Tag Archive | "East Hampton Town Planning Board"

Temple Adas Israel Seeks Cemetery Expansion

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Temple Adas Israel’s effort to expand its Chevra Kodetia Cemetery on Route 114 just south of Sag Harbor received a sympathetic hearing when it was unveiled before the East Hampton Town Planning Board on April 2, but board members nonetheless pointed out that a number of significant hurdles need to be overcome before it can be approved.

The key barrier to the congregation obtaining site-plan approval for the expansion is that the 1-acre property proposed for it, which the congregation purchased more than two years ago, is in a water recharge district, where clearing restrictions are stricter than for similar sized lots elsewhere to help protect the groundwater from pollution.

The situation is further complicated, said Miles Anderson, the Sag Harbor attorney representing the synagogue, this week because town law requires that burials must be done in sealed caskets, “which is against the Jewish faith,” if a cemetery is in a water recharge area.

Yet another twist to the application is that Suffolk County tax maps erroneously show the original Chevra Kodetia Cemetery as part of a larger, 6.3-acre parcel, which includes 5.3 acres owned by the Jewish Cemetery Association. In fact, the properties were legally split in 1891, Mr. Anderson told the planning board, with Temple Adas Israel owning only a 1-acre portion of the larger parcel.

In their initial review of the site-plan application, town planners erroneously thought the two cemeteries shared a single parcel. As a result, they overestimated the amount of land that could be cleared.

“Our current cemetery is practically filled. We have been looking for this opportunity for a long time,” Howard Chwatsky, a synagogue trustee and chairman of its cemetery committee, told the planning board. “We are here out of need. As they say, people are dying to get in.”

Mr. Chwatsky told the board that the two cemeteries were split in the 19th century because two groups of Jews, some from Hungary and some from Russia, did not get along and quipped that they were still fighting today.

This week, Rabbi Leon Morris of Temple Adas Israel took pains to stress that there was no animosity between the groups, “I do a lot of funerals in both cemeteries,” he said, adding that the different cemeteries were the result of different waves of Jewish immigration. “It’s akin to the differences between a Roman Catholic Church that is Irish and one that is Italian,” he said.

Of more pressing concern is whether the town will even allow the cemetery to expand because of limits it imposes on cemeteries in water recharge districts that require “caskets to be encased in watertight liners to restrict the entry of body decomposition and embalming chemicals into ground or surface water.”

Rabbi Morris suggested that when the town adopted those restrictions “it didn’t have in mind Jewish burial practice” in which bodies are not embalmed and buried in simple pine coffins. “Maybe the restrictions were based on the assumptions bodies would be embalmed and that a lot of toxic glues would be used in coffins,” he said.

A key now, he said, was determining how “arbitrary the lines are in demarking an area next to a historic cemetery” as a water recharge district. “We only purchased that land so we could increase the size of our cemetery,” he said.

Mr. Anderson told the planning board the synagogue would be happy to go before the town Zoning Board of Appeals. “We just need direction so we can get off square one,” he said.

“I see no reason why they can’t grant a variance,” he said on Tuesday. “The question is will they?”

Mr. Anderson added this week that he expects to meet with the town’s building inspector and planners in the coming weeks to discuss the application and what needs to be done to get it moving. “It is going to result in a catalog of issues we have to address,” he said of that meeting.

Board members said they wanted to work with the synagogue, but they had questions about a plan to provide access to the expanded burial ground via Six Pole Highway. That road now serves a single house and would have to be improved to provide access. Synagogue representatives said they did not envision heavy use. Rather, they said the access would be used during the development of the site, to allow backhoes to enter the property to dig graves, and allow hearses to get closer to gravesites.

Eric Schantz, the town planner assigned to the application, stated in an email on Tuesday that the planning board has the authority to issue a special exception permit that would allow additional clearing, provided the property meets a minimum size, but he added that he did not believe the synagogue’s property would meet that threshold and would likely require a variance from the ZBA.

Mr. Anderson said it was anyone’s guess why the county tax maps had never differentiated between the two, separately owned, cemeteries. “They were classified as one cemetery. Because nobody was paying taxes on it — and nobody was required to pay — it was overlooked,” he said.

News Radio Station Set to Broadcast Out of Montauk

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By Claire Walla

The radio tower resting in the brush just off Montauk Highway along the Napeague Stretch has been out of use as a broadcast device for some time — but John Fuller hopes to help change that.

Fuller, the president of Red Wolf Broadcasting, which runs four FM stations in Connecticut and one AM station in Burlington, Vermont, aims to add an East End radio station to his company’s radio cache. Fuller explained his vision to the East Hampton Town Planning Board at a meeting last month, unveiling vague details about his new station, 94.9 FM, which he hopes to transmit from the Montauk tower.

According to Fuller, the proposed station would be affiliated with CBS radio and the Wall Street Journal report, allowing the station to broadcast breaking news and national headlines. But the station will also feature radio personalities and local reporting, as well as arts and entertainment updates.

“We’ll have a local morning show and we’ll have news from all over Long Island—so we’ll report on things going on in Sag Harbor,” Fuller explained in an interview on Wednesday.  He added that some local news will also come out of Connecticut.

As for news radio on the East End, Fuller added, “it’s really an interesting market.  There are a bunch of papers, but for media news, there really aren’t a lot of options, especially for breaking stories.”

The ratio of original programming to network news would probably be 50/50, Fuller added.

Though he has been in the radio business for over 25 years, Fuller said he has never developed a news station before.  In fact, when he first set his sights on 94.9 FM about 10 years ago, he never expected to turn the station into a straight news venture.

But by the time he bought the license this summer, after consulting with radio research companies, he said it was clear that radio news is switching over from AM to FM. “This is the wave of the future,” he added.

East Hampton Town Planner Eric Schantz explained in an interview earlier this week that until this past October, the tower in Montauk had only held defunct radio transmitters, which could only effectively transmit cell phone service. That changed when the Community Bible Church (located in Noyac) received its license from the FCC to run radio station WEGB 90.7 and 93.3 FM.

He added that Fuller’s plan is not only to install an FM radio antenna, like CBC, but to remove a total of five unused antennae —two of which rest at the very top of the tower — and replace them with his own radio antenna. The project would result in a net reduction of three of the tower’s currently estimated 20 antennae (at least five of which are abandoned).

According to the site plan offered by the applicant, the proposed antenna would reach approximately 167 feet above the existing grade, which is about 20 inches taller than the two antennae that currently exist at the top of the tower.

Brian Rheaume, vice president of Red Wolf Broadcasting, told the East Hampton Town Planning Board that the radio tower is not currently visible from Montauk Highway, either with or without the proposed addition of 20 inches of antenna.

“We had to go to the top of the landfill to actually get a picture [of the antenna],” he noted.

In addition to the radio antenna, Rheaume added that the company would also need to install a four-foot dish, which would act as the station’s studio transmitter. The dish is proposed to be mounted at about 112 feet, where a couple of abandoned antennae will be removed.

“That’s vital to get the signal from our studio location to the tower itself,” he explained. While the broadcast company has not yet set-up offices on the East End, Fuller said he hopes to find an office space somewhere on the South Fork or even the North Fork sometime soon, because he expects the station to be up and running by the first week in February.

“I don’t see any real issues here in replacing some antennae,” said Planning Board Member Nancy Keeshan, echoing the sentiments of the rest of the board. “And I have no problem with the added height. It’s insignificant.”

According to Eric Schantz, a public hearing is tentatively scheduled for after the New Year, most likely at the board’s first meeting on January 12.

When asked by the planning board why he chose to broadcast his new station out of Montauk, Fuller admitted that his station, 94.9, needs to maintain a certain amount of distance from radio stations in order to be transmitted clearly. (He said 95.1 is already being broadcast out of Connecticut.)

But, he also said he likes the area; he and his wife frequently travel to the north and south forks of Long Island. “We really like it out here, and I think [the radio station] would be good for the community,” he continued. “We think there’s a need for it out here on the East End.”

Sag Harbor Cottages Debate Continues

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The East Hampton Town Planning Board appeared divided over an application for the Sag Harbor Cottages on Route 114 at a meeting last month, but discussions stalled as the board awaited a second letter from East Hampton Town Chief Building Inspector Thomas Preiato about the legality of the development under the town code.

The owner of the aging motel, once called the Barcelona Inn, has proposed to demolish the existing motel and replace it with 12 individual cottages, an open pavilion, a management office, a pool with accompanying cabana lounge area, pool house, and storages sheds on the close to six-acre parcel. The proposal will not require any variances from the zoning board of appeals.

On May 19, some board members said they remained unsure about the use of proposed accessory structures, but the main discussion revolved around whether the project was legal under town code and if it the addition of a pool and “amenities” was an expansion of a pre-existing, nonconforming use, and therefore illegal.

The property is zoned residential, although the motel predates zoning and therefore can re-develop under its current use, although it must remain a transient motel and cannot expand its nonconforming use. The current motel is on the property line while the proposed project sets the new motel in a conforming location that meets setbacks. It would also be screened from Route 114, unlike the current motel, said East Hampton attorney Jon Tarbet, who represents 765 Route 114 – the company hoping to develop the property. Tarbet added the proposal would not increase floor area, and therefore would not expand the non- conforming use, a notion seconded by planning board member Reed Jones at the May 19 meeting.

But board member Peter Van Scoyoc questioned whether new structures could replace pre-existing buildings and whether the addition of a pool and amenities would expand the property’s non-conformity.

Despite a previous determination from senior building inspector Don Sharkey, who is now deceased, the planning board asked Preiato to determine whether the proposed cottages met the definition of a transient motel as the structures do not share common walls, although are proposed to be connected through decks and fencing. In a November 2009 letter to the board, Preiato said the structures did not meet the definition of a transient motel, but in a new letter, written in February 2009, Preiato clarified his determination by discussing the intent of the town’s code.

“Upon my further review, it is apparent to me that the intent of the Code is certainly being met as the design of the structures do not lend themselves to be misconstrued as single family residences,” writes Preiato.

Preiato also states that, “accessory structures do not count towards an expansion of the pre-existing, non-conforming use on the above referenced property.”

Tarbet said on Monday, that this was the same determination made by Sharkey when he first reviewed the application some three years ago.

Both are determinations only the town building inspector, not the planning board, can make under law, although the building inspector’s opinions can be challenged in front of the town zoning board of appeals.

Tarbet said other issues still on the table before the board include a revised re-vegetation and landscape plan, as the board had questions regarding clearing calculations. He said a complete and final landscape plan will be submitted this week, along with an expanded narrative about the project and its uses, as requested by board member Sylvia Overby.

Overby and Eileen Catalano have both expressed concern about the project’s effects on neighboring wetlands, although Tarbet said this week the project would sit some 300-feet from wetlands.

“This is one of those projects where I can’t think of a negative,” said Tarbet. “I can’t think what is bad in taking down a rundown motel, moving it to where you can’t see it from the highway while not making it any bigger.”

Tarbet said he hopes to be on the planning board’s calendar later this month.