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Sagaponack Feeling Left Out

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At Sagaponack Village’s board meeting on Tuesday, village trustees and mayor Don Louchheim expressed frustration with both East Hampton and Southampton towns for leaving Sagaponack out of dialogue pertaining to changes to Poxabogue Golf Course.

Last week at an East Hampton Town Board meeting, council members voted in favor of $1.1 million worth of capital improvements to the course. Because the golf course is owned by both towns, Southampton Town also has to agree to the expenditure.

“We were not even informed of the expansion of the restaurant and pro shop,” said Louchheim who also talked about the possibility of a miniature golf course. “And I’m not sure we are getting away from night activity.”

“Talk about arrogance,” added Louchheim, expressing irritation that the town has left the village out on these talks. “We need to ask our attorney what authority we have over this.”

Trustee and parks and recreation liaison, Alfred Kelman said that there was a lot of controversy about the idea of nighttime activity and a miniature golf course at Poxabogue from various citizens advisory committees.

“Let me find out and I will get us in the loop,” Kelman said.

“I’m sure there is going to be a lot of community opposition,” Louchheim said. 

Trustee Joy Seiger said that she wouldn’t mind a miniature golf course, and it would be something that would add value to the community.

“I would be there playing,” she said.

But according to Ed Wankel, of Long Island Golf Management, who represented the golf course at the East Hampton meeting, the first phase of the Poxabogue plan involves moving the driving range tee line up and adding safety fencing around the course. There will also be improvements to the irrigation system, he said, and two additional sheds are proposed to house ball-dispensing machines.

In an interview Wednesday, Wankel said that plans for a miniature golf course had been discussed, but are not included in this initial phase. He added that if plans for a miniature golf course go ahead, it will be proposed without lighting. He also notes that phase one of the project does not include any changes to the parking, pro shop or restaurant.

Special Events

Sagaponack Village officials are asking for more changes to their local laws. In July of last year, the village created a new local law requiring a permit for outdoor special events that include 50 or more people. A letter of intent is to be sent to the village at least 180 days prior to the event, which makes this crunch time for any events to be held in June 2009.

So far the village has received four letters of intent for outdoor assembly permits and on this week’s agenda, three of them were up for discussion.

The village board didn’t have any problems with one of the events, scheduled for July 25 at the Wolffer Estate when the James Beard Foundation will host an event expected to entertain 600 or so guests.

Mayor Louchheim did, however, express concern over another event to be held on the same grounds. The Group for the East End has submitted a request for an event on June 20, but the letter of intent does not include the number of people expected to attend.

“If we are giving them the tentative green light — do we have any other requirements?” Louchheim asked rhetorically, “We should, to get an idea of the size.”

He requested that the current local law be changed to include the projected size of the event.

Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt showed up for Tuesday’s meeting, to make sure they have complied with the village’s requirements for a fundraising party on June 13 at Tee and Charles Addams Foundation on Sagaponack Road. Their letter of intent includes the size of the party, which is estimated at 150 people, but the board was more concerned about the parking.

“Where would you be able to park?” Louchheim asked party planners, “You have to make arrangements … a lot has changed since the incorporation [of the village].”

“We have a quarter mile long driveway, that’s the problem,” said Kevin Miserocchi, executive director of the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation, who noted the driveway is too narrow for parking. He asked the board if parking would be allowed in front of the property along Sagaponack Road.

“We try to discourage it,” said deputy mayor Lee Foster.

“That corner has had so many accidents over the years,” trustee Lisa Duryea Thayer said.

“But I think there is enough room to get off the road and onto the shoulder,” Louchheim added.

Miserocchi said that he would be willing to hire a valet company for the event.

“We will work with the valet company,” Sieger said representing the town, “it really works out very well.

Sagaponack Considers Oceanfront Taxing Districts

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A few years ago, the Town of Southampton voted on a resolution to approve the creation of a new oceanfront district that included residences in Sagaponack. During this week’s regular board meeting, the Village of Sagaponack board members said that option of a possible coastal erosion control district is back on the table.

“I have seen a keen interest from a number of individuals [about the creation of this district],” parks and recreation liaison and board member Alfred Kelman said on Monday. Kelman explained that resident Alan Stillman, who owns a 15-acre piece of oceanfront property in Sagaponack, proposed the possibility of the district again recently. 

In October of 2005, the Southampton Town unanimously passed a resolution allowing for the establishment of a Beach Erosion Control District in Sagaponack, known as the Southampton East Beach Erosion Control District. After the approval, residents filed for a permissive referendum to let voters have a say on the creation of such a district, but according to village clerk Rhodi Winchell, that didn’t happen.

The Town of Southampton’s resolution, initiated by then-councilman Dennis Suskind, outlined that the town is aware that certain areas within its borders have suffered severe coastal erosion as a result of the placement of the Shinnecock inlet jetty and the Georgica groins.

The resolution stated, “It has caused erosion to down drift beaches within the town…along the Atlantic coastline.” The resolution also said that both past and recent weather events had caused these conditions to deteriorate and the board “further recognizes that the erosion is such that it has, at times, threatened to severely damage both public and private structures as well as the barrier beaches and protective dunes within the town.”

Now, Kelman said there is an interest in re-visiting the creation of this district, but it will have to go through the Town of Southampton.

“But we have lost the town board member who was a main proponent of it,” he added.

“And whether or not the town is willing to do that, we don’t know,” said mayor Don Louchheim.

“I will speak to the supervisor but it probably has to go through the county,” he added.

At last week’s work session, Louchheim also announced that the developers of a 44-acre oceanfront property, known as Sagaponack Realty LLC, are “bickering” over drainage issues within their subdivision.

Marc Stanley Goldman, one of three owners of the property, has filed a $30 million dollar suit against his partners because his share of the property has drainage issues, making it difficult to build on.

The lawsuit indicates that Michael Hirtenstein and Milton Berlinkski purchased part of Sagaponack Realty LLC from Goldman for $15 million apiece. This is one of the last remaining major parcels within the Village of Sagaponack, the owners of which filed an application for subdivision, but the application has been inactive because the owners were discussing drainage issues.

“Interestingly enough…there was always problems with drainage on this property,” board member Lisa Duryea Thayer said.

The adjacent 19-acre property owned by Brenda Earl also has similar drainage issues, and Louchheim said the board would have to be careful in considering this property.  

During Monday’s planning board meeting, the board decided that the Brenda Earl application is now going to be put on hold, because members want to discuss a common driveway for both the Sagaponack Realty LLC property and the Earl parcel. Winchell said the board is looking to hold a meeting where both applicants can attend to consider the common driveway.

In other news, building permits, which were submitted to the town, prior to the incorporation of the Village of Sagaponack, will expire on April 1. Those that have not been completed will have to be renewed by the town or taken over by the village, according to building inspector John Woudsma.

“The town has been good about notifying those that are outstanding,” Woudsma said.

Woudsma explained that applications would be valid for 1.5 years and after that applicants would have to re-file with the village.

 

At top, some of the Sagaponack oceanfront. (Google Earth Image).

 

Cablevision Changing Channels

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On Wednesday, Southampton Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski was taking a tour of the town’s public television station’s new facilities. SEA-TV has set up new studios on the Stony Brook Southampton campus where they edit footage from local events and town meetings and create programming, which is broadcast over channel 22.

But since September, many subscribers to Cablevision have discovered they no longer are receiving the public access channels from the town. Indeed, public access channels East End-wide seem to have vanished from the basic tier of services the cable provider offers. The loss to subscribers is a concern expressed in village meetings and local citizen advisory committees as well, including Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton and Noyac.

A few weeks ago the Village of Sagaponack received a letter from Graboski, who is the town’s cable liaison, regarding the removal of channels 20 and 22 from the basic tier package and analog format of Cablevision. This means cable subscribers with basic service need to upgrade to a higher level of service in order to continue receiving the two channels.

Graboski said in an interview this week the town is investigating the issue with the four other East End towns in order to force Cablevision to restore the channels to basic tier packages.

Graboski said that many people she has spoken with are confused about what has happened.

 “I can’t make heads or tails of it,” Sagaponack village board member Alfred Kelman said during their meeting Monday.

“It’s hard to get your arms around the issue which unfortunately impacts our seniors and others on limited incomes much harder, since many can’t afford a higher tier of service,” Graboski said.

According to Graboski, the two channels were eliminated so that more bandwidth could be freed up and allow for more high definition channels to be offered. In 2004, the town and Cablevision signed a franchise agreement – approving the allowance of free access to both channels, according to the councilwoman.

However, Patrick MacElroy, a spokesperson for Cablevision, explained that 90 percent of subscribers would not be impacted by this change since they are not basic subscribers. The other 10 percent that were notified in the summer of the change were offered one free digital converter box, if they asked for it prior to the December 31 deadline.

Even customers with digital televisions are having a problem receiving the channels if they are subscribers at the basic tier. Graboski mentioned one of the town’s attorneys has been unable to connect, although she added there is a way of re-programming the sets to receive the channels.

 

According to Graboski, Cablevision attempted to rectify the issue by providing a “dumbed-down” cable box for subscribers with the basic tier packages so that both channels can be converted from digital back to analog and viewers can access them. But Graboski says that is not enough, because it will only work for one television per household. Further, Graboski argues that this solution will not help students in local schools who can no longer receive the channels in their classrooms and the same goes for those who are in hospitals and town hall.

MacElroy explained that back in 1972, when cable television first came on the scene, the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) mandated that public access and government channels be made available on cable systems. Those channels, he noted, have never been available on satellite or phone company provided television.

Graboski argues that its important for all residents to have access to the channels without additional cost or equipment, particularly because they are advised to tune into channel 22 in case of emergency, natural disaster or otherwise. She added that a similar matter has been the subject of litigation in Dearborn, Michigan, regarding another cable company, Comcast. The court issued a temporary restraining order against Comcast, pending an opinion from the FCC, according to the councilwoman.

Graboski said they are waiting to hear the outcome of the Dearborn case, and have considered legal action to restore the channels.

Representatives of the East End Towns met with Cablevision representatives one week ago, but she has not heard whether the company intends to meet the towns’ request.

 “Our goal is simple,” said Graboski, “we want Cablevision to reinstate channels 20 and 22 to the analog basic tier… and we want Cablevision to replicate the level of service that we had prior to September 15, with reception on all TV sets in a household, with no added costs for subscribers.”