Tag Archive | "east hampton town board"

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.

Taking Aim at Airport Noise

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The East Hampton Town Board unanimously adopted a resolution on Thursday, September 18, to put in regulations at East Hampton Airport in order to curtail an ongoing and increasing noise problem.

The resolution, sponsored by Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, was read aloud and discussed at a work session on Tuesday, September 16.

Without naming any specific regulations, the town board resolved to identify and adopt regulations that would address noise disturbances from the airport. Henk Houtenbos, a local pilot, spoke during the public portion of Thursday’s meeting.  He brought up a resolution passed by the previous town board on August 2012, which “announced its intent to pursue use restrictions on operations at the airport.”

“What I noticed as well is that there were two members of this council who actually voted against that resolution. It was Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc and Councilwoman Sylvia Overby,” Mr. Houtenbos said.

He asked how those two members of the board planned on voting on Thursday, and what, if anything has changed.

Mr. Van Scoyoc told him to “stay tuned.” All four of the board members present voted for the resolution. Councilwoman Burke-Gonzalez, who was absent from Thursday’s meeting, said last week the board hopes to have proposed aircraft regulations drafted by Christmas.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board unanimously voted to send Peter Boody, senior airport attendant, to a free workshop in Washington, D.C., this month sponsored by Whereas Exelis, Inc. The company provides aircraft tracking services at the town airport.

CfAR Cheers Beach Access Ruling; But Suit Still Alive

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photo 1

By Mara Certic

After almost five years in court, a decision has been made on two lawsuits filed against the East Hampton Town Trustees and the Town Board, determining that beachfront homeowners on Napeague do not own the stretches of beach in front of their houses.

In September 2009, home- and business-owners along the southern side of Napeague filed two separate suits against the town, claiming to own the ocean beach in an effort to prohibit vehicles from driving on it.

The first of the suits, named the “Seaview” case was filed by several Napeague homeowners associations claimed owners of oceanfront property owned a 4,000-foot stretch of beach along the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Trustees, who have jurisdiction over most town beaches. In a decision dated September 3, 2014, New York State Supreme Court Justice Jerry Garguilo found that the homeowners do not have jurisdiction over the area between the beach grass and the high-water marks.

Affectionately and quite appropriately known as “truck beach,” the area has for years been popular with local families who access it in four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Soon after the lawsuit was filed, a grassroots, not-for-profit organization called Citizens for Access Rights (CfAR) was formed in order to oppose the privatization of East End beaches. CfAR, which is not affiliated with any political parties, raised thousands of dollars over the years in order to support the Trustees in the lawsuit.

White Sands Motel Holding Corporation filed another suit with the same claim over a smaller stretch of beach in front of the motel, further east than the “Seaview” property.

“There’s some pluses and minuses for both sides,” Tim Taylor, the president of CfAR, said of the recent decisions on Wednesday. “There are two separate cases so there are two separate rulings.”

The judge handled the two cases at the same time, he said, because “the plaintiffs in those cases are looking for the same results.”

“They found in the Seaview case that the homeowners of the subdivisions do not own between the edge of the beach grass and the mean high water. They did not find on the White Sands case, that the town owns that beach, but they did find that the homeowners don’t own it in the Seaview case,” he said.

The White Sands decision rejected the town’s effort to have the suit dismissed by a summary judgment, which basically determines the suit to be without merit.

The court did not rule that the White Sands beach property was owned by either the Trustees or the motel, but merely determined that the ownership was unclear, Mr. Taylor said.

“Either way we do expect an appeal process on both sides and we would just really hope the town Trustees and the town board continue their fight of this case and we don’t lose sight of what’s at stake here. It’s not really an all-out win for either side,” Mr. Taylor explained.

Assistant East Hampton Town Attorney John Jilnicki said Monday that the town was in the process of reviewing the decision in order to figure out how to proceed. “We could appeal it and not let it proceed to trial, but I don’t think the decision’s been made yet,” he said. He added the town hopes to have made a determination within the next week or so.

The East Hampton Town Trustees did not return phone calls by the time of this paper’s publication. Their attorney, Anthony Tohill, said he was not prepared to comment on the decision on Tuesday.

David Lys, founder of CfAR, was asked in a 2011 interview with The Sag Harbor Express if he thought property owners would ever stop seeking to privatize beaches on the East End. “Will it ever end?” he was asked.

“Unfortunately, I don’t believe it will,” he said. “With the turnover rate in housing out here, and the monetary wealth combined with the fact we live in a litigious society, people will throw their money around and sue over something like this because it is the easiest course of action they can take.”

Just last week those proposing a members-only club at East Deck in Montauk called for an adjournment on the decision after outcry from the public. Over 5,000 people signed a petition calling for the East Hampton Town Planning Board to deny the application or require an environmental impact study. The Ditch Plains Association held a memorial paddle-out where hundreds of surfers mourned the potential loss of the family friendly beach.

ED40 LLC., owner of the motel, issued a statement saying a significant number of public comments had led them to offer the land to the board for public acquisition. Mr. Taylor had no comment on the potential purchase of the land but said, “We hope that no matter what happens there, the public has access to that beach. Whether it is purchased by the town or whether some sort of development does go through there, we would just like to see that the public is able to use and access this beach.”

North Haven Hunting Injunction Lifted

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By Mara Certic

A temporary restraining order to prevent the issuance of new deer nuisance permits in North Haven has been lifted by Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge W. Gerard Asher in a ruling on Friday, September 12.

The Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island (WPCELI) filed suit against the Village of North Haven last spring for a preliminary injunction to prevent  the DEC from issuing nuisance permits on the East End, after hearing word of a proposed mass deer cull.

In March 2014, the Supreme Court issued a six-month temporary restraining order that prevented new permits from being issued. According to a press release issued by Wendy Chamberlin, president of WPCELI, the temporary restraining order “effectively, halted the Long Island Farm Bureau and United States Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services’ planned 2013-2014 cull of, potentially, thousands of deer, which concluded this past spring.”

The WPCELI argued the planned 2013-2014 cull of 3,000 to 5,000 deer “was a substantial increase from previous years and that a cull of this size has not been properly evaluated or studied by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation,” according the release.

According to court records, the wildlife coalition asserted “the DEC’s recent issuance of DDPs involves significant departures from their established and accepted practices of doing so and asserts that a new evaluation of the need and scale of any deer cull program must be done.” They also said, according to the records, “the DEC does not follow its own guidelines.” The DEC countered that it does indeed follow its own guidelines and that there was not a significant departure from past years, noting there are only 12 applications currently pending before the DEC, and that those are for mostly farmland.

“WPCELI is confident that the court will find that DEC has not justified this unprecedented cull and will direct DEC to comply with the law before issuing more permits for the LIFB program,” Ms. Chamberlin said in the release.

According to North Haven Village Mayor Jeff Sander, the lifting of the temporary restraining order will not have much of an immediate impact on North Haven.

“It won’t affect the state-wide hunting season that starts on October 1,” Mr. Sander said on Wednesday morning. “The normal hunting season starts October 1 and goes through the end of the year. The nuisance deer hunting starts on January 1, so it will allow us to continue as we have for many years.”

The North Haven Village Board presented an update of its deer management plan at its regular meeting earlier this month. It discussed the possibility of adding a deer sterilization program as well as plans to plans to deploy in the spring 10 four-poster feeding systems, which apply insecticide to a feeding deer’s neck and shoulders.

The board also discussed a proposed law that would require all hunters in North Haven to apply for special hunting permits from the village, as well as a permit from the DEC. “We just want to be able to control what hunters are in North Haven, what areas they’re hunting in. And they’ll need that permit whether they’re hunting in the normal season starting next month or during January to March for the nuisance deer hunting,” Mr. Sander said.

Mr. Sander said during the village board meeting the primary focus is to reduce the herd. North Haven, however, has no plans to bring in professional firm White Buffalo for a deer cull this year, he added.

East Hampton Management Plan

Andrew Gaites of the Deer Management Committee gave a report at the East Hampton Town Board’s Tuesday morning work session this week and offered options and recommendations to the board.

According to Mr. Gaites, changes in bow-hunting setback laws created an additional 300 acres of town land that can be opened for bow-hunting this year. The law, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this year, reduced mandatory setbacks from residences from 500 feet to 150 feet. There is also an additional 174 acres of town land now available for gun hunting as well, he said.

Mr. Gaites said he believes the New York State Parks Department is working to open up more land in Napeague and Montauk for hunting.

The committee did not recommend planning for a professional deer cull this winter, “mostly due to a lawsuit against the DEC and the USDA,” Mr. Gaites said. The committee did suggest the town consider allowing local hunters onto private land during certain hours, “possibly at other times of year using nuisance permits,” as well as the regular hunting season, Mr. Gaites said.

He also suggested the possibility of opening up two landfill sites to hunting on Wednesdays, when they are closed. Mr. Gaites said if this was possible, the properties would only be open on a limited basis and only to a select number of lottery winners. It was also recommended that deer accidents be better documented and that the board consider extending the gun season to include weekends.

East Hampton Will Let Citizens Weigh In

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East Hampton Town announced this week that it would hold a series of informational hearings on hot topics in the coming weeks.

Two public meetings have been scheduled to discuss the town’s comprehensive wastewater management plan. The first will be on Tuesday, September 23, at 10 a.m. in the Emergency Services Building in East Hampton Village. A second will take place during a regularly scheduled town board work session on Tuesday, October 14, at 10 a.m. at the Montauk Firehouse. Each meeting will include an overview of the plan, as well as a detailed discussion of specifics as they relate to the hamlet in which the meeting is held.

The Montauk Beach Stabilization Plan will be the topic of a special meeting at noon on Thursday, September 25, at the Montauk Firehouse. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will present the final details of their downtown Montauk beach stabilization project. Representatives from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Suffolk County Department of Public Works, as well as East Hampton Town, will also attend.

The town’s proposed rental registry law will be the topic at two town board work session, the first on Tuesday, October 21, at 10 a.m. at Town Hall, and the second on Wednesday, November 12, at 10 a.m. at the Montauk Firehouse.

Formula Business Law on Hold

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A vote on proposed law to require formula or chain businesses to acquire special permits has been put off again in East Hampton Town.

The legislation, which aims to maintain the rural character of the town by requiring chain stores to apply for special permits, was on the agenda for the last Town Board meeting of the busy summer season on Thursday, August 21.

The town board decided to hold off on the vote after Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and Councilman Fred Overton both said they would have difficulty supporting the legislation as written during an August work session.

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who sponsored the legislation, added, “There were a few things the attorneys wanted to look at.” She said she hopes it will be back on the agenda later this month.

East Hampton Town Names Next Airport Manager

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helicopters

The East Hampton Town Board announced on Tuesday that they intend to appoint Jemille Charlton as airport manager following new of Jim Brundige’s resignation.

Mr. Charlton has held the position of airport attendant since May 2013. The 33-year-old attended New York Military Academy, Community College of the Air Force and, according to a press release issued by Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez’s office, will graduate from Dowling College School of Aviation with a degree in Airport Management in May 2015.

“I believe we can take our airport into the future while maintaining our unique East End quality of life. Being a third-generation resident and now raising the fourth here, I understand what it means to be fully invested in this community, and will strive to maintain its ideals and values. As a community, we must think rationally and responsibly to ensure the stability of our East End for generations to come,” he said in the release.

“Jemille is a young man with a solid background in aviation, impeccable credentials and deep roots in our community. As a 15-year member of the Air National Guard, we are proud of his service to our country and I look forward to partnering with him as we develop a plan that addresses the Airport’s finances, infrastructure, capital and noise issues,” Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said.

The resolution to appoint Mr. Charlton is scheduled for the town board’s regular meeting on Thursday, September 4 at 6:30 p.m. If passed, Mr. Charlton’s position will take effect immediately. According to the release, Mr. Brundige will stay at the airport to help with the transition until October 17.

 

Wainscott Parcel Targeted for Affordable Housing

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By Stephen J. Kotz

A plan to build as many as 48 affordable rental apartments on a 31-acre site owned by East Hampton Town in Wainscott was proposed to the Town Board on July 15.

Michael DeSario, the chairman of the Windmill Village Housing Development Fund Corporation, which has been involved with other subsidized housing projects in the town, made his pitch at the board’s weekly work session and stressed that any project is far from a done deal, saying that even if everything went without a hitch, he was looking at a timeframe of up to four to six years before they would be completed.

Supervisor Larry Cantwell agreed with Mr. DeSario’s assessment that the project would take some years to bring to fruition.

“There’s a lot of lead time on a project like this,” said Supervisor Larry Cantwell on Wednesday, “but you never get anything done if you don’t get started on something.”

The first hurdle, the supervisor said, would be making sure the project is workable with the tiny Wainscott School District, whose residents enjoy the lowest school tax rate in town.

“We know there is a demand for affordable housing. Young, working familes have few places to live,” Mr. Cantwell said. “Want to consider locations and proposals and get community input.”

“Several months ago, the town asked Windmill to look around and work with the Planning Department to see if there are any sites available for affordable housing,” Mr. DeSario said on Tuesday. “We came up with a couple and this was at the top of the list.”

The targeted site consists of several parcels off Stephen Hands Path, behind the town-owned soccer fields and the Child Development Center of the Hamptons school.

Mr. DeSario said he envisioned a development that would consist of eight buildngs with six apartment units in each one. Twenty would be one-bedroom apartments of about 600 squae feet, 20 would be two-bedroom units of about 800 square feet, and another eight would be three-bedroom units with about 1,200 square feet of living space.

The project would also have a community room and a superintendent’s apartment and could be served by standard individual wastewater systems or a small-scale onsite waste treatment plant.

A wastewater treatment plant could upward of $1 million to build and another $50,000 a year to run, “so we wanted to make sure it could be done either way,” he said.

Mr. DeSario estimated that the complex would cost up to $15 million and would be funded through federal grants and tax credits.

The units would be rented to “low and very-low income people,” Mr. DeSario said, adding that they would provide tenants “with clean, healthy housing that would be guaranteed. They wouldn’t have to wory about being evicted or someone selling and having their rent tripled.”

Although Mr. DeSario said that care had been taken to see that the complex was not populated with too many children—he estimated there would be 30 to 40 children living there—at last week’s board meeting, David Eagan, an attorney and president of the Wainscott School Board, told the board he was worried about the impact the development could have on the district.

Mr. Cantwell said he was aware of the district’s concerns and said the board would wait until Wainscott received a study assessing the impact the project would have on the district before taking the next step.

On Wednesday, Mr. Eagan said the district had hired the SES Study Team, an educaitonal consulting firm, to assess the impact such a housing complex would have on Wainscott.

“The impact is going to be dramatic,” he said. “We know it is going to be profound.”

Besides doubling the number of students in the district, it could “compromise our longheld mission of individualized programs for our students,” he said. “We’re concerned about the need for new facilities, the need for new staff and the impact on the bottom line.”

Supervisor Cantwell said the board was also cognizant of the recent announcement by the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust that it will buy the Cottages, a group of eight affordable housing units on Route 114, which are also in the Wainscott School District. Although those units are currently used for affordable housing, Mr. Cantwell said it is expected they will be expanded and could have an additional impact on the school district.

Indian Wells Beach Goes Dry

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After months of discussion and disagreement, East Hampton Town has adopted a law that will restrict alcohol at Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett.

The East Hampton Town Board and Trustees had been negotiating provisions of the beach alcohol ban since complaints started flooding in recent years about inappropriate behavior and huge parties organized on social media at Indian Wells beach.

The law, which will go into effect in August, will prohibit drinking within 1,000 feet on either side of the entrance to the beach, during lifeguarding hours on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays until the law sunsets on September 30, 2014.

Amagansett resident Stuart Vorpahl spoke out to say that a law could have been in place throughout the summer had only the board “recognized the sovereign authority of the Trustees of the Freeholders and Commonalty of the Town of East Hampton.”

“Instead,” he continued,  “you folks grabbed on to illegal New York State Legislature,” he said of municipal Laws, which allowed the town board to adopt this law without the Trustees’ input.

Brian Byrnes, an East Hampton Town Trustee, thanked the board for working with the Trustees on the issue.

“I’m very thankful we have the board that we have today and not the board of the past. I don’t think we would have gotten nearly as far,” he said.

“I don’t necessarily think everybody’s happy, but I think this is something we can live with,” Mr. Byrnes said. “And I’ve been down at the beach on a number of occasions and it’s good to see a police presence there.”

“I have a good feeling,” he said. “I think we worked well together.”