connery and Sidney Poitier.

The lawsuit argues that North Hills residents have access to numerous golf courses. The Chistopher Morley Golf Course, a nine-hole facility, is located two miles east of Deepdale, and Harbor Links Golf Course is only three miles from the center of North Hills, and open to all residents of North Hills and their guests.

According to the lawsuit, there are 20 golf courses within five miles of the center of North Hills and more than 50 courses within 15 miles, 11 of which are public courses.

Wilson told the New York Times: “It would be one thing if they said they wanted to put up a children’s hospital here, or something like that. But to take a private club just to make it someone else’s private course is almost surreal.”





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