Tag Archive | "Georgia Welch"

Fee Increases Discussed in North Haven

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By Claire Walla


North Haven Village Board members are considering raising the fee associated with obtaining a certificate of occupancy in the village from $100 to $150.

At a village board meeting on Tuesday, June 5, Village Clerk Georgia Welch explained that the last time the board raised this fee was in 2007, at which point the cost had been $25.

“I thought if there’s anything that should be increased it’s this,” Welch said. “It generates a large number, and the mayor didn’t want to increase any of the building permit fees.”

Mayor Laura Nolan explained that a Certificate of Occupancy (COO) would be required anytime a house is bought, sold, re-mortgaged, or any time there’s a renovation. This would apply to any structure added to the property, even a shed, but would not be necessary for minor construction to existing property.

“If you have a small project, I don’t think there should be a dollar amount,” Trustee Jeff Sander said. He suggested using a sliding scale for COOs, so that large construction projects would be charged $150, but someone putting a shed in his backyard, for example, would pay significantly less.

“I think there’s a serious problem with what people have to pay for small projects,” he added.

Welch said the permitting process could not be applied on a sliding scale.

The board did not take any action on this proposal Tuesday night, but agreed to continue discussions at an upcoming work session.


In other news…


Noting the high volume of trucks continuing to park along Route 114 to suck water up from the water mains that run through North Haven, Mayor Laura Nolan said the village has composed a letter of complaint to the Suffolk County Water Authority.

“The trucks are not serving village residents,” Nolan said at a Village Board meeting Tuesday, June 5. “They’re loading up on water and delivering it elsewhere.”

Nolan continued to explain that she and other trustees have noticed these large water trucks filling up on Route 114 then taking the ferry to Shelter Island, where, she added, the water is not public.

“It’s all day long!” she exclaimed.

Trustee George Butts added that the crux of the issue is that it’s a traffic hazard.

And Village Clerk Georgia Welch complained that the trucks “can take up an entire lane.”

Tax Rate Stays the Same in North Haven

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By Claire Walla


Though North Haven Village had entertained the thought of imposing a minimal tax increase this year, that plan was promptly abandoned.

At a village board meeting last Tuesday, April 3, the board voted unanimously to keep the tax rate the same as it was last year — in fact, board members pointed out, they kept it the same as it’s been for the past five years.

According to figures presented by Village Clerk Georgia Welch, the village is looking at a budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year of $1,326,330. This represents an overall increase over this year’s operating budget of 1.38 percent.

“We’ve been a very responsible board and kept the tax rate the same,” said Mayor Laura Nolan, emphasizing the board voted not to increase taxes despite rising costs and revenues that are down.

While the village’s fire contract is expected to go up by about $9,000 for next year, village assessments have not increased by as much as they had in years past. At $1.47 billion, assessment numbers for the 2012-2013 fiscal year are up about $5.6 million over this year’s value. From 2009 to 2010, however, assessment values increased by about $126 million.

In addition, building permits are down, having fallen from 117 last year to 80 this year. Besides taxes, this is one of the village’s only sources of direct revenue.

To balance the books, the village will take $351,197 from this year’s fund balance — which is expected to total about $700,000 at year end — and apply it to next year’s budget.

While the village had already voted to pierce the two-percent tax levy cap, which was adopted by the state last year and imposed for the first time during the 2012-2013 budget process, it was unnecessary. The village’s tax levy came out just under the two-percent limit.

No Tax Increase for North Haven

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By Claire Walla


Despite a strong push by the village clerk to increase the tax rate for the coming year, North Haven Village Trustees have ultimately settled on a budget that keeps the tax rate right where it is.

For the Tentative 2012-2013 Budget, which is currently estimated to be $1,327,800, the tax rate will remain at 1.38 percent, making this the fifth year in a row taxes have been stable in the incorporated village.

“I think the tax rate at its current level is sufficient to cover our expenses,” said Trustee Jeff Sander at a budget work session on Tuesday. “The fund balance is healthy enough, and we never want to raise the tax rate if we don’t have to.”

Based on current estimates, Village Clerk Georgia Welch said the village’s fund balance will end up totaling about $600,000 to $700,000 by the end of the fiscal year in June. The final amount will depend on how many improvement projects — like replacing the roof at Village Hall — the village ventures into before then.

The proposed budget calls for using about $352,587 of the village’s current fund balance to cover next year’s expenses.

Though Welch said the village can certainly sustain these costs without raising taxes, she said it’s the future she’s worried about. The village is seeing slight increases in costs — its fire contract is expected to increase by about $9,000 for next year — but, additionally, Welch said the village’s assessments are not as grand as they had been in years past.

While this year’s assessment figure has not yet been finalized, Welch said the most recent number she was given came to $1,472,059,518. Though it’s a $5.7 million increase over last year, previous village assessments had risen by at least three times that amount. And the difference between the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 fiscal years was about $126 million.

Welch had proposed three budget scenarios outlining different tax increases so the village would not have to use any of its fund balance to cover expenses. However, Sander explained the village had budgeted very conservatively in the past — over-estimating certain expenses—in order to build-up a healthy fund balance. And he said there’s no danger in using some of those funds this year.

“I’ll acquiesce to whatever you want, but I don’t think it’s going to look good two years down the line,” Welch continued. “Mortgage tax and building permits are our main revenue sources, and they have decreased quite a bit in the last six years.”

Building permits have dropped from 117 last year to 80 this year.

“I’m just hoping that the assessments won’t change any more,” Welch concluded.

She said she’ll have the final figures from the town before the village’s public hearing on the budget, Tuesday, April 3.

Sander added, “And I hope we have a good year with building permits.”

North Haven To Discuss Potential For “Sign Ban”

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By Claire Walla

Should they stay or should they go?

For North Haven Village Trustees, signage has been a big topic of interest. Not only has it recently prompted trustees to entertain the notion of amending village code to more clearly delineate what does and does not constitute a sign, but the topic has also caused trustees to wonder whether the village could eliminate signage altogether.

At the next trustees’ meeting on Tuesday, March 6, village board members will meet with the village’s attorney, Anthony Tohill, to discuss the various options before them. The meeting is open to the public and will begin at 5 p.m.

The idea of barring signs was first brought up by Trustee Jeff Sander during the village’s last meeting in February.

“I don’t think signs add anything to the environment and the beauty of the community,” he said in an interview this week.

Village Clerk Georgia Welch said the village hears numerous complaints from people in the community regarding what they apparently perceive to be excessive signage. In 26 years on the board, she added that she’s heard this complaint year after year.

“We keep trying to wrestle with [zoning] regulations and [sign] size, that takes a lot of time and thought,” Sander continued. “And enforcing whatever you pass is very difficult. I just think the community would be better served if we eliminated them.”

Sander clarified that any proposed ban would not include necessary signs, like street names and home addresses. It would be aimed more at curbing the excess of real estate and construction advertisements.

According to Welch, the village has long struggled with these structures.

“They just get too heavy,” she said. “Especially when you have a large project on a county road — that’s highly visible. [Residents] think it looks ugly.”

She then added, “When you already have a construction project going on, you don’t need signs peppered up and down the dirt hills.”

The notion of amending the village’s sign code has been discussed in this sense for years, but it was spurred in earnest at the beginning of this year when a North Haven resident complained of a homemade wooden sign that had been displayed at the corner of Route 114 and Maunakea.

“That precipitated the entire discussion,” Welch explained.

The structure, which has since been taken town, was a block of wood into which the address number, “144 Ferry Road,” was carved with big block letters. Though some trustees remarked at the size of the sign, at issue was its location.

“There was a question of whether or not it was on village property,” Welch added.

As for how this type of sign will be viewed by the village, Sander said at this point that will largely be contingent on what Tohill will bring to the table. At the trustees’ meeting last month, Tohill said he could not recall any other municipalities that had issued an all-out ban on signs, but he’s bringing his findings to the meeting on Tuesday.

“At this point, I think it’s going to be a legal question,” Sander continued. Based on some correspondences he said he had with some lawyers, Sander said there may be some issues of “freedom of speech” at hand.

“[Tohill] will have information for us about whether we can really do this, or not,” he added.

North Haven Considers Doing Away With Signs

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North Haven adjusted

By Claire Walla


Typically, when a home is for sale, a house is under construction, or a front yard displays second-hand items for sale at a reasonable price, signs will be posted to communicate that.

But at a North Haven Village Board meeting last Tuesday, January 7, village trustees considered something different: what if they weren’t?

“I think we should do away with all signs,” said Trustee Jeff Sander. He clarified this proposed change by saying such an ordinance would exclude street signs (which are not under the village’s jurisdiction) and street addresses. “It just makes it so much simpler if you do away with [signs].”

The board has been considering amending its sign code since December, when a village resident complained about a handmade, wooden sign, which reads “144 Ferry Road,” that was displayed at a residence near the North Haven traffic circle, at the corner of Ferry Road and Maunakea Street. The sign, hand-carved and larger than the average real-estate sign, became the object of discussion for its size and its close proximity to the road.

Village Attorney Anthony Tohill helped to draft a newer version of this section of town code, which was considered at the board’s last meeting in January. However, after board members discussed a desire to impose stricter sign enforcement, Tohill will now go back to the drawing board and consider whether North Haven will be able to do away with signs altogether.

“I’m not even sure a total prohibition on signs is permitted [by law],” Tohill continued. “I’ll have look into it.”

Though members of the board expressed interest in banning all signs — including real estate signs — they also recognized that the reality is more nuanced than that. Sander pointed out that North Haven does include one commercial business, which he said would need to have signage; and Trustee Jim Smythe brought up the fact that the village bounds are marked by the village’s own signs.

“One of the problems with sign regulations is you want to keep them more simple than complicated, and say less than more,” Tohill explained. “Trying to cover too many bases causes more problems.”

Tohill explained he is familiar with sign restrictions currently in effect in both Southampton Village and Westhampton Beach, and he will use those regulations as a reference for drafting an updated version of North Haven’s sign code that takes the trustees’ concerns into consideration.


In other news…


At it’s next meeting on Tuesday, March 6, the North Haven Village Board will consider a local law to allow village trustees to override the state-imposed tax levy limit.

“Enactment of an override is virtually standard,” Village Attorney Anthony Tohill said. He went on to explain that the downturn in the U.S. economy has had a particularly strong impact on local municipalities. So, especially for a district like North Haven, which depends largely on housing tax revenues, overriding the tax levy cap might be imperative for preventing the village from dipping into its reserve funds.

While Village Clerk Georgia Welch noted that the village hasn’t raised the tax rate in the past six years, Mayor Laura Nolan said the village has recently seen an even bigger decline in revenues from the building department.

Nolan said that according to the village’s building department, which issues permits for new construction projects in the village, there wasn’t even one new structure reported last month.

“That was the lightest building inspector’s report since I’ve been at the village,” she said. “I don’t think we’re going to reach our anticipated income through the building department.”

While enacting this local law would allow the village to override the tax cap, Nolan added that this law would not mean that the village would necessarily do so. “We would just be able to do it, if necessary,” she said.

North Haven Seeks to Redefine “Sign”

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web North Haven Sign

By Claire Walla


It began last month with a letter from North Haven Village resident Carol Ahlers.

Addressing the village trustees, Ahlers wrote that she didn’t exactly care for the new, handmade wooden address that now sits on the corner of Ferry Road and Maunakea Street. The wooden carving, featuring a blocky rendition of the address “144 Ferry,” rests against a large, vertical surface of overlapping twigs.

Ahlers’ letter has since prompted village officials to re-examine the portion of village code that pertains to signage. While the Ferry Road sign is relatively large and sits very close to the road, the trustees said it wasn’t quite clear in the village code whether or not it is technically permitted.

Homeowner Kathie Russo said her boyfriend created the sign for the front of the house merely because in the past people couldn’t easily find their home.  “We did it for convenience and to be artistic,” rather than putting up a street address featuring “run-of-the-mill numbers,” Russo said.  “Not in any way was it our intention to be offensive to anyone.”

But according to Village Clerk Georgia Welch, “The thing is that the definition [of ‘sign’] does not get into specifics.”

According to North Haven Village Code, there are specific parameters for real estate signs, which cannot rest within 15 feet of the property line, or within 25 feet of the street. However, these specifics do not extend to any other type of sign. And while one “non-illuminated nameplate” sign (not to exceed two square feet) is permitted per household, Welch said the current code still leaves much open to interpretation.

“Signs can be troublesome. Everyone’s interpretation of a sign is very different,” she continued. “Anything that identifies anything can be considered a sign.”

Village Trustee George Butts sparked a dialogue about the specific aspects of the village code and expressed an interest in homing in on what exactly those changes should entail.

Currently, the village code defines “sign” as “a letter, word, model, banner, pennant, insignia, trade flag, device or representation used as, or which is in the nature of, an advertisement, attraction or directive.”

The proposed law as it currently stands (though it’s likely to be amended before the board’s next meeting) more clearly defines what this definition should encompass as: “any material, device or structure displaying or intending to display one or more messages visually and used for the purpose of bringing such messages to the attention of the public.”

It continues, “The term ‘sign’ shall also mean and include any display of one or more of the following: any letter, numeral, figure, emblem, picture, outline, character, spectacle, delineation, announcement, trademark or logo.”

The need to clarify what types of signs would be permitted in the village was made clear during the course of the meeting when Trustee Diane Skilbred said in reference to the Ferry Road structure: “The problem with that is it’s not 25 feet in [away from the road].”

However, Butts explained the situation is not that simple. For example, he said he has a small rectangular sign on his property that displays his home address; it is fastened to the front gate of his home. Should the 25-foot restriction go into effect, he argued, then he’d have to move his address back, as well.

For the record, Butts said “I have no problem with the sign [on Ferry Road].”

But, he urged the board to hold off on voting to change the wording in the village code until the wording of this aspect of village code had been worked out.

“We could end up with a whole big thing on our hands,” he added. “I don’t want to start that. I just want it done once.”

Welch said the village trustees would submit their comments and concerns to Village Attorney Anthony Tohill, who would draft another proposal to amend the definition of a sign, as laid-out in the village code.

As of Wednesday, Russo said she had yet to be contacted by anyone from the village on the matter.  “It’s not a huge deal for us,” she said.  “If we have to take ti down, we take it down.  I’m all for communicating with everyone.”

In other news…

The Village Trustees voted unanimously to approve Local Law #1 of 2012, which extends a law passed in 2011 to provide a temporary moratorium on wireless communications towers and antennas.

Board members also voted to hold two public hearings at next month’s meeting regarding two additional new laws. The first would extend the moratorium on dock applications, which was originally voted into law in 2011. And the second would provide for a procedure for issuance of demolition permits.

ZBA Application Fees Up $350 in North Haven Village

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By Claire Walla

Citing net losses of nearly 30 percent over the past few years, the North Haven Village Board of Trustees have voted unanimously to raise the fee for applications before the Zoning Board of Appeals. The cost will increase from $600 to $950 — effective immediately.

“We shouldn’t be losing money,” said Village Trustee Diane Skilbred, echoing the sentiments of her fellow board members at the trustees monthly meeting on Tuesday when the vote was taken.

Village Clerk Georgia Welch explained that while applicants have historically paid to have their applications heard by the board, in recent years the number of applications has risen dramatically. Whereas the board used to hear anywhere from zero to three applications a month, since 2008 the board has typically seen around five applications.

One year Welch said the board ultimately took in $3,000 in application fees, but ended up spending $5,000 in service fees; another year applications totaled $6,000, while service fees cost $9,000. These fees include payments for a stenographer and other legal services, “because it’s a quasi-judicial board,” Welch explained. “There are avenues where court action can be taken.”

The fee will apply to all new applications going forward. Welch said all applications that are currently in the process of being heard will be unaffected by the village’s new fee.

Unsatisfactory Signage, to Some

North Haven resident Carol Ahlers isn’t pleased. In reference to a wooden sign bearing block lettering that was recently erected at the corner of a residence on Ferry Road, she wrote, “you can’t miss it, it’s ugly, it’s illuminated at night and it’s huge.”

She continued, “Can we make this sign disappear?”

Members of the North Haven Village Board said they had already contacted Village Attorney Anthony Tohill about the matter.

“It’s awfully close to the road,” said Trustee Jeff Sander.

“We suspect it’s on village property,” added Welch.

In fact, the only signs permitted in the village are nameplate or professional signs (not to exceed two square feet); real estate signs (not to exceed four square feet); and subdivision signs (not to exceed 10 square feet), for which residents are also required to obtain a building permit.

Greening A Village

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By Claire Walla

As the village of North Haven continues down the green road toward solar heating, clerk Georgia Welch updated the board at its most recent meeting on Tuesday about the steps needed to secure a bid for the project, as well as the financial costs the town board could expect to pay to redo the village hall’s roof.

Welch explained that she met with the village’s grant writer the week prior and learned that, unfortunately, the opportunity to receive grant money to complete the project “has been closed for quite a while.”

But, Welch said the village will keep pursuing other options.

“[The grant writer] is going to explore other opportunities so she will continue to let me know what may become available,” Welch added.

Welch also relayed two estimates to the board for costs associated with replacing the roof over village hall. (Though slated to happen in conjunction with the installation of solar panels, the roof replacement project has already been written into this year’s budget and will take place regardless of whether or not the village goes solar.)

The estimates are based on two different options: fully replacing the current wood shingles, or replacing the wood with an asphalt material known as GAF timberline. Based on calculations made by Village Building Inspector Al Daniels, the cost of the first project is estimated to be about $38,000. The cost of using asphalt shingling would hover closer to $27,000, saving the village roughly $11,000.

The board has not made any decisions either way, but board members seemed more inclined to go for the less expensive GAF timberline material, which is also expected to last longer than wood. Board members have asked to see samples of each shingle before making their final decision.

In other news…

The village of North Haven approved a request from the North Haven Village Improvement Society to host its annual “Santa Visit” on Saturday, December 17. This is the 58th year the improvement society has sponsored this event.

Board members also approved a resolution to grant an extended contract to Summerhill Landscapers for just under $3,000 to plant additional bulbs at the traffic circle in the village.

While much of the North Haven Village Board meeting went off without a hitch, noticeably absent was Mayor Laura Nolan, who is grieving the loss of her husband, Jonathan Nolan. Nolan unexpectedly passed away on October 10 after a fall in the family’s home.

“Usually in the firehouse we have a moment of silence when there’s been a loss,” said a noticeably choked-up Jim Smyth, a village trustee and member of the Sag Harbor Fire Department.

So the board briefly paused before Smyth continued. “I’m filling in for Laura Nolan because I’m the deputy mayor,” he said. “I told her, we got her back until she’s ready.”

North Haven May Go Solar

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By Claire Walla

This year, the Village of North Haven budgeted for roof repairs at its village hall. But, based on discussions at a board meeting on Tuesday, the village aims to do more than replace its wooden shingles.

The village board heard a presentation by trustee Diane Skilbred, who — along with village building inspector Al Daniels and resident Jamie Davis — is part of a committee formed to investigate the prospect of outfitting village hall with solar panels.

“We’re aiming to get about 80 to 100 percent of our electric bill” taken care of by the solar panels, Skilbred explained.

This estimate is based on informational meetings the committee had set-up with three local companies: Green Logic, Sun-Nation and NRG (which stands for Nationwide Renewables Group).

Skilbred said the village can expect to pay somewhere between $70,000 and $90,000 to install solar panels. However, she added that the entire cost of the project is impossible to pinpoint now. The price tag is expected to be offset by rebates issued retroactively to solar energy companies through the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). The rebate rate is currently set at 2.75 Kilowatts an hour, which means that, in the end, North Haven Village will pay roughly $35,000 for the project.

However, Village Clerk Georgia Welch emphasized that this dollar amount is only based on LIPA’s current rate. It could very well change over time, especially given the time frame for this particular project. Welch said it would probably take about four months to get a resolution passed to begin construction on solar panels. Right now, the village is in a very preliminary stage of the process.

Skilbred spoke to the benefits of going solar by adding that the panels would be good for up to 25 years, and that the village should expect to see a return on its investment after 11 years.

Plus, she added, “it sets a good example [for residents].”

The village board voted on Tuesday in favor of spending up to $5,000 to pay for project proposals from each company. Welch said she expected the bids to come back in January.

In other news…

Mayor Laura Nolan reported that the village ended up paying roughly $30,000 for storm clean-up efforts in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. The village hired two extra part-time workers, Mark Daniels and Joseph Labrozzi, who ended up hauling garbage away at $75 a trip; they made about 42 trips in total. Village Clerk Georgia Welch said the village is still waiting to hear back from FEMA to see whether some of that cost will be reimbursed.

Unlike the rest of Southampton Town, which will see a limited leaf pick-up program this year, North Haven Village Trustees voted to implement their program this year just as last year. Pick up will commence on two dates this fall: November 14 and December 5.

The village also approved the hire of Laura Hildreth, who will continue efforts to help the village move information from paper to electronic documents.

“This is the third and final phase [of the project],” Welch explained, adding that is expected to be completed by this summer, just as she had predicted. Hildreth will be paid $35 an hour for six hours a day, three days a week from October 3, 2011 through May 1, 2012.



North Haven Passes Law to Ban Cell Tower Legislation

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By Claire Walla

Solidifying motions taken last month to repeal the first law passed in the village this year, the North Haven Village Board of Trustees unanimously adopted Local Law Number 3 last Tuesday, July 5. It effectively rescinds Local Law Number 1, which created a section in village code to allow for a wireless communication tower to be built on village property.
(Trustee Jim Smyth was absent.)
“I’m sure everyone’s up to speed on this,” Mayor Laura Nolan said light-heartedly. “It was shown with great interest last month.”
At the last village board meeting June 7, nearly 40 residents filled all available seating inside village hall to oppose the original law, passed in May. The issue stems from the prospect of placing a cell tower — in this case a mono-pole — on village property. The village board began discussing the issue of cell phone reception — or rather lack of it — in earnest in January after watching a presentation by Suffolk Wireless, LLC, the proposed builder of such a pole.
But many residents came forward with strong objections to the idea of a cell-phone tower, citing health concerns and issues of village aesthetics. Ultimately, community backlash prompted the trustees to rescind the law — though no formal plans to build the tower were ever presented.
This week’s meeting was less well attended, with only one local resident speaking about the issue during public comment session.
In addition to the public hearing on this law — to rescind cell tower legislation — Mayor Nolan also introduced a second public hearing for a law to enact a moratorium on cell tower applications in the village.
“Essentially, the moratorium gives us the power to deny applications,” Nolan said.
The moratorium would last six months from when the law is signed into legislation by the state, which according to Village Clerk Georgia Welch, will be about 10 days from now.
“The boiler plate issue is that this will give us breathing room to entertain other options,” Welch explained. In other words, the moratorium will suspend any applications for cell towers or other wireless technology that may otherwise be brought to the village in the next six months. Without specific applications to attend to and consider, the village board will be free to look into other options and newer technologies.

In other news…

Village Clerk Georgia Welch noted she had received a letter of correspondence from North Haven resident April Gornik, who requested the village’s permission to post two signs urging drivers to slow-down for turtles crossing.
Gornik suggested placing one of the signs — both of which she purchased herself — on an existing pole across from her home on Fresh Pond Road.
The village noted complications with posting anything on a LIPA or Verizon pole, which are privately owned, but expressed an overall enthusiasm for the idea.
“I’d like to see us preserve these creatures,” Gornik wrote, explaining that the eastern box turtle is now extinct in Nassau County.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Trustee Dianne Skilbred. “I think we should do it.”

After nearly two years of ongoing negotiations, village trustees have come to a general consensus on the location of a dock proposed by the Lathem family to be built on their property. Separate plans to move the dock to the north of the property and then to the south of the property generated complaints from the Lathem’s neighbors on both ends. So, trustees ultimately agreed to the original plan, which will see a dock built closer to the middle of the Lathem’s property.
At issue now is lighting, a topic raised by North Haven resident Bob Falborn, who wondered whether the lights designed for the dock would be as bright as those now lighting-up Jimmy Buffett’s North Haven dock.
Contractor John Costello explained that the low-projection lighting now planned for the Lathem’s dock would, in fact, illuminate the deck at all hours of the night.
Village trustees said they were opposed to that plan, and suggested minimal, low-projection lights that would function with an on/off switch.