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Opinion: Election signs on vacant Kehoe property raise questions

Opinion / Letters by: Chrissy Ruggeri, February 22, 2022

February 22 photo of Trustee Tom Kehoe’s vacant property at 51 Mariners Lane.

Curious additions to a vacant property at 51 Mariners Lane in Northport Village have been raising eyebrows lately, as candidates for both trustee and mayor campaign for votes at the upcoming March 15 election.

The Mariners Lane property, owned by current Northport Village Trustee Tom Kehoe, remained mostly untouched this winter, until recently, when lawn signs for mayoral candidate Donna Koch, as well as Joe Sabia, who is running for trustee, appeared just outside the rented chain link fence that lines the property’s perimeter.

The Kehoe property has been under scrutiny since 2018, when the Village issued a stop work order on unpermitted construction there (it was previously determined that the foundation of the new home was too close to the property line). Then deputy mayor, Kehoe admitted to beginning construction without having the proper permits.

In 2019, Kehoe stepped down as deputy mayor but retained his spot as a Village trustee. This past October, he received the proper permits to continue construction, with a 1,750-square-foot limitation, almost half the size of his original plan. But the homeowner was recently listed as a resident who has not paid his property taxes; there currently exists an outstanding balance of $30,743, including a penalty fee of $3,293.

When a Village resident asked the board at a November 2021 meeting why variances were approved at the trustee’s property despite its status on the past due list, Kehoe responded that his attorney is currently negotiating with the Village. He stated that the cases are backlogged and his has not yet been addressed by the judge.

The image of campaign lawn signs at the Kehoe property is rife with irony, as many residents continue to speak out against what they call an inconvenience, eyesore and abuse of power, saying it highlights the shortcomings of a Northport Village government that still impact residents today.

Utilizing vacant pieces of property for lawn signs is not uncommon during election season. But the symbolism of signs at 51 Mariners Lane is rich for voters who seek a fresh start and more vigorous governing. Based on the many comments made during Village board meetings and on social media regarding the issue, the signs out front simply aren’t a good look and seem to negate any aspirations for tougher, more transparent leaders.