Tag Archive | "east hampton town board"

East Hampton Town Board Considers Curfews, Limits, Bans to Control Airport Noise

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Heller_EH Town Board Airport Work Session 2-4-15_1603_LR

Frank Dalene, co-founder of the Quiet Skies Coalition, thanked the town board for their openness and transparency during the process of adopting airport regulations. Photo by Michael Heller. 

By Mara Certic

People who have been complaining about noise from East Hampton Airport seemed elated on Wednesday morning when the East Hampton Town Board suggested a year-round curfew for the airport as well as other steps to limit noisy operations, including banning all helicopters on weekends during the summer season.

The steps, which would address 74 percent of all complaints while only affecting 31 percent of all flights, were outlined as the board heard the third and final phase of the independent noise analysis performed by Harrison Miller Miller & Hanson Inc., which was contracted to do the study by the town.

The first two phases of the noise study looked into the number of flights into and out of the airport and the complaints associated with them.

The third part of the noise analysis looked into different ways the town could solve the problem in a “reasonable, non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory” way.

“The town board recognizes the value of the East Hampton Airport to the community and does not want to impose any greater restriction than is necessary to achieve the town’s objectives,” Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said in a press release issued on Wednesday afternoon.

Councilwoman Burke-Gonzalez has acted as airport liaison since she took office in January 2014 and sponsored the draft legislation for the four specific regulations presented by HMMH Senior Vice President Ted Baldwin.

What the third phase of the study really did, according to Mr. Baldwin, was to predict the result of each possible restriction by using flight and complaint data from October 2013 through October 2014 so that the town would be able to gain a handle on how many flights and how many complaints would be affected by any rule change.

“We based it on 12 months of operations and complaints,” Mr. Baldwin explained,” the most recent 12 months of information we have.”

The four recommendations, all of which the town is considering adopting as local laws, collectively could address 74 percent of all aircraft complaints and would only affect 31 percent of the airport’s annual operations, restricting only the types of aircraft at the times of day, week and year that are associated with the greatest number of complaints.

The first restriction would be to make the airport’s year-round voluntary curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. mandatory. According to the work done by HMMH, 4.9 percent of all complaints last year were associated with operations that would be forbidden if the curfew were enforced.

The second restriction would extend the curfew from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. for noisy aircraft. Noisy aircraft are those with approach levels at 91 decibels or higher. The town will soon be publishing a list of all aircraft that meet that definition, Mr. Baldwin said.

The third proposed regulation would ban all helicopter flights on weekends and holidays during the summer season. The summer season has been defined as lasting from May 1 through September 30 and the weekend, for the purposes of the law, would start at noon on Thursday and end at noon Monday.

The weekend helicopter ban, in addition to the first two restrictions, would put a huge dent in the number of complaints filed, according to HMMH. Helicopters accounted for 14,935 complaints last year alone, with 12,944 of those complaints were called in during weekend hours.

The last restriction would prohibit noisy aircraft from conducting more than two flights in any calendar week during the summer, in an effort to prevent touch-and-go operations.

All told, helicopter traffic would be restricted the most, by 75.9 percent annually, while plane and jet flights would be reduced by approximately 13.7 percent, if the town chooses to adopt the restrictions.

Peter Kirsch, the town’s aviation attorney, explained that each regulation should be presented as its own separate local law in order to give the public the opportunity to meaningfully comment on each specific restriction.

Violating the laws, if adopted, would be a misdemeanor punishable by fines and possible jail terms ranging from $1,000 or/and 90 days in jail for the first offense to a fine of up to $10,000 for the third offense. A fourth violation would see the individual aircraft banned from the airport for a period of up to two years.

“This was designed to make sure that users understand the town board is serious about the restrictions,” Mr. Kirsch said.

Local officials present were not prepared comment on the legislation, but many got up to thank the board for their transparency and inclusiveness during the process.

“I want to commend the town board for the openness and transparency,” said New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

“This is how government is supposed to work and I think you’ve shown a fine process, it’s very, very important, there’s a lot of information here, the most important part of this is that it’s fact based and the public’s had the opportunity to comment,” he added.

Bob Malafronte, one of just two Southampton residents on the town’s airport noise subcommittee, also thanked the board for its work.

“It has been a hell of a long road, but we can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

A few aviation enthusiasts were present, and expressed their concern with the legislation. Bonnie Krupinski warned the town it was going down the path to closing the airport, and Cindy Herbst of Sound Aircraft said “even if half of these are initiated it’s the demise of East Hampton Airport and Sound Aircraft Services.”

Gerard Boleis, chairman of the airport planning committee’s aviation subcommittee, said his committee was unanimously against the regulations and warned that this could lead to “years of litigation and hundreds and thousands of dollars the town might lose.”

Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesperson for the Friends of the East Hampton Airport coalition, submitted the following statement:

“The town has proposed an unprecedented and drastic set of restrictions that would block access to a federally funded airport, discriminate against helicopters and other operators and will likely fail to ever go into effect for a variety of reasons. If enacted, the town board’s recommendations would essentially shut down the airport during the summer,” he said.

“In addition, the town’s 2015 budget relies on an increase in air traffic. Today’s proposed restrictions would cut traffic by 31 percent, thus creating a significant budget deficit and forcing property tax increases,” he added. Mr. Riegelhaupt continued to say that these restrictions would cause a decrease in real estate value.

Airport opponents say the incessant aircraft noise has already caused a decrease in real estate values, and that noise abatement measures would in fact improve the value of the property near the airport.

Over the next few days, the airport’s budget and financial advisory committee will analyze the regulations to ensure the airport can remain sustainable. Peter Wadsworth, a member of BFAC, said he believes it’s possible to finance a reasonable level of capital programs at the airport and that it’s also possible to make up the possible loss of revenue if these restrictions are put in place.

The town is slated to vote to notice the legislation for public hearing at their next work session on Tuesday, February 10. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, at LTV Studios. Comments can be submitted to HTOcomments@EHamptonNY.gov. A copy of all of the legislation and supporting data will be uploaded to www.HTOPlanning.com.

Aviation Enthusiasts, Charter Companies File Two Complaints

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By Mara Certic

Just days before the East Hampton Board was scheduled to discuss draft legislation to impose for the first time restrictions at East Hampton Airport in an attempt to reduce noise complaints, an organization of aviation advocates and business owners has taken two legal steps it says are aimed at preserving equal access to the airport.

The coalition filed suit on Thursday, January 29, in federal District Court against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its administrator, Michael Huerta, and challenges the settlement in 2005 of a case involving airport opponents. The second complaint was made to the FAA—asking it to direct the town to complete work to close what it calls “critical safety and security gaps at the airport.”

The Friends of the East Hampton Airport coalition comprises small local businesses, aviation experts, business leaders and national aviation advocates. In addition to the Friends of the East Hampton Airport, four New York City-based helicopter charter companies, one jet charter company and the Helicopter Association International are listed as co-plaintiffs.

“Our coalition is eager to work with the town, the FAA and our fellow residents to help resolve complaints related to noise, but we won’t do it in a way that compromises safety or violates federal law,” Loren Riegelhaupt, a spokesman for the coalition, said in a press release issued on Thursday.

The first complaint filed by the coalition on Thursday is asking the court to determine that the FAA lacked the authority in a settlement agreement in 2005 to waive commitments East Hampton Town made when it accepted FAA funding. That decision has been interpreted by the current town government as meaning as of the first of the year it is free to impose use restrictions, such as curfews, at the airport.

In 2001, the town received a $1.4 million grant from the FAA, which normally, would have required the town to enforce certain commitments (called grant assurances,) for 20 years. It was later determined that the grant was acquired for guidelines and projects included in the 1996 airport master plan, which had never formally been adopted by the town board.

In a 2005 settlement with the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion, the FAA agreed not to enforce the grant restrictions related to the town’s proprietary power over the airport after December 31, 2014.

The coalition maintains the FAA has been inconsistent and mentioned a recent case involving the Santa Monica Airport in California, where the FAA stated that it “may not by agreement waive its statutory enforcement jurisdiction over future cases.”

“The coalition said that the inconsistency in the FAA’s position must be resolved quickly, because the town is actively considering the imposition of discriminatory restrictions as to the times, number and type of aircraft that can access the airport now that the FAA has putatively stopped enforcing the equal access assurances,” reads a press release issued by the coalition on Thursday.

“They’re still peddling this tired conspiracy theory that the town’s trying to shut down the airport,” said Pat Trunzo, a former town board member and one of the members of the Committee to Stop Airport Expansion.

Mr. Trunzo said he does not believe the suit will go too far, and that there isn’t really much question as to whether the FAA had the authority to waive the town’s commitments.

The noise subcommittee has been very careful when formulating how it phrases its recommendations, according to Mr. Trunzo, which, he said, led him to believe any challenges are unlikely to be fruitful.

“Any challenges to the town adopting a nighttime curfew are looking at equally dim prospects of success,” he said.

The second complaint asks the FAA to direct the town to address several safety and security issues the coalition says have long been ignored. Some of the improvements include replacing the lighting system, building a deer fence and removing some “hazardous obstructions,” including trees.

According to Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, many of the “ safety and security issues” brought up in the coalition’s complaint have been subject to town resolutions in the past year and have already been bonded for, and some have been completed.

An engineer is currently creating plans for deer fencing for the airport, and specs for an automated airport weather station are being drawn up in time for it to be installed before summer, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said.

“Despite claims by the board that the town can fund the airport and its maintenance without FAA grants, the board is contemplating arbitrary and discriminatory aircraft restrictions that would drastically reduce airport traffic during peak months, slashing the airport’s revenue and further depriving the airport of desperately needed safety and security improvements,” the coalition release states.

Last December, members of the airport finance subcommittee presented a report on airport revenue, which concluded that even if FAA funding was eliminated and the number of helicopters was reduced by half, the airport is in good financial shape.

Several revenue enhancements, including a paid parking system and some property rentals, could create even more income for the town, according to the budget committee.

East Hampton Requests Proposals for New, Improved Town Hall Campus

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By Mara Certic 

The East Hampton Town Board took a step toward providing better public access to its facilities when it issued a request for proposals to reconstruct and reorganize the Town Hall campus.

The board is looking to redesign the town hall campus in order to bring all town departments to one central location, if possible.

Copies of the RFP have been made available to architects since Thursday, January 22. On February 4 interested architects have been invited to attend meeting at the East Hampton Town Hall to hear more about the board’s vision for the future of the town hall campus.

“The ultimate goal is to try to get all our employees in one area, one campus if you will, so we don’t have everybody spread out,” Alex Walter, executive assistant to Supervisor Larry Cantwell, said on Tuesday.

“We also would like to be able to make it easier for the public to access the offices,” he added.

A lot of the “high traffic” departments, Mr. Walter said, are very spread out.

The old town hall building has been empty since 2010 when the last offices that had been housed there were moved to town-owned condominiums at 300 Pantigo Place.

The building is in need of serious repairs, including mold removal, a new roof and a new interior, so the town will consider proposals that suggest renovating the building and those that plan to knock it down and start from scratch.

The 1747 Baker House and barn and the Peach farm building, which were donated to the town by Adelaide de Menil, may all become new on-campus offices.

There are also some departments that are housed in locations in town: land management and animal control offices work out of the Emergency Services Building on North Main Street, and the East Hampton Town Trustees operate out of the Lamb Building on Bluff Road in Amagansett. The remodeling project would also look to bring those employees back to one centralized location.

The town board is also looking to reconfigure the current parking lot, which “really needs to be done,” Mr. Walter said. “And we have room to do it.”

A space needs committee was created and has analyzed the town’s situation, and made some decisions about the best options. The same committee said its preferred option would be to raze the old building and create a new 14,000-square-foot space and use the historic buildings as additional office space. This plan would cost an estimated $5.5 million.

The committee estimates a less favored option, which would repurpose the building and add a 4,000-square foot addition to it, would cost approximately $2.95 million.

The town has $4.9 million already, which could go toward the renovation, and selling the suites at Pantigo Place could provide further funds.

Architects who want to take part in the competition have been urged to attend a pre-proposal meeting in the Town Hall meeting room, at 159 Pantigo Road, at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, February 4. The meeting will give architects the opportunity to take a look at the various structures and to get more of an idea of what the town is looking for, Mr. Walter said.

RFPs can been found at the purchasing department, and proposals are due on Thursday, February 19.

East Hampton Considers Town Manager Position

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By Mara Certic

In what they say is an effort to maintain continuity and increase efficiency in East Hampton town government, Supervisor Larry Cantwell and the other members of the Town Board are seriously considering the creation of a town manager position.

Supervisor Cantwell announced during the 2015 organizational meeting last week that the board would consider the adoption of a town manager role, something several local civic organizations have researched and advocated for in the past.

The town manager would oversee the day-to-day business of the town and act as an advisor, allowing board members to focus more on legislation.

There are only a few town managers in New York. The position is more common in other states, such as New Jersey. According to Mr. Cantwell, it is equivalent to the role of village administrator, which he filled in East Hampton Village, until he became supervisor.

The village administrator and the manager position report findings to the board, but are not involved in enacting policy.  The town manager would serve at the pleasure of the town board, managing all of the town departments thus giving the councilmembers more time to fulfill election promises.

“With 300 employees and a $70 million budget, with supervisors coming and going every two to four years, the management structure’s subject to change,” Mr. Cantwell said over the phone on Monday.

“The idea is to establish that continuity and improve the operations of the town,” he added.

The League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, The Group for Good Government and the East Hampton Business Alliance have all advocated for the creation of this role in the past and in 2013, the three organizations co-sponsored a forum on the topic.

“Many people erroneously believe that the town supervisor is the town’s chief executive officer. Under town law, the five-member Town Board, as a group, is the town’s chief executive officer. The supervisor is the town’s chief financial officer and is the presiding officer at Town Board meetings,” Arthur Malman, co-chair of the Group for Good Government, wrote in a release about the 2013 forum.

“Having five people act as both the legislative body and the administrative body may lead to difficulties, and the actual functioning of the Town Board will depend on the personalities of its ever-changing members. Hearing directions from five people can cause problems for town employees, and East Hampton’s Town Board has set up liaison responsibilities for its board members with varying success,” he continued.

The real aim of the creation of this position “is really to free up the supervisor to look at big picture things,” said Margaret Turner, executive director of the East Hampton Business Alliance.

Ms. Turner added that her organization believes many of the current problems within the town are a result of a lack of planning, and hopes that a town manager would allow members of the board to spend more time thinking towards the future.

“We support [this] because the role of the town council has changed and requires some administrative and financial skills that may perhaps be beyond the capabilities of some of the council members, who are elected to set policy,” Judy Samuelson, co-president of the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, said on Tuesday.

The League of Women Voters, however, will only support the creation of this position if the appointed manager is appropriately qualified and certified, Ms. Samuelson said.

“Our primary concern is the criteria for choosing town manager,” she said, adding that the appointee must be certified by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

“We would also like to stress that the town manager has no political affiliation, nor does the manager set policy,” she said. “It’s a position outside the council not subject to the vagaries of the election,” she added.

Ms. Turner agreed that it cannot be a political appointment.

“One thing you really want to do is keep politics out of it and put in the best candidate for the position,” she said, adding that her ideal candidate would have experience in the role of town manager as well as a background in both government and business.

Mr. Cantwell would not provide details about specific responsibilities or duties of the new role, or of potential candidates.

“We are in the process of putting that together and in the next few months we’ll have a specific proposal,” he said.

According to Mr. Cantwell, the proposal will require a public hearing before any vote can take place.

 

 

East Hampton Town Board Consider Law to Restrict January Bowhunting on Town Parkland

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By Mara Certic 

A possible amendment to East Hampton Town’s hunting regulations attracted comments from hunters, hikers and environmentalists at the town board’s meeting on Thursday, December 4.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has recently extended the bowhunting season, which currently runs from October 1 to December 31, into January. If the season were to be extended, bowhunters and shotgun hunters would be able to hunt side by side during the month of January.

In East Hampton, the town board has jurisdiction over only town-owned parkland, with all other land falling under the purview of the DEC, when it comes to hunting. The amendment to a local law being sponsored by Councilman Fred Overton would prohibit bowhunting on town-owned parkland during the month of January in an effort to prevent the overlap of bow- and shotgun-users while continuing to provide them both with the opportunity to hunt.

Last year’s plan to hire sharpshooters from the United States Department of Agriculture’s wildlife services division to cull the deer population resulted in several “No Cull” rallies organized by Bill Crain, founder of the East Hampton Group for Wildlife.

Mr. Crain spoke up at Thursday’s public hearing, to support the recommendation at hand. “We strongly support this resolution. It will help a lot in avoiding chaos between the archers and those using firearms,” he said.

The East Hampton Group for Wildlife also supports the resolution because it thinks it is one way to limit bowhunting, which Mr. Crain described as “the cruelest form of hunting because the wound rate is so high.”

A bowhunting study compiled by Friends of Animals and Their Environments (FATE) reports the wounding rate for deer at 54 percent.

“Studies indicate that for every deer killed by bowhunters at least one or more is hit and not recovered, compared to deer shot by gun where only one out of 14 shots is not recovered,” the study reads.

Mr. Crain said this was one of the few recommendations made by the Deer Management Advisory Committee that his organization supported, and suggested the board consider involving more members who would be less prone to favor lethal methods.

The advisory committee is made up of members from the East Hampton Town Departments of Land Acquisition and Management, Natural Resources, Planning and the town Nature Preserve Committee. Committee members also include people from the Suffolk County Department of Parks, New York State Department of Parks and Recreation, the Peconic Land Trust, the Nature Conservancy, the Village of East Hampton, the Long Island Farm Bureau and the East Hampton Sportsmen’s Alliance.

“This committee is stacked in favor of those using lethal methods and hunting,” Mr. Crain said.  “It does not represent the full range of opinion of our community,” he added.

“I’ve contacted the board and even appeared personally to try to get the board to include someone from our group, which tries to promote respect for the deer and their wish to live,” he said.

According to Mr. Crain, he and his organization would also support the prohibition of shotgun and bowhunting on weekends.

Rick Whalen, a former town attorney and avid hiker, warned the board that if it extended hunting to include weekends in January, it could alienate the rest of the community who enjoy weekends exploring town parkland. He suggested the town restrict weekend hunting on town-owned parkland.

“If you’re going to allow weekend shotgun hunting, you’re basically going to tell most of the citizenry of the town to stay out of your parks for an entire month of the year. I don’t think you should do that,” he said.

Terry O’Riordan of the East Hampton Sportsmen’s Alliance said he and his organization’s primary concern is a townwide ecological and environmental balance, and that they support the use of “lethal, historically traditional methods” of maintaining equilibrium between plant and animal species.

He suggested the town revisit the proposal to perhaps allow shotgun hunters exclusivity in the first part of the month, and to then allow archers to join them for the second half of the month.

“Experts have confirmed the rampant damage our grossly overpopulated deer herd has done here to the woods and forests in our towns,” he said.

Robin Laton and Dell Cullum, both of East Hampton, both disagreed with Mr. O’Riordan’s comment, suggesting deer are in fact responsible for very little damage to wood and parkland.

According to Senior Environmental Analyst Andrew Gaites, the town has only just begun to monitor the situation, so it’s difficult to know the extent of the damage.

“A lot of environmentalists can see the damage,” he said, but added that no one has officially recorded such destruction until the town received a grant to begin vegetative monitoring this year.

Mr. Gaites said earlier this year, town workers put in a few fenced-in areas, inaccessible to deer. These “exclosures” will allow analysts to visibly see what impact deer have on vegetation. They have also begun doing counts and measurements of plant species, he said.

For any regulations to be in place for all of shotgun hunting season, the East Hampton Town Board would have to adopt a law in its last regular meeting of the year, on Thursday, December 18.

East Hampton Airport Supporters Blast Noise Study

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Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. addressed the town board and the public at the presentation of the Phase 1 Noise Analysis Interim Report on Thursday morning. 

By Mara Certic

The analysts studying the aircraft noise problem at East Hampton Airport presented the first stage of their noise study last Thursday. They said what many airport critics have claimed in the past few years: The vast majority of helicopter pilots are not complying with voluntary noise abatement procedures, and the number of instances in which noise exceeds the recommended limits is astronomically high.

In response, the Friends of the East Hampton Airport sent out a letter on Wednesday, November 5, calling on the Suffolk County comptroller to conduct a thorough review of the $60,000 of public funds that were used to conduct this study.

The town’s aviation attorney, Peter Kirsch, and analysts Les Blomberg, Henry Young and Peter Wadsworth presented the Phase 1 Noise Analysis Interim Report on East Hampton Airport to the East Hampton Town Board and the public on the morning of Thursday, October 30.

“This is the kind of process that usually goes on very quietly,” Mr. Kirsch said, explaining the town board has been adamant about involving the community and seeking public comment at every opportunity.

Using a plethora tools and graphs, Mr. Blomberg, of Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, showed the board and a group of concerned citizens how different factors contribute to the noise problem on the East End. The noise problem is at its worst during summer months, with operations and complaints peaking on Friday and Sunday evenings and early Monday mornings.

When trying to determine the rate of helicopter compliance with the voluntary noise abatement routes, Mr. Blomberg first found that he did not have the data for approximately 40 percent of helicopter flights.

Without that missing data, Mr. Blomberg found that overall only 15.3 percent of helicopter pilots comply with height restrictions and the voluntary noise abatement routes. Of those arriving over Georgica Pond, 37.7 percent comply with voluntary procedures, he said, but that is by far the highest rate of compliance. Only 1.9 percent of those departing over Jessup’s Neck in Noyac are complying with the voluntary measures, and just 3.9 percent of helicopters leaving over Barcelona Point east of Sag Harbor are following those guidelines.

The Friends of East Hampton Airport called the study “wildly misleading and inaccurate” in a release accompanying a letter to Supervisor Larry Cantwell. According to the airport supporters, the compliance data presented on Thursday is “entirely incorrect” and claimed the town’s records show higher levels of compliance.

Mr. Blomberg identified every parcel within 10 miles of the airport and then, using the noise criteria from the East Hampton Town Code, determined every time an aircraft caused a noise “exceedance” for each property — the number of times each parcel experiences a noise impact over the limit.

Using this model, Mr. Blomberg found that in 2013, properties within 10 miles of the airport were affected by aircraft noise that measured above town code levels a total of 31.8 million times. This comes down to noise exceeding the daytime limit of 65 decibels 16.7 million times, and going over 50 decibels between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. 15.1 million times.

“There was no operation that did not exceed the noise ordinance at some point,” Mr. Blomberg said, but added the “rattle” effect of helicopters draws more attention to their noise, and is often found to be more annoying.

The Friends of the East Hampton Airport criticized the analysts for using this data, claiming, “this inflammatory data purported to show millions of “exceedances” of the town’s noise ordinance.  There is no community in the United States that bases aviation noise restrictions on such measures because federal law has preempted the regulation of aviation noise.”

The letter also said the use of data from 2013 rather than 2014 is “intentionally misleading, and at the very least, it shows that the Noise Study’s results are hopelessly flawed and unusable.”

Supervisor Cantwell on Wednesday said the decision to use last year’s data was because “the analysis has been ongoing and the 2014 year is not complete. The consultants chose one full complete year of data and that was 2013.”

Mr. Wadsworth, the only volunteer analyst, conducted a study of the noise complaints. From January to September of this year, air traffic control showed there were 22,350 flight operations in and out of the airport. In the same period of time there have been 22,700 complaints. The vast majority of those complaints were for helicopter operations, which only account for one third of all aircraft operations.

By looking at where each complaint came from, Mr. Wadsworth determined most airport noise complaints come from the Town of Southampton. At 23 percent, most of the complaints came from Noyac, followed by Sag Harbor at 17 percent, Shelter Island at 15 percent and the North Fork at 13 percent. Another 12.5 percent of all complaints come from the East Hampton side of Sag Harbor, he said.

The analysis of complaints also angered the Friends of the East Hampton Airport, who said the data was meaningless unless the number of complainants, and how many times each person complained was included.

Mr. Wadsworth’s study did not include the number of times each person called, but page six of his presentation was dedicated to a graph showing the number of households per town that filed complaints.

The Friends of the East Hampton Airport said the data was unreliable also because it doesn’t “mention anywhere that the town ran ads asking people to call in.”

“Of course, when people want to make a complaint we want to make that system available to them,” Supervisor Cantwell said on Wednesday. “And when we have a complaint line we like to make people aware of it.”

One of the most common grievances of those troubled by aircraft noise is the lengthy and difficulty complaint process. In recent meetings, residents from East Hampton, Southampton and even the North Fork have said they have “given up” calling the complaint hotline.

“It’s hardly surprising to me that the Friends of the East Hampton Airport would be critical of what we’re trying to do,” Mr. Cantwell said, but added: “We’re always happy to have the suggestions and recommendations of the helicopter industry and from Save East Hampton Airport.”

The town is actively seeking public comment on the aircraft noise problem asks written comments be submitted to HTOcomments@EhamptonNY.gov.

 

East Hampton Plans to Ban Plastic Bags By Earth Day

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PIC DAVID CRUMP.TESCO PLASTIC BAGS

By Mara Certic

While banning plastic bags may not be the lynchpin in solving the world’s environmental crisis, according to East Hampton Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby it is at least a step in the right direction.

East Hampton’s celebration of Recycling Awareness Month was in full swing at their first work session of the month on Tuesday, October 7, when Ms. Overby discussed a proposed ban on single-use plastic bags.

“It’s a small step, it’s not going to solve all the problems,” Ms. Overby said. “It will be something that I think is going to be important to start making those steps,” she said.

The towns of Southampton, Southold and Shelter Island have all put their support behind a regional ban on plastic bags, the world’s largest consumer item. Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said last month the town will hold a public hearing on the ban the first week in December, and the idea is to implement a regional ban by Earth Day, 2015.

John Botos of East Hampton’s Natural Resources Department has been working with Ms. Overby on the draft legislation. Using data from the EPA, Mr. Botos estimates the town – excluding the village, which banned the bags back in 2011 – uses approximately 10 million bags a year.

Frank Dalene, president of the East Hampton Energy Sustainability Committee gave a few statistics from the Citizens Campaign for the Environment: the plastic offenders are used for an average of 12 minutes, he said, but they never fully break down, just becoming smaller and smaller particles of petrochemicals.

According to Mr. Dalene, 2.2 billion pounds of fossil fuels and 3.9 billion gallons of fresh water are needed to make the 100 billion plastic bags that American consumers use each year. As it stands today, there are approximately 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean, he said.

Ms. Overby has been working closely with business-owners, and added “We’re really delighted and happy because we really worked well with the business community.”

In fact Catherine Foley, who with her husband Stuart owns Air and Speed Surf Shop in Montauk, spoke up during Tuesday’s work session to lend her support to the ban. “The public is ready,” she said, “they just need continued encouragement, guidance and support.”

East Hampton Town Trustee and Chair of the Litter Committee Deborah Klughers did an online poll regarding the ban, she said, and found that 92-percent of her sample of the community were in favor of the ban. “It’s looking really good, it would be good for the planet,” she said.

Ms. Overby said she is still working on a draft of the public hearing for the ban, but welcomes anyone interested to take a look and give the board some feedback on it as written. In the meantime, the town is dedicated to helping to educate the public and business-owners about the ban and about the BYOB initiative – “bring your own bag.”

Ms. Klughers discussed some of the other activities going on in conjunction with recycling awareness month on Tuesday.  A “Kids Can Recycle” campaign has students in East Hampton Town competing to see who can collect and recycle the largest number of aluminum cans; the winning school will win an evergreen tree.

The last week of October will be dedicated to recycling cardboard, she said. Businesses, residents and even out-of-towners are invited to drop off their (flattened) cardboard at the town recycling centers during that week.

Ms. Klughers also announced the Trustees have begun a new, very different recycling campaign. “Don’t chuck it if you shuck it,” is the motto for the Trustees’ new seashell recycling initiative. Bivalve-enthusiasts are asked to drop off their clam, oyster and scallop shells for the town to reintroduce to the local waters in order to provide habitats for other sea creatures.

Mr. Botos announced the town has been awarded a $13,000 grant to install an electric car charging station outside town hall. Work on that, he said, may begin next month.

The town is working on different ways to educate the public about energy conservation and sustainability. Mr. Botos said their main priority now is to educate people about “phantom-load energy,” which is the energy used by appliances that are not running, but are plugged in.

Although a microwave might only be on for a couple of minutes a day, he explained, if it is plugged in, it is still drawing out energy and costing the homeowner. The Natural Resources Department is looking to use social media networks to spread this message and will be using the hashtags #unplugeasthampton and #unplugeh.

 

Osiecki Honored for Heroism

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A year-and-a-half after the night she swam into Napeague Harbor to rescue a drowning woman, Sag Harbor’s own Katie Osiecki received a proclamation on Thursday from the State of New York and the Town of East Hampton recognizing her heroism.

Ms. Osiecki was one of 20 to receive a Carnegie Medal this year. The award was founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1904, and is reserved for individuals in the United States and Canada who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving, or attempting to save, the lives of others.

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Supervisor Larry Cantwell presented Ms. Osiecki with a proclamation at the East Hampton Town Board’s regular meeting on Thursday, October 2.

“Therefore be it proclaimed by the State Legislature, by the New York State Assembly, that she be recognized for winning the Carnegie Medal,” Mr. Thiele read.

“This act, I think, really tells you all you need to know about Katie Osiecki. She’s a really special young woman, a special resident of the town of East Hampton,” he said.

 

East Hampton Town Supervisor Proposes $71.5 Million Budget

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Larry Cantwell photo for web

By Mara Certic

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell presented his proposed  $71.5 million budget for the town in 2015 last week.

On Thursday, September 25, Mr. Cantwell released his tentative budget, which calls for a $1,490,349 increase in spending over this year. The proposed budget is $204,051 below the state-mandated 2-percent tax levy cap.

The tax rate, for those who live outside either East Hampton or Sag Harbor village, will increase by just over 2 percent, Mr. Cantwell said. The increase will amount to  $23.08 for those who own property assessed at $4,000 (a full value of $550,000) and $40.39 for those who own property with a full value of $960,000.

Those living in the villages will see a 3.12-percent increase in their property taxes, which will amount to $14.32 for those in homes worth $550,000 and $25.06 per year for a house assessed at $960,000.

By staying under the 2-percent tax cap, residents will receive rebate checks from the state for the amount their taxes increased between this year and last, he explained.

The total budgeted spending increase, Mr. Cantwell explained, is 2.95 percent, bringing the budget up to a total of $71,481,765.

“My goal in formulating this budget has been to integrate prudent budgeting and financial planning while improving code enforcement, protecting and improving environmental quality and assisting those who depend on certain town services,” Mr. Cantwell said.

“Improvements in services—delivered in a financially responsible manner—are what I was striving for in developing my tentative budget,” he said.

Mr. Cantwell has proposed three new full-time positions and converting one from part-time to full-time.

The first of these “recognizes and funds the position of public safety coordinator as a separate and distinct title,” the supervisor said in a release accompanying the budget. Previously, that position was a split title with an assistant town attorney handling those duties.

The new public safety coordinator will oversee building, fire prevention, animal control and code enforcement activities on a full-time basis. Mr. Cantwell added it will also allow one of the existing full-time assistant town attorneys to spend all of their time as a legal professional.

Mr. Cantwell also including funding in his tentative budget for a new ordinance inspector and promotion of inspector to code enforcement officer. The new ordinance inspector, he explained, will be able to ticket and write summons just as code enforcement officers do.  According to Mr. Cantwell, the budget specified that some part-time funding go toward a part-time town investigator in the Ordinance Enforcement Department.

In his first budget as supervisor, Mr. Cantwell revealed his intent to increase the town Police Department and Marine Patrol’s seasonal staff. He added $50,000 in funding for the police department and $25,000 for marine patrol. “This additional funding will add more coverage in the busy summer months, boost compliance with parking regulations, traffic control and local ordinances,” said Mr. Cantwell.

Mr. Cantwell also announced an additional $12,000 will go toward seasonal help to “combat litter and keep our beaches clean.”

In that vein, Mr. Cantwell also proposed to convert the part-time environmental technician position to a full-time job. The new position will be funded by the Town’s general fund and the Community Preservation Fund. The duties of the job will be split between general land management and tasks particular to CPF-acquired properties.

The last new job introduced in this year’s tentative budget is for an executive assistant to the supervisor in order to “make the supervisor’s office more responsive to the public.”

An additional $10,000 for the Natural Resources Department will set aside a total of $20,000 solely for water quality research in the town. “Water testing is one of the ways we can monitor what’s going on,” Mr. Cantwell said.

Another $100,000 will be set aside to develop a town-wide wastewater management plan, which, the supervisor said, would go toward funding the necessary groundwork before any such plan could be put in place.

Mr. Cantwell expanded services for the Senior Nutrition Program, extending the program’s cook’s hours and increasing the budget for the Montauk program by $5,000. The town will also increase some of its youth services, he said.

Mr. Cantwell included $25,000 for the South Fork Behavioral Health Initiative to help improve mental health care on the East End through clinics operated by the Family Service League. “Regionally, the goal is to get immediate mental health services available at Southampton Hospital,” Mr. Cantwell said.

The supervisor attributed much of the increase in the budget to escalating health insurance rates, which are expected to go up by 6 percent. A total of $17.3 million of the entire budget goes to pay benefits, he explained.

“The largest spending cut in my tentative budget comes from closing the Scavenger Waste Treatment Plant, which was servicing only a small number of vendors, with a budget of $800,000 and a net cost of well over $500,000 to taxpayers,” Mr. Cantwell said.

The CPF continues to perform strongly, Mr. Cantwell said, and the projected revenue for 2014 is $25.2 million. A “conservative” projection for next year is $18.3 million. As of last week, the CPF had a cash balance of over $52 million—$30 million of which is dedicated to pending acquisitions.

The supervisor has suggested the town add $1.7 million of surplus fund balance to an existing debt reserve, in order to pay off approximately 25 percent of the remaining deficit bond principal. By 2018, the town anticipates to have enough money in its dedicated debt reserves to pay off enough debt to ensure the principal payments drop by $1.25 million.

“I believe improvements in services—delivered in a financially responsible manner—are achieved in my tentative budget,” he said.

The East Hampton Town Board will discuss the tentative budget during the first two work sessions in October, and expects to have a public hearing on Thursday, November 6. The current plan is to adopt the final budget on Thursday, November 20, as mandated by the state.

Solar Developer Chosen

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The East Hampton Town Board on Thursday, September 18, authorized options for the lease of three town properties for solar array development to a California-based company. SunEdison, which has offices all over the world, responded to the town’s request for proposals to lease town-owned land for renewable energy facilities.

SunEdison have proposed to lease sites on Accabonac Highway, Bull Path and Northwest Road and Springs-Fireplace Road. The company will be required to pay rent to the town and sell electricity it produces to PSEG Long Island.

After a 90-day period, SunEdison will begin paying the town lease option payments based on the proposed mega-wattage that will be produced by each of the sites. The company is expected to pay the town up to $80,900 per year.

SunEdison will now proceed to site-plan review with the planning board and “other approvals as may be necessary for each specific project.”

During the approval process and while the company “otherwise determines the feasibility of proceeding with each project,” SunEdison will pay lease option payments to the town for up to three years. After that point, the leases will be for 20-year periods.

In other sunny news, a sales person from Green Logic addressed the town board on Thursday about a new East Hampton Building Department policy the solar company worries will deter potential panel-installers.

Lifelong East Hampton resident Sara Topping, who works for Green Logic, said the Building Department recently informed the company it must obtain new surveys upon the completion of solar panel installations. The new surveys, she said, are designed to prevent over-clearing, which “is obviously a goal and environmental issue we support,” she said.

“It really just transfers into an additional fee for the homeowner,” she said. Supervisor Larry Cantwell said he would discuss the issue with the building inspector and have an answer for Ms. Topping next week.