Tag Archive | "Anna Throne-Holst"

East End Supervisors Budget $200,000 for Wastewater Management Plans

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Southampton Town Supervisor allotted $100,000 in her tentative budget for 2015 to found a partnership with Stony Brook University. They intend to do nitrogen mapping in an attempt to prevent future toxic algal blooms, like the one that took place in Sag Harbor Cove, above, this summer. Photo by Mara Certic.

By Mara Certic

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and her East Hampton counterpart, Larry Cantwell, have both advocated for improving water quality on Long Island, and in their proposed budgets for 2015, each has allotted $100,000 to wastewater management plans.

Eastern Long Island lies over a sole source aquifer, meaning all of the drinking water in East Hampton and Southampton comes from one groundwater supply. There is no external source of water to import, and both private wells and “public water,” installed by the Suffolk County Water Authority, get their supply from the groundwater.

In his budget message, Mr. Cantwell said, “Management of wastewater is a challenge staring us straight in the eye.  The town needs to continue developing a town-wide wastewater management plan to address this key issue.”

“To date, the town through its staff and outside consultants has begun to gather, sort and analyze data that will eventually result in a comprehensive wastewater management plan for the town,” he continued.

According to East Hampton Budget Officer Len Bernard, the next phase is a continuation of the work Pio Lombardo of Lombardo Associates has been doing. Mr. Lombardo has written a draft wastewater management plan for the town, which includes neighborhood wastewater treatment centers and enforcing septic system inspections.

The management plan is concise and provides information for the many different areas of East Hampton Town and tentative solutions for each issue. “All the background numbers are done. Now they’re going toward specific actions with specific places,” said Mr. Bernard.

“I have included $100,000 in the tentative budget to begin the development of specific actions of the plan, recognizing that once the basic plan is completed and presented to the public, capital-funded construction and improvements will be required to carry out its recommendations,” Mr. Cantwell said.

“In order to reach that point, however, we need to fund the groundwork that must be performed now,” he said. That groundwork, Mr. Bernard said, will include the formation of “working groups” for different areas and neighborhoods. Those groups will have meetings Mr. Lombardo will attend in order to come up with appropriate wastewater management systems for each part of the town.

Mr. Cantwell also included an extra $10,000, for a total of $20,000, to go toward water quality testing in East Hampton.

This money, the supervisor said, is “for the specific purpose of performing more water quality testing to ensure water bodies that should be open are open and those that should be closed are closed, with the causes identified and mitigation plans established.”

According to Mr. Bernard, the water testing will be done jointly in conjunction with the East Hampton Town Trustees and will involve the same scientist they use for their testing, Dr. Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

Ms. Throne-Holst put $100,000 into Southampton’s operating budget to fund a partnership with Stony Brook University that will seek to mitigate excessive nitrogen in town waters.

Dr. Gobler himself compiled the partnership proposal for the town, which has two main objectives. The first is to attempt to identify the amount of nitrogen that needs to be removed from specific waterways in order to improve water quality.

According to Mr. Gobler, “Recently, a series of serious water quality impairments have emerged within Southampton Town waters including harmful algal blooms that have led to declines in seagrasses and fisheries.” One of the prime causes identified as intensifying the algal blooms is excessive nitrogen loading.

In the past two years, thanks to support from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Dr. Gobler has collected enough data to identify how much nitrogen loads must be reduced by in order to minimize the effect of toxic algal blooms on waterways and their ecosystems.

The second prong of this partnership will be to promote an awareness program about nitrogen loading for the residents of Southampton. According to Jen Garvey, Ms. Throne-Holst’s deputy chief-of-staff, some of Mr. Gobler’s doctoral students have developed a “nitrogen home footprint model.”

In this model, which will be available through the town website, homeowners can enter the size of their property, what fertilizer they use, the number of bathrooms, information about their septic systems, and so on. The model then estimates their household nitrogen output and offers personalized solutions for how to remove nitrogen from wastewater.

According to Dr. Gobler, “this proposal seeks to support the Town of Southampton within both efforts by enhancing public awareness of the nitrogen loading problem, how it has changed with time, and how they contribute to the problem, as well as by identifying specific nitrogen loading rate reduction strategies that will lead to improved water quality and ecosystems within Town of Southampton waters.”

Bridgehampton CVS Foes Take Their Fight to Town Board

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Bridgehampton residents descended on the Southampton Town Board in force to oppose a CVS Pharmacy at the hamlet’s busiest intersection. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz

 

By Stephen J. Kotz

The news that the pharmacy giant CVS wants to build a store on the busiest intersection in Bridgehampton has been the talk of the hamlet in recent months, with volunteers proffering petitions at the Bridgehampton Post Office and even starting a Facebook page, Save Bridgehampton Main Street, in opposition.

On Tuesday night, residents took their fight to the Southampton Town Board, where many of them had worked themselves into an ornery mood after they were forced to wait as part of a standing room audience through more than two hours of public hearings before they got their chance to speak.

Their frustration was only stoked when Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst repeatedly tried to explain to them that the town board had no jurisdiction over the matter and that they would be better off taking their gripes to the planning board when and if it entertains an application for the property on the northwest corner of the Montauk Highway and Bridgehampton Turnpike.

“CVS is a radical proposal, aggravating a saturated situation,” said Nancy Walter-Yvertes, who is also a co-chairwoman of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, which has been voicing its opposition to the project for months. She said the corner would be better suited to a building with small shops or offices, or even a public green, instead of the 9,000-square-foot CVS rumored to be on the way.

A recent poll of 24 Main Street merchants found them all opposed to the idea, and more than 90 percent of the people asked to sign a petition opposing the possible development did so, she added.

Norm Lowe, another CAC member, said he found the town board to be “disingenuous” and charged that town employees were willing to “trash” the comprehensive plan to grease the skids for a CVS. Mr. Lowe said he had been particularly rankled to learn that chief building inspector Michael Benincasa, had met with CVS representatives to discuss their options for the site with them.

“In the end, he was counseling CVS on the shenanigans they could pull to get around the limit,” he said.

Ms. Throne-Holst later stressed that town officials did not deny that Mr.  Benincasa may have spoken to CVS. “That’s part of our job here, that is part of the service we provide,” she said, whether it be a corporation or an individual asking questions about what needs to be done to get a building permit.

At one point, Ms. Throne-Holst called upon Kyle Collins, the town’s director of land management, to provide an overview of the situation. “I think we need to clarify something at this point. I don’t want all of you to waste your time and breath,” she said, as she looked out over the sea of faces filling the meeting room. “First of all, it is not a town board matter, it is a planning matter,” she said, “We have a separation of church and state, for lack of a better term.”

Mr. Collins told the audience that a building permit is in place for the shell of a 9,000-square-foot building, which can have several uses as allowed in the village business zone as long as none of them occupy any more than 5,000 square feet. If that were the case, it would trigger the need to apply for a special exception permit from the planning board, he said.

“We do not currently have an application, even for the buildout of the site,” he said, adding that if an application came in that called for a use of less than 5,000 square feet, it would qualify for a building permit with no further review.

“I find it interesting that a lease has already been signed off on with a company that is not interested in developing a property that is under 5,000 square feet,” said Paul Orenstein, the owner of the Main Street-based Hampton Briggs Antiques. “It’s putting the cart before the horse in that there is already a lease with the hope of getting the exception.”

Mr. Orenstein added that traffic is already a nightmare at the corner and that that there had been recent efforts to save historic buildings like the Rogers House, owned by the Bridgehampton Museum, and the Topping-Rose House, which has been converted into a high-end restaurant and inn.

“The thought of putting a franchise pharmacy and sundries store at the entrance to Bridgehampton, I think, is a travesty,” he said.

Eric Lemonides, the owner of Almond restaurant and a resident of Lumber Lane, echoed that theme, saying the store would bring in heavy traffic and not fit in with the character of Bridgehampton. He said would-be customers would be less likely to frequent his restaurant if it were “across the street from a place that is selling cigarettes, condoms and Red Bull.”

Gloria Berkoski, a Lumber Lane resident, limited her concerns to traffic, saying there was simply not enough space for cars to get in and out of the parking lot. “In my mind things like that shouldn’t be put there just for traffic reasons alone,” she said.  “And that’s not even taking into consideration the trade parade every day.”

Bonnie Lowe, a CAC member, said she had heard rumors that CVS had been “counseled to break up into two corporations, one to sell their junk food, one for their pharmacy.” Mr. Collins replied that even if it did that it would still require a special exception permit.

Fred Cammann, a longtime CAC member, said that people had come to the town board because “they are scared to death” the planning board will approve it.

“In the opinion of 90-percent of Bridgehampton if this exception is granted, it will be politics that dictated it,” he added.

“What I’m hearing is a real lack of confidence in our community,” said Julie Burmeister, another CAC member. “That’s our fear, that somehow we are going to get steamrolled. That’s why we are here.”

But Ms. Throne-Holst repeated that it was not a town board decision and that the BCAC had supported the design of the building, which replaced the old Bridgehampton Beverage store. “The Bridgehampton community actually supported that building. Let’s be clear on that,” she said, repeating that the community’s only line of defense was with the planning board.

“I think it works very well for you that there are two members of the planning board who live in Bridgehampton,” she added.

New Affordable Health Care Clinic Opens in Southampton

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and HRHCare President and CEO Anne Kauffman Nolon officially opened the Kraus Family Health Center of the Hamptons at Southampton Hospital on Wednesday. Photo by Mara Certic.

 

By Mara Certic

“The face of healthcare is changing and the County of Suffolk is at the forefront of it,” said Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. at the grand opening of the Kraus Family Health Center of the Hamptons on Wednesday, May 21.

Hudson River HealthCare, a not-for-profit health care system, had an official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new center at Southampton Hospital. Construction of the almost 10,000 square foot clinic began in October of 2013.

HRHCare’s mission is “to increase access to comprehensive primary and preventive health care and to improve the health status of our community, especially for the underserved and vulnerable.”

Its first center opened in Peekskill in July 1975; it now has 22 centers in New York, which provide care for more than 90,000 patients. English and Spanish are spoken at every site, and six other languages are spoken at specific HRHCare clinics.

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said that the new clinic offers “significantly more” than what the urgent care clinics in both East Hampton and Southampton previously provided.

The new center will offer affordable health care, including family medicine, behavioral health services, dental care and women’s health services.

The clinic unofficially opened its doors on March 17 to provide family medicine services. Since then nearly 800 patients have made 1,200 visits to this site, according to HRHCare President and CEO Anne Kauffman Nolon. In the first month the clinic was open, 60 percent of its patients were uninsured and 182 of them were homeless. “It’s good to know that we’re really meeting a need here,” Ms. Nolon said.

Robert Chaloner, President and CEO of Southampton Hospital, announced that the Kraus Family Health Center already has its first six resident doctors, who will start in July. “As your landlord, we promise to be kind,” he said to Ms. Nolon on Wednesday.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, the day’s keynote speaker, said that the new facility is a “major advancement” for Suffolk County and thanked Hudson River Healthcare; he said that its hard work is the “main reason” that the clinic is open today.

Mr. Bellone also thanked local government officials for their dedication in seeing this project through: “If I had one word to describe Jay it would be relentless,” he said of Mr. Schneiderman. “We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for his tenacity.”

“And our great partners at the town level,” he continued. “Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, on this issue and so many others, you’re a great leader. And all of our partners in Southampton, thank you.”

The Kraus Family Health Center of the Hamptons is located at Southampton Hospital at 330 Meeting House Lane, Southampton. For more information visit hrhcare.org or call (631) 268-1008.

 

Gregor Offers Noyac Road Update to Civic Council

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor on Tuesday said he was optimistic a long awaited construction project on Noyac Road at Cromer’s Market should be completed by the end of June.

Speaking to the Noyac Civic Council, Mr. Gregor said PSEG Long Island had finished moving electric lines serving the area to new poles and that he was waiting for Cablevision and Verizon to move their lines. Verizon crews will then be in charge of removing the old utility poles before DeLalio Construction begins to work on the road itself.

“Since we had such a hard winter, we had a hard time getting the utilities motivated,” said Mr. Gregor, who added that he hoped that the poles would be moved by the end of this month. “The contractor will need two months to complete the project.”

The project is expected to improve traffic at a busy and dangerous curve, improve traffic circulation to Cromer’s and other businesses and side streets, and reduce stormwater runoff.

Mr. Gregor was joined at Tuesday’s meeting by Supervisor Anna Throne Holst, Councilwomen Christine Scalera and Brigid Fleming and Tom Neely, the town’s director of public transportation and traffic safety.

The town officials also answered committee members’ questions on other topics, including deer and the East Hampton Airport, although Noyac Road took center stage.

Improving the short stretch of road has proven to be a controversial project. First proposed seven years ago, the project went through numerous changes before ground was finally broken this year.

Mr. Gregor said that it had already been decided that Noyac Road is too busy even during the offseason for any work to be done on the weekends. Crews will work five days a week, he said, and try to keep two lanes open at all times. He said he expected the project to be wrapped up by the end of June, but if weather, or some other situation slows work and traffic becomes “too horrendous,” crews will not work on Mondays and Fridays during the latter stages of the project, to reduce traffic tieups around busy weekends.

Despite the fact that the project has been discussed for years, some council members said they were concerned it would not do much to improve traffic on the curve.

Glenn Paul said the new layout, which would require vehicles entering and leaving Cromer’s to do so at either end of the store’s parking lot, would result in tie-ups and more congestion.

“Do you think that will alleviate accidents at that spot?” he asked.

“That’s what we’re working on,” replied Mr. Gregor. “There has been some skepticism, but we think this is an improvement.

The highway superintendent said he expected a newly designed drainage system would dramatically reduce the amount of stormwater that runs down Bay Avenue and Dogwood and Elm Streets to the bay.

Mr. Gregor said he was pleased to report that he road work would cost about $521,000, well below initial estimates of $780,000 or more.

Other council members asked if a major repaving project on Montauk Highway from Southampton to East Hampton might result in traffic being diverted to Noyac Road, but Mr. Neely said there were no such plans, and he added that he expected contraction crews to have made their way through Bridgehampton, moving eastward, within three weeks.

Dorothy Frankel said she was happy to see the Cromer’s corner being dealt with, but said the time had come to do something to reduce speeding along the rest of Noyac Road. She suggested reducing the speed limit, adding lane dividers at key places or even designating part of the shoulders as bicycle lanes.

The only solution, Mr. Gregor said, was for the town to either increase the number of police enforcing the speed limit, which he said would provide spotty coverage, or installing a speed limit camera that would record a vehicle’s speed, take a photo of its license plate automatically generate a ticket.

Ms. Throne Holst said the town has requested that such cameras be placed along Noyac Road, but said that they are only legal in New York State in school zones.

“Speed cameras, we think, would be the perfect solution for Noyac Road,” she said, “Once you get that picture of your license in the mail and a whopping ticket, you start to notice it.”

 

East End Women’s Network Celebrates Women’s History Month

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The East End Women’s Network celebrated women’s history month last Wednesday, hosting a panel discussion with local women leaders. The event entitled “Women Making Policy: A Women & Politics Panel Discussion” featured Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst, Southold Town Board Member Jill Doherty and Former Suffolk County Legislator and Deputy Presiding Officer Vivian Viloria Fisher as panelists. Award winning journalist and Islip town Councilwoman Trish Bergin-Weichbrodt served as moderator for the discussion.
Discussion focused around the challanges women face in pursuing leadership positions. Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst pointed to the headway Southampton Town has made with women in Leadership positions in the Town government. However all the panelist acknowledge the challenges women still face in politics and government. The panelists agreed that more women are needed in the political pipeline. Vivian Viloria Fisher stated that “women need to be asked to run” and encouraged the audience to ask more women to run for office.
The East End Women’s Network was founded in 1981. The purpose of this organization is to bring together women of diverse accomplishment and experience, directing women into policy-making positions through the dissemination and sharing of career opportunities; to educate members and the public on issues affecting women on the East End; and to promote the interests, conditions and positions of women in science, business, industry, labor, government, the arts, education and public service.

Southampton Town Pays Off Retirement Debt

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The Southampton Town Board on March 11 unanimously adopted a resolution that authorized the payment of nearly $2.55 million of the town’s outstanding debt to the New York State pension system.

In recent years, many municipalities have struggled to meet annual pension contributions required by the state Comptroller’s Office. In general, public pension funds, including New York’s, are still struggling to make up for steep investment losses incurred in the 2008 financial crisis, requiring local municipalities to contribute more to keep the system afloat.

In order to mitigate the budgetary impact of higher pension obligations, New York introduced an amortization process that required the prorating of an employer’s required contributions over a period of time.

Since 2010, the town has participated in the amortization program. Of the five cities and towns in Nassau County, and the 10 towns in Suffolk County, only three towns—Smithtown, Riverhead and Shelter Island—did not participate in the program.

Southampton is the first to fully repay its debt. “Because we have budgeted prudently and conservatively over the last few years, we now have the opportunity to finally pay down this costly debt, saving approximately $300,000 in interest payments,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. “This is very good news for our taxpayers, and reinforces the fact that the stringent budget practices we put in place are indeed working.”

Sagaponack Offers to Share Bridge Renovation Costs

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By Stephen J. Kotz

It might not look like much to most people, but the low-slung bridge across Sagg Pond that connects Sagaponack and Bridgehampton is apparently worth a lot to the Sagaponack Village Board.

On February 27, Sagaponack Mayor Donald Louchheim, accompanied by three village board members, told the Southampton Town Board the village would be willing to chip in up to $500,000 to renovate the span—provided the town abandoned plans, proposed by Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, to redesign it meeting federal standards so the town could qualify for a matching grant of a similar amount.

“We feel quite passionately that the bridge should, as much as possible, be repaired and maintained as it is,” the mayor said. He called the bridge “an important centerpiece” between the village and Bridgehampton, which got its name from an earlier span at the same site on Bridge Lane.

Mr. Louchheim said the design, first unveiled in December by Mr. Gregor at a community input meeting at which little input was sought, would result in a bridge with “industrial, galvanized steel railings” that would lead to slightly narrower lanes and a narrower pedestrian walkway and eliminates an existing curb separating foot traffic from vehicles.

“We have had no progress trying to have a dialogue with the highway superintendent on this,” Mr. Louchheim said. He added that Mr. Gregor had told village officials the design specifications were required for the town to qualify for the federal grant money.

Mr. Gregor did not return calls seeking comment, but in his official capacity as highway superintendent he has the authority to oversee design plans, with the town board limited to choosing to fund or not fund projects he wants to pursue.

Before coming to the town board, village officials had mulled annexing the 35-foot section of the bridge that lands on the Bridgehampton side, but Mr. Louchheim said such a procedure “would be messy.” Instead, he said, the village had decided the easiest route would be for it to “step in and take the place of the federal government and provide matching funds for this project.”

The village, he added, “would agree, effective immediately to fund 50-50 any repairs, maintenance, or capital improvements to the bridge that both boards agree to for now and in the future.”

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, who had obtained the federal funding for the town, had assured her that the town, which has already earmarked $500,000 of its own money for the project, would be able to apply the federal grant money to another transportation-related infrastructure project elsewhere.

She pressed Mr. Louchheim to agree that the village would pay for any additional design work that would be required as part of the new project. Such an agreement might make the project “more palatable” for taxpayers elsewhere in town, she said.

Councilwoman Bridget Fleming also endorsed the scaled back plan, saying that pedestrian use of the bridge, whether for fishing, crabbing, walking or biking should be preserved. She also said the town should consider seeking landmark status for the bridge and asked Sally Spanburgh, chairwoman of the town’s Landmarks and Historic District Board, to look into that possibility.

Members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, who on February 24, voted to support Sagaponack in its efforts, also attended last week’s meeting.

Mr. Louchheim urged the town to act quickly before work is begun on the bridge. “I think what we are proposing would be a better outcome,” Mr. Louchheim said, “certainly on how people feel on both sides of the pond. We would make the taxpayers whole on the cost of this project. Plus you’d have the option of using that funding for another town project.”

Southampton Town Board Says Yes to Political Limits but No to Fleming’s Committee Member Ban

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The Southampton Town Board on Tuesday unanimously adopted an amendment to its ethics code that seeks to balance the number of political party members who can serve at any one time on the planning, zoning or conservation boards.

The proposal, introduced by Councilwoman Christine Scalera and Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, just two weeks ago, with the backing of Councilmen Brad Bender and Stan Glinka, replaced a measure long championed by Councilwoman Bridget Fleming that sought to ban members of political party committees from serving on the town’s land-use boards.

Ms. Fleming’s resolution died on the vine, as she was unable to muster any support from the rest of the board to even bring it to a vote. She later tried to amend the Scalera-Throne-Holst measure to include language banning committee members, but that too died for lack of a second to her motion.

On Tuesday, Ms. Fleming, who sought the committee member ban twice last year, said she was disappointed her effort to end what she said was a widespread perception that political insiders dominate the process in Southampton had failed, but she joined the other board members in approving their alternative measure.

Under the ethics change, no more than three members of any one political party will be allowed to serve on any of the seven member land-use boards at any one time. On boards that have more than that number of members from a single party, the town board will be required to seek balance as it appoints new members every year.

“I don’t have a lot of confidence it will be effective,” said Ms. Fleming, who argued that it would limit the political involvement of regular citizens more than prevent any conflicts of interest. “While it put me in a tough spot to vote for it, it is ethics reform and it will move the ball forward.”

She added that she was not happy that Ms. Throne-Holst and Mr. Bender who had previously offered support for the committee ban abandoned her.

“I’m still disappointed Anna switched her vote,” Ms. Fleming added, “and certainly, Brad had pledged his support in the past.”

After a public hearing, at which little support for the Scalera-Throne-Holst measure was offered, with some speakers saying Ms. Fleming’s resolution was better and still others saying both were bad ideas, board members engaged in a little sparring.

“This prohibition on committee membership is a conflict-of-interest control,” Ms. Fleming said of her own measure, “it’s not about political balancing.”

The Scalera-Throne-Holst amendment would place “a much greater restriction on folks’ political participation,” she said, because once a quota of members from a given party was named to a land-use board, “others from that party would be barred from serving.”

Her measure, she argued, has a “rational basis that is based on the circle of influence that comes when committee members nominate candidates for the town board who are then charged with turning around and appointing members of the boards.”

“I feel I have made my position clear on a number of occasions,” countered Ms. Throne-Holst. “I am not comfortable under any circumstances, curtailing anyone’s rights of association or activity or involvement in anything civic, and being active in a political party is just that.”

The supervisor added that it was the responsibility of the town board to monitor the performance of the people it appoints to the boards and step in if there is any sign of wrongdoing. She also argued that someone who was prone to unethical behavior would not be able to so easily change their stripes.

“I do not believe that asking someone to resign their membership on a political committee will in fact translate into a change of behavior,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.

Ms. Scalera reiterated her opposition to Ms. Fleming’s measure, saying it was politically motivated and a violation of one’s Constitutional rights.

“The sponsor is unable to articulate any instance of what is targeted here — and let’s be clear, it’s corruption,” she said “That’s what we’re saying.”

During the hearing, John Bennett, a Southampton lawyer and former Republican committee member, attacked both measures. “I see this law as a subversion of the political process, usurping the voice of the people,” he said. “I didn’t like Ms. Fleming’s law, and I like this even less.”

John Ziccarelli of Southampton also said he opposed both measures. “Both laws politicize the independent boards themselves,” he said.

“One thing I hate is when anyone tells me I can’t serve on any board,” said Dieter Van Lehstem of North Sea. “I like the freedom and the freedom of association. As far as I know the American Constitution guarantees it.”

Julie Penny of Noyac supporting Ms. Fleming’s measure, said Southampton Town’s history was full of examples of a land-use board making decisions “that weren’t based on the facts, weren’t based on the town code, weren’t based on planning documents but were instead based on political reasons.”

But Liz McMillan of East Hampton, who said she had worked on a video with Ms. Fleming to gain support for the committee ban, said she had a change of heart after seeing the evidence. “It did not change a thing in East Hampton” or other towns that had similar legislation.

Steve Halsey, a Republican committeeman and former town board member from Bridgehampton, also spoke against both measures. When he was on the board, he said, it was difficult to find people to serve on land-use boards. “The board had to reach out to attempt to fill spaces,” he said. “Not everyone wants to immerse themselves in government.”

He urged the board to “pick the best person if they are a Republican, Democrat or a Communist. If they don’t do their job….  Remove that person.”

Mr. Halsey said being a committee member is not all it’s cracked up to be. “What it does is cost a lot of money,” he said. “I get to go to the same parties, see the same people and eat the same horrible hors d’oeuvres.”

Southampton Board Members Offer Dueling Proposals to Rein in Political Influence

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Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, left, discusses a proposed ban on political committee members serving on land-use boards as Superivisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Christine Scalera listen.

By Stephen J. Kotz

Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming’s effort to ban members of political committees from serving on the town’s advisory boards—an effort that had fallen short twice before but seemed close to finding majority support just last month—was derailed again this week.

The latest setback came when the other members of the town board joined on Tuesday in co-sponsoring an alternate resolution that was put forth by Councilwoman Christine Scalera and Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

Instead of calling for an outright ban on committee members, their resolution would limit to three the members of any one political party who would be allowed to serve on the planning board, the zoning board of appeals and the conservation board, all of which have seven members.

The board agreed to hold a February 25 hearing on the Scalera-Throne-Holst alternative, while also agreeing to continue its consideration of Ms. Fleming’s proposal.

After several members of the public came forward to offer their support for her original resolution, Ms. Fleming, a Democrat, said, “I see these two resolutions as apples and oranges,” adding that the second resolution, rather than seeking to remove politics from the process, actually caters “specifically to political parties” and not the needs of the people.

On Wednesday, Ms. Fleming said she had been assured by Councilman Brad Bender, an Independence Party member, that he would continue to support her resolution. Although Supervisor Throne-Holst, also an Independence Party member, is now co-sponsoring a competing resolution, Ms. Fleming said the supervisor had voted for her measure in the past and had recently pledged her support for the resolution and that she hoped she could continue to count on her support.

“I have no interest in seeing this turn into a fight,” she said on Wednesday. “I’m interested in working as a team.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said that she had, indeed, supported Ms. Fleming’s proposal earlier but that her position had evolved after listening to testimony at public hearings.

“I supported it in spirit, but like everyone else I have the right to change my mind if I think there is a better way to achieve what we are looking for,” she said on Wednesday, adding that she too was interested in working across the aisle to achieve consensus.

Both Ms. Throne-Holst and Ms. Scalera said they had floated their ideas for ways to achieve a political balance on land-use boards to different town attorneys without knowing what the other was doing.

On Wednesday, Ms. Scalera, a Republican, reiterated her opposition to Ms. Fleming’s resolution, saying that it raised the Constitutional issue of whether the town board had the authority to limit one’s right to associate with a group of their choosing. She also said that nobody had accused committee members of using their positions on advisory boards for political advantage other than Ms. Fleming.

“It’s a solution in search of a problem,” Ms. Scalera said. “I’ve always said it was politically motivated.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said the resolution she and Ms. Scalera are pushing would follow similar limits imposed on members of the town’s ethics board. At the end of the day, she said, the board “is trying to reassure the public that there is a level playing field.”

Ms. Scalera said it would not prohibit people from joining a political party or group, but would “leave it to us to make sure there is balance.”

But Ms. Fleming said Ms. Scalera and Ms. Throne-Holst’s legislation would punish rank-and-file party members. “You’d be disqualified from serving if the quota was already met,” she said.

“In the bill I propose,” she added, “if you are a party official, if you have special responsibilities and authority connected to that specific position in the party, then you’d be required to set aside that authority while serving. You can’t answer to two masters.”

Both East Hampton and Southold Towns currently ban members of political committees from serving on advisory boards.

Ms. Fleming said she was moved to propose a ban on committee members last year after learning that 10 of the 21 members of the planning, zoning, and conservation boards were members of either the Republican or Conservative committees.

When she brought her amendment to the town’s ethics code to the board last spring, the Republican-Conservative majority blocked it, refusing to allow a public hearing.  She introduced it again this fall, and although the board agreed to hold a hearing on the resolution, it was voted down.

This year, the board did not reappoint two Republican Committee members, Ann Nowak and David Reilly, to the ZBA. Larry Toler, a Republican committee member on the planning board, retired. John Bouvier, a Democratic committee member, was appointed to the conservation board.

Meeting with members of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee last Friday, Ms. Fleming held out hope that her resolution would pass, despite Ms. Throne-Holst’s decision to work with Ms. Scalera. The handful of committee members who met at Pierson High School, agreed to write a letter to the town supporting Ms. Fleming’s legislation.

“It makes sense to us as community minded folk that politics should not cloud in any way our very important land use boards,” the CAC wrote. “We long to join the communities of Southold and East Hampton who have already enacted this common sense legislation and we are grateful for your efforts this same end.”

“A lot of people, not just us, feel that politics has interfered too much in the way of progress for the citizens here,” said Mike Piliero of Southampton at Tuesday’s meeting.

“It seems to me it’s talking about divvying up positions between political parties,” said Anne Hastings of Hampton Bays, referring to Ms. Scalera and Ms. Throne-Holst’s measure. “I think that it is a tacit admission that there is a conflict of interest.”

Joyce Roper of East Quogue said, “I don’t think Ms. Fleming’s resolution needs to be sacrificed in order for the other resolution to pass.”

But Elaine Kahl of Southampton objected to Ms. Fleming’s proposed committee ban.

“This is America,” she said. “You have a right to choose what group you are going to belong to and what group you aren’t going to belong to. It’s very political in nature. The whole thing is political.”

With “Painful Awareness” of Federal Inefficiency, Southampton Town Leaders are Sworn in Monday

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Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, new Councilman Stan Glinka, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, new Councilman Brad Bender and Councilwoman Christine Scalera at the first organizational meeting of the town board's new term Monday.

Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, new Councilman Stan Glinka, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, new Councilman Brad Bender and Councilwoman Christine Scalera at the first organizational meeting of the town board’s new term Monday. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

The leaders of the Town of Southampton trumpeted collaboration across party lines Monday as town officials, including new councilmen Brad Bender and Stanley Glinka, were officially sworn in to office.

The meeting room at Southampton Town Hall was filled to capacity with over 70 friends, family and staff members in attendance, with still others watching through a live video stream in an adjacent room.

Representatives from the Shinnecock Indian Nation Tribal Council were in attendance, as were county and state officials. Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman sat in the third row while Congressman Tim Bishop presided over the event.

Following a procession with bagpipes, Father Michael Vetrano of the Basilica of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary opened the annual ceremony with a simple prayer, “God help us,” asking that the elected officials have the “courage and integrity to always stand up for the truth.”

After being sworn in, Bender waited for Glinka and the pair — a Democrat and Republican, respectively — made consecutive and similar speeches.

“I think,” said Bender, “we’re turning a new page here in the Town of Southampton. I think we’re going to do a lot of good things for the town.”

Glinka thanked his friends, family and co-workers at Bridgehampton National Bank, where he serves as vice president, and said he looked forward to working for Southampton, his hometown.

New Southampton Town Councilman Stan Glinka is sworn in by Justice Deborah Kooperstein Monday.

New Southampton Town Councilman Stan Glinka is sworn in by Justice Deborah Kooperstein Monday. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

In a longer speech than those given by her colleagues, re-elected Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst — an Independence Party member — emphasized the commitment to collaboration in coming years and outlined several areas where the new board is hopeful it will instill progress through a bi-partisan effort.

“I know we all recognize how privileged we are,” said Throne-Holst, “to not only live and work in this wonderful town, but to have been bestowed the even larger privilege — rather, the trust — to serve and safeguard what makes our town so special and that is, most of all, the wonderful people and constituents who make our community and our precious environment.”

“I think,” continued Throne-Holst, “we all share a painful awareness of the conspicuous and poor example of gridlock, partisan and narrow-minded government that has plagued our country over the last several years and where true public service has been too often stymied.”

The supervisor said the history and tradition of American government was “built by healthy discourse” and “joint commitment to serving the people.”

She said with this legacy in mind, members of the new town board have met and discussed a joint vision on how to best serve Southampton residents moving forward.

Throne-Holst outlined five areas of priority the town board has already decided on for 2014: water quality; affordable housing; police, public safety and code enforcement; addressing the needs of “aging and increasingly inefficient” infrastructure (a list she said is “dizzyingly long”); and having conversations with neighboring governments to “explore efficiency and cost savings to possible shared services, joint projects, emergency management,” among other initiatives.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst addresses the crowd at Southampton Town Hall Monday.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst addresses the crowd at Southampton Town Hall Monday. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

Throne-Holst said Larry Cantwell, the newly elected East Hampton Town supervisor, has already expressed his interest in such a “two town initiative.”

Throne-Holst underscored the new town government has “a commitment to representing in a cohesive and productive way where we will strive to exemplify government the way we believe it should be.”

“We have together,” she added, “stated a commitment to working together to see our goals move forward, with each of us focusing on several specific projects or areas as part of seeing them all done.”

Throne-Holst asked for the public’s involvement in outlining goals and moving forward, as well as holding the elected officials accountable in their commitment to put party and individual interests aside.

“Hold our feet to the fire,” she said.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst with her children, Nick, Sebastian, Karess and Max (from left to right). (Tessa Raebeck photo).

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst with her children, Nick, Sebastian, Karess and Max (left to right). (Tessa Raebeck photo).

Also taking the oath of office Monday were four Southampton Town Trustees, incumbents William Pell IV and Eric Schultz, who were sworn in together by Justice Steven Lynch, as were newcomers Scott Horowitz and Raymond Overton. Trustee Edward Warner, Jr. could not attend the ceremony but took his oath beforehand.

Entering her third term as town clerk, Sundy Schermeyer, accompanied by her grandfather, who turned 95 on Saturday, was sworn in by Councilwoman Christine Scalera.

Southampton Town Justices Deborah Kooperstein and Barbara Wilson also took the oath of office Monday and re-elected Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor was sworn in to his second term.

“We’re no supermen or superwomen,” Gregor said to the room of elected officials, “we’re just men and women — part of our community that want to help it.”

“I love the people of Southampton,” he continued, “because they have no problem telling me what they think at any time…To our fellow elected officials, we’re all stuck with each other, so maybe we oughta [sic] try to make it work.”