Tag Archive | "Group for the East End"

Opponents Urge DEC To Require Environmental Study for Sand Land

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Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming show an aerial map of the Sand Land site to DEC Administrative Law Judge Molly McBride. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Sand Land Corporation, owned and operated by Wainscott Sand & Gravel Inc., submitted an application to the DEC to expand its operations by some 20 percent, adding nearly 5 acres and deepening the floor of the mine by an additional 40 feet. The current elevation is 175 feet and the floor is 65 feet below the original grade, as authorized by a New York State Mined Lands Reclamation Act permit that was issued to Sand Land in November 2013 and expires November 2018.

In July, the DEC decided the kind of extensive environmental review typically done in an environmental impact statement was not required for the site, which is located within the Town of Southampton Aquifer Protection Overlay District. Local lawmakers and environmentalists quickly spoke out against the ruling, calling for the DEC to rescind its determination, require a full environmental impact statement on the site and, many argued, to deny the application entirely.

In response to that criticism, the DEC held Wednesday’s public hearing, which was presided over by DEC Administrative Law Judge Molly McBride. Officials from New York State and the Southampton Town voiced their disapproval of the DEC’s actions, as did environmentalists, geologists and representatives from the Group for the East End, Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Defend H20, a group of neighbors of  site who are pursuing legal action against Sand Land, and other local civic groups.

Wainscott Sand & Gravel owner John Tintle and DEC Deputy Permit Administrator Mark Carrara listened to comments.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming spoke on behalf of the town board, which has made protecting water quality on the East End a major concern.

The initial approval of Sand Land’s DEC mining permit in 1981, “was contingent on very specific water testing protocols,” said the supervisor, who urged the DEC to put Sand Land through all the protocols of regular ground and surface water testing “because of the sensitivity of this area and the fact that everyone is dependent on water quality here.”

Ms. Fleming said she does not understand how the DEC’s declaration could be possible and that monitoring water quality “would be required of any expansion on the East End landscape.”

“We require that [at the] golf course,” Ms. Throne-Holst said of the Bridge golf club, which lies adjacent to the mine and is required to adhere to regulations. “We have absolutely no clue why something like this…is not subjected to any kind of testing.”

“We sit directly to the north of Sand Land and we sit over this aquifer that’s so important to all of us,” said Greg Stanley, superintendent of grounds at the Bridge. “We work closely with the Town of Southampton and all of our application records are available at any moment to any citizen of the Town of Southampton.”

Mr. Stanley said the golf course embraces the town’s requirements, adding “it seems only reasonable that a property that sits on the same aquifer that we do be required” to undergo the same water quality monitoring process.

Group for the East End President Bob DeLuca told Justice McBride that the DEC “simply doesn’t want to take on the challenges associated with comprehensive review.” Forty years ago, he said, the state passed the State Environmental Quality Review Act to ensure complex environmental decisions at any size site were based on “comprehensive and transparent assessment” of all reasonable factors.

“Our concern is that we don’t believe that the DEC resisted to putting test wells in because they believe the groundwater is clean,” Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito said. “We believe the DEC’s concerned they will find the groundwater is contaminated and that unfortunately, they feel, opens up a can of worms. But, we’re saying open it up, deal with it—we need to assess the truth here. And if the site is clean, great, we put in a couple testers, but if it isn’t then we know we need to change the way we’re operating.”

“The concern is growing that the partnership between the DEC and sand mining is based on allowing sand mining at the risk of not living up to the mandate of protecting public health and our natural resources. That is the DEC’s primary mandate, and yet we feel it is becoming the second priority and not the first when it comes to sand mines,” added Ms. Esposito.

Citing legislation passed in the state assembly this year to address degrading water quality on Long Island and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent proclamation of water quality as a priority issue in New York State, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said the application arrived at a time when the “single issue of the degradation of water quality across Long Island—be it the surface water quality or our groundwater—is at huge crisis proportions.”

Calling the threshold that mandates an environmental impact statement “very low,” Assemblyman Thiele said the DEC needs to reverse its determination, undergo a comprehensive environmental review, and require groundwater monitoring of Sand Land.

Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council, pointed to other environmental issues at the site, such as pollution, dust and traffic, saying there are “350 trucks that sail in and out of those roads” on a daily basis, and asked the DEC to partner with the town and require a full environmental impact statement.

Written comments about Sand Land’s permit application must be received by November 21, and should be sent to: NYSDEC Region 1, Att. Mark Carrara, Deputy Permit Administrator, SUNY Stony Brook, 50 Circle Road, Stony Brook, NY 11790.

Environmental Groups Call for Pesticide Ban

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The Group for the East End was joined by a host of other environmental organizations and health communities at a press conference last week where they collectively called on state government to ban certain pesticides in an effort to protect Long Island’s drinking water.

On Wednesday, January 11, the Group called on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to legally ban three pesticides that are most prevalently found in Long Island’s drinking water supply.

“These toxic chemicals are making their way into the underground water supply or into our local surface waters, posing threats to the health of humans and animals,” said the Group in a press release issued last week. “The solution is clear — ban the most harmful pesticides and create a plan to eliminate all pesticides from Long Island’s drinking water supply. The DEC has legal authority to adopt a zero tolerance policy for pesticides in groundwater within the Long Island Pesticide Use Management Plan, and environmental advocates are calling for action.”

“The science of pesticide development and standards for application must evolve over time if we are serious about protecting human and environmental health, and creating a safe and sustainable agricultural future for Long Island,” said Bob DeLuca, President of Group for the East End in a statement.

According to the Group a total of 123 pesticides have been detected by the DEC in drinking water wells on Long Island. The most prevalent and toxic are atrazine, metalaxyl, and imidacloprid. According to the Group, while banned in Europe, atrazine is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States and has been linked to cancer. Metalaxyl is a fungicide that can cause kidney and liver damage, and it is toxic to birds. Imidacloprid, a chemical that is toxic to fish and shellfish, is found in many common products for lawns, pets, and in households. This chemical has been found in wells clustered throughout the North Fork of Long Island, with some wells revealing imadacloprid in concentrations that exceed drinking water standards by 800 percent, according to the Group.

Public Dissent on Dark Skies

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When the “Dark Skies” legislation was first proposed by Southampton Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, it appeared to be praised by members of the public. Local citizen advisory groups, including the Sag Harbor CAC, had long asked the town for laws impeding light pollution to be put on the books.
Oddly enough, at the first public hearing held on Tuesday, the “Dark Skies” law was met with both outrage and congratulations from local residents.
Richard Warren, the village’s planning consultant, spoke against the draft law on behalf of the Southampton Business Alliance.
“This will incur significant costs for [residents] personally. I know from my own experience an electrician can cost $250 just to come to your house,” said Warren, who is the president of the alliance. He added that the legislation should apply to only new construction or a homeowner building a new addition. Warren believes the town should create incentives for people with pre-existing outdoor lighting to adopt “Dark Skies” lighting. In the current version of the law, all pre-existing outdoor lighting must be brought into compliance within 10 years of the legislation becoming effective.
Some supporters of the law, including a representative from the Group for the East End, suggested town residents be given only five years to become compliant.
Bob Schepps, president of the Southampton Chamber of Commerce, said the legislation would essentially over regulate town residents.
Assistant town attorney Joe Burke said the intent of the law was to reduce light pollution, to cut down on electricity waste and to prevent the glare or “sky glow” which can infringe on the night sky vista.
“We don’t regulate lighting at all right now,” reported supervisor Linda Kabot. “What Nancy is trying to do is put a comprehensive lighting code on the books.”
Graboski adjourned the hearing and carried it over to the June 23 town board meeting at 6 p.m.

Young Vets Get Benefits of Affordable Housing
In a previous Southampton Town board meeting, the resolution giving military veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan first priority on certain affordable housing properties received criticism from the public. Some said it was unfair to single out one particular group of veterans to benefit from the program, though councilman Christopher Nuzzi, who sponsored the legislation, said all income-eligible veterans are included in the general lottery. During Tuesday’s board meeting, however, town residents came out in support of the legislation.
“This law was inspired by several non-profit housing organizations looking to do something good for returning veterans. These young people who go off to war often have to delay a career,” said former town supervisor Patrick “Skip” Heaney, the current county economic development and workforce housing commissioner. Heaney added that the law piggybacks a similar one passed by the county.
“This is aimed at first time home buyers,” continued Heaney.
Daniel Stebbins, a 43-year-old veteran, said housing prices in the town are prohibitively expensive for young residents, forcing them to move elsewhere.
“It would be a shame if in 50 years, there were no vets here,” noted Stebbins.
The board passed the legislation becoming the first town within the county to do so.
“It is great to have Southampton be the model. We hope other towns will meld this into their own code,” remarked Kabot.

Town to Buy Pike Farm, Waiting for County
In a partnership with the county, the town plans to buy the development rights to a 7.4 acre farm on Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack, where the Pike Farm Stand operates. The rights will be purchased from the Peconic Land Trust for around $6.4 million. Suffolk County has promised to pay 70 percent of the purchase price.
“This is a community treasure — that is why you see the county stepping up to the plate,” said Kabot, but added that the purchase was contingent on the county partnership.
Mary Wilson, the town’s community preservation fund manager, wasn’t sure if the county’s recent plan to use their main open space funding source to abate county property taxes would affect the purchase of the development rights. During a later interview, county legislator Jay Schneiderman said open space projects are now on hold until the county votes on this legislation, which is expected to be up for a vote in the coming weeks.

CAC Wants Voice at Planning Board

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Despite a stagnant economy, commercial and residential development in Southampton appears to continue. Oftentimes, the Southampton Town Planning Board’s agenda is filled with a sizable number of projects varying in size and scope. But recent projects like Trumpets Catering Hall in Eastport, Woodfield Gables in Speonk and Water Mill Station — a 20,000 plus square foot office and retail complex approved by the planning board just this week — has brought to light a problem that Jeremy Samuelson of Group for the East End says has been simmering for years. According to Samuelson, the public can comment on the possible environmental impacts of an application only after the board has already decided whether or not to make the applicant undergo a New York State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR).

“The piece that is missing is public input. It is set-up to exclude the public because a critical decision is being made before the public ever has the chance to testify against the application,” exclaimed Samuelson at a Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee meeting on Friday, May 15. “That is part of our outrage.”

Southampton councilwoman Sally Pope was in attendance at the meeting. She believes the planning board can be reluctant to go back and alter their decision once they have given a project a negative declaration, meaning the project doesn’t require a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

“I think their concerns are valid,” said planning board chair Dennis Finnerty referring to comments made by Samuelson and members of the Sag Harbor CAC. Finnerty noted, though, there are two types of projects the planning board analyzes: residential subdivisions and commercial site plans. The board holds a pre-application hearing on residential subdivisions, where the public can air any concerns they have with the project. For commercial site plans, however, there isn’t a pre-application hearing and the public comments on the project after the board has made a SEQR determination.

“We are trying to get the town board to amend the code to provide for some sort of public input prior to a SEQR determination,” Finnerty stated. “We are powerless to address this [unless the code is changed.]”

“For the last 10 years [The Group] has tried to change this … but we feel like we have been hitting our head against the wall,” Samuelson stated at the meeting. In reaction to public outcry, Group for the East End has formulated a solution in which the town would create an Environmental Review Committee (ERC).

According to the Group, the seven-member committee would “evaluate the potential environmental impacts of each application and issue a report, recommending a Determination of Significance to the appropriate lead agency” be that the planning board or the zoning board of appeals.

During the assessment process, the ERC would give members of the public three-minutes to speak on any particular project.

But some members of the CAC feel establishing the ERC would add another layer of bureaucracy.

“I could hear the pluses and minuses [of the proposal] at the CAC meeting,” said Pope later. “Why do we need yet another committee to take care of a process of another committee? I am definitely favorable towards the purpose of the proposal, but I think the planning board needs to hear the concerns of the public — not just get another set of recommendations.”

Opening the channels for public comment in the planning board proceedings is just one way CACs hope to establish a stronger foothold in town government. At a recent Bridgehampton CAC meeting, town supervisor Linda Kabot reportedly said she was taking steps to give CACs more access to the planning board.

The Sag Harbor CAC plans to hold Kabot to her word at an upcoming Shinnecock Hills CAC meeting on June 2, which will be attended by CACs and Civic Councils both east and west of the Shinnecock Canal. If their concerns are not met with tangible action in the town, Sag Harbor CAC chairman John Linder said the group hasn’t ruled out staging a protest in front of town hall in the coming months.

The Effort of Process

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By Mayor Greg Ferraris

I am sure that many of you have now read last week’s Point of View column penned by Richard Gambino. While I have refrained from responding to various letters, articles and editorial opinions over my six years of public service, I felt inspired to respond and set the record straight on numerous inaccuracies and potentially libelous comments contained in his column.

It is quite obvious that this column was an attempt to justify a stance against the Village’s review process through the medium of unaccountable journalism rather than the tried and true method of stating fact and reality. Fortunately, the Village has individuals like Planning Board Chairman Neil Slevin and other committed review board members who are willing to sift through this biased rhetoric of lobbying organizations to make determinations which are for the betterment of the entire Village without regard to self-interest.

Let me begin by stating that the proposal brought to the Village by Sag Development Partners for the Bulova building was undoubtedly the largest development project that the Village has seen in our modern era. This project as proposed, which was embraced by nearly all Village residents, would not only have resurrected one of the most historically significant structures within the Village, but provided a source of economic activity while completing the ongoing remediation of a documented Superfund site.

That being said, although I would love to take credit for all of the hard work and effort put forth during this arduous process, the Village Board of Trustees and I had no role in review of the application, except to the extent that the Village Board is the legislative branch that establishes the code that is implemented by the review boards. All of the appointed individuals on these boards are well-versed in their duties and worked tirelessly on the Bulova application, enduring more than 50 long, tedious public meetings that addressed every environmental issue that arose in the evaluation of the application, each of which were addressed in public, in detail and by submissions of the applicant and responses from the Village’s consultants. Had Mr. Gambino attended any of the meetings held in connection with this project, he would know the depth at which each issue was addressed and would have concluded that the review boards and the Village’s staff did a tremendous job of dealing with such a large-scale proposal and in fact did comply with the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).

Mr. Gambino has repeatedly shown his ignorance to the facts and circumstances of this application and process. He alleges that the Village approved a plan to truck 30,000 cubic yards of “potentially toxic soil” from the site. The Village Planning Board did no such thing. Actually, prior to the submission of this application by Sag Development Partners, the Bulova property was the subject of a “Record of Decision” issued by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) in 1996, which required the owner to remove the soil from the site. Pursuant to New York State law, a municipality is pre-empted from regulating any of the elements covered by the order and further, the order itself and its implementation is exempt from environmental review. In this particular case, the Village Planning Board asked the applicant to discuss the implementation of the NYSDEC mandate, who agreed, although discussion was not required. In addition, Mr. Gambino stated that the Village would incur liability as a result of any soil spill. In reality, liability for removing and transporting the soil lies with the applicant under the supervision of the NYSDEC as required by the order.

Mr. Gambino also incorrectly categorizes the recommendations of the Suffolk County Planning Commission (SCPC) with respect to the affordable housing component of the Bulova site as a “legal requirement.” The Planning Commission responded to two agencies involved in the proposal, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board, with a recommendation that the applicant provide affordable housing. The comments of the SCPC are recommendations, not legal requirements. According to New York State General Municipal Law, a referral to the local planning commission was required for this application. The law also states that the comments provided by the local planning commission are recommendations that may be overridden by the agency responsible for the project by a majority plus one vote. In this case, the Boards determined, as they had absolutely every right to do, that the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust Fund was an acceptable alternative which addressed the community’s concerns about the provision of affordable housing and legally overrode the SCPC recommendations. As a matter of fact, the Village subsequently received a letter from the SCPC acknowledging that this was an acceptable alternative.

The column also alleges that the Village “bypassed” New York State environmental regulation. The Village prides itself on compliance with each and every aspect of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) regulations. If we had been called upon to defend the merits of a suit alleging any improper environmental review, I have complete confidence that a court would rule in favor of the Village’s actions and review. The purpose of SEQRA is to incorporate environmental consideration into the planning, review and decision-making process of a local agency at the earliest possible time. To insinuate that the Village failed to do this is illogical. Before any determination was made as to the environmental significance of the project, the village review boards held more than 50 public meetings on numerous environmental issues, accepting public comment on each and every issue and requiring the production of thousands of pages of reports, information and expert testimony that was carefully evaluated by both the Planning Board and the Villages’ consultants. This is exactly what SEQRA requires.

The lawsuit against the Village that alleged defects in our procedure was dismissed on a technicality which was the result of plaintiff’s counsels’ repeated failure to comply with details for filing a suit of this type. Although the Village would have been successful on the merits of a challenge to its process, it became clear that due to the obvious defects in the Plaintiff’s petition, it was more efficient and fiscally responsible for the Village to first defend the suit on that basis. 

Mr. Gambino also questions the authorship of the final environmental review document that was completed in connection with the proposed project, insinuating that I had prepared an “in-house report” as part of the environmental review. In fact, an expanded environmental assessment form and summary report that evaluated the environmental impacts as well as provided a summary of all the information gathered was prepared and submitted by the applicant’s environmental planners, Frudenthal & Elkowitz. That final document is the effective equivalent of a final environmental impact statement and included all of the legally required elements and was accepted by the Planning Board as having adequately addressed all environmental concerns of the project. This process was innovative and not only addressed each environmental issue in public, but was paramount to the Board’s and the public’s understanding of the process and the issues. 

In connection with the process followed by the Planning Board, the author maliciously misinterpreted the comments by Planning Board Chair, Neil Slevin. According to the article written by Kathryn Menu that appeared in the April 2, 2009 edition of the Express, Mr. Slevin stated that, in connection with the environmental review process that was followed for the Bulova application, “I could not imagine for the life of me a process that is better for figuring out the challenges or impacts a development might present or where the community would have a greater opportunity to share their expertise and concern… The very thing we have been criticized for, I believe, is the best thing we have done. The public came to us…and we made the developer answer.” These statements demonstrate the very core of environmental review principles: public participation and calling upon the applicant to answer the questions.

As a matter of clarification, my comments about the Group for the East End were representative of their actions towards the Village with respect to the affordable housing concerns on the Bulova application. Despite the many environmental issues that were addressed throughout this process, the Group curiously focused their attention on a single social issue, the provision of affordable housing on-site, which seemed to me to be out of the scope of their mission as an environmental advocacy group. I would hope that in the future the Group would partner with the Village to deal with development pressures by offering their expertise rather than criticizing a Village Board that has taken substantial steps toward preserving the character and environment of Sag Harbor.

In closing, I find Mr. Gambino’s skills as a creative fiction writer are most impressive and provided last week’s Express audience with a very entertaining article at my expense, but he should have at the very least researched the basic facts. Is that not a basic premise of journalism?

Mayor Ferraris Reveals Himself

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By Richard Gambino

On April 2, The Express ran a front page story about a judge dismissing a suit against Mayor Greg Ferraris’ government by the environmental organization, The Group for the East End. The judge dismissed the case solely on a technicality. As stated by this newspaper, the technicality was that “the Group’s attorney, James Periconi, failed to name developers Sag Development Partners in the lawsuit.” And that technicality is all of the judge’s reason. As also pointed out, no judge or court has heard the merits of the Group’s suit, or the Village’s defense against it. Given all this, the response of Mayor Greg Ferraris is worthy of a skit on Saturday Night Live. Except, according to this paper, his statements are no parody — he really said them. Really.

The suit was about the Bulova condo project, which was approved by Sag Harbor’s Village Hall, without the Village requiring from the condo developer a Draft Environmental Impact Statement regarding the project as required by the New York State Environmental Quality Review Law.      Specifically, there are two issues. First, Mayor Ferraris and company approved a plan to truck thirty thousand cubic yards of potentially toxic soil on 3,750 large trucks past countless houses, schools and other buildings in, and far beyond, Sag Harbor. Second, the Village waived the legal requirement that the developers include in their condo thirteen units of affordable housing. Instead, the town fathers and mothers decided that the developers be allowed to contribute $2.5 million, or about $192,300 per unit, which, even in this time of economic recession, would not come close to buying a single dwelling in Sag Harbor.

The Express quoted the Chairman of the Planning Board, Neil Slevin, about the Village’s process in blessing the Bulova condo. He compared it to the board’s current process of reviewing the proposal for yet another huge condo complex, one called “Ferry Road.” He noted that with regard to the Ferry Road condo proposal, in the words of the article, his “planning board has asked for an impact statement and is engaged in the very process Samuelson advocates.” (Referring to Jeremy Samuelson, an officer of The Group for the East End.) Slevin’s logic here is stunning, and all too typical of Ferraris and company: We are asking for the New York State-required environmental impact statement for the large Ferry Road condo, therefore we were justified in not asking for such a statement regarding the even larger Bulova condo.   

But let’s go to Mayor Ferraris’ own dazzling statements, giving them the seriatim attention they deserve. Please, again, keep in mind this is not a parody. According to this newspaper, Mayor Ferraris actually said all the quotations of him that follow:

 

 “ ‘I am pleased with the court’s decision; however it feels like a hollow victory as the Bulova factory once again sits dormant due to the financial crisis,’ said the Mayor.”

 

Meaning that the developers may not have the money to build the condo during the current economic downturn. But fortunately for them they have Ferraris fighting for them, great advocate for condos that he is. After all, isn’t this what the voters elected Ferraris to do, be the  developers’ darling of the East End? No small accomplishment given that the South Fork’s governments are made up largely of developers and realtors, by developers and realtors and for developers and realtors. But with their Mayor Greg, developers have been truly and exceptionally blessed. Other governments out here have been content merely to approve endless McMansions. But their beloved Greg is determined to cover Sag Harbor with condo complexes.

 

 “ ‘I really question the motive and the direction of the management of the Group for the East End,’  continued Mayor Ferraris,  ‘who have morphed from an environmental advocacy group into a lobbyist organization engaging in social and economic issues outside their league. It is unfortunate that the village needs to expend tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money defending itself against these types of baseless claims and I can only hope that village residents recall this when funding these organizations.’” 

 

Spending “tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money” defending his right not to file a NYS-required environmental impact statement — how bravely responsible of our wise Mayor. The Group is a “lobbyist organization?” For whom? The sneaky local plants and wildlife? Our lands and waters, with their vile lust to remain healthy? Healthy for us, our children and grandchildren. Why, those people in The Group know no end to their inordinate moxie, chutzpah and nerve!

Unable to defend his indefensible decisions by reasoned argument, Ferraris  resorts to attacking the “motive” of The Group. Speaking of motives, Mr. Ferraris, what’s your motive for bypassing NY State Law? Oh yes, the in-house report you did on your own, including the plan for thousands of trucks full of potentially toxic soil. Why not just resolve this issue by asking the Bulova developers for the NYS-required environmental impact statement? What would be the harm of two studies? And now that you’ve opened the question of motives, what’s your motive for spending “tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money” to keep from doing this?    

Three thousand, seven hundred and fifty large trucks carrying thirty thousand cubic yards of potentially toxic soil past our homes and schools, not to mention countless homes and public institutions beyond Sag Harbor. Somehow Mr. Ferraris never mentions this. How noble of the Mayor to allow this, and then to spend “tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money” to insist on it.  And let’s not think of the cost the Village might have in defending against suits if there is even so much as a single mishap in which just one of those trucks spills potentially toxic soil onto a street lined by houses, or near a school or shopping center. And the cost in possibly losing against the suits. Mr. Mayor, don’t trouble you head about it, full as it is with “social and economic issues outside the league” of the rest of us.

Yes sir and madam, the next time your darker angels urge you to send a contribution to a local environmental organization, resist the temptation and send your check to the  Public Defense of Greg Ferraris Fund. But, then, he already has your money for this. Sorry.

A few weeks ago, Greg Ferraris was quoted in this newspaper as saying he would not run for re-election as mayor. Promises, promises. Whether he does or not, here’s hoping against hope that a candidate for the office steps forward who is dedicated to ending Sag Harbor’s Village Hall bending over backwards, sideways, and let’s not forget, forward, for condos. Even to the point of spending “tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money” possibly to put a huge population at risk. Before it’s too late.

 

RICHARD GAMBINO urges all to contribute generously to The Group for the East End (P.O. Box 569, Bridgehampton, NY 11932 ), and urges The Group to appeal the judge’s decision, as it has said it might. He has never served on the Group’s Board or committees.

Eco-Farm Proposal Concerns Neighbors

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As the town of Southampton continually looks at alternative energy sources for building construction, at least one developer in Bridgehampton is finding ways to reduce the carbon footprint by designing a fully sustainable farm equipped with a windmill and solar paneling in the fields.

Last Thursday, the Southampton Town planning board held a public hearing for the property at 501 Ocean Road. The public hearing was concerning the construction permit and special exception application for the construction of a 3,068 square foot barn, a 2,268 square foot greenhouse along with a windmill and solar paneling in the fields on the 13.2-acre agricultural reserve, which is part of a six-lot subdivision.

The applicant, FDHFZ LLC, is asking for permission to add these structures in the hopes of creating a sustainable organic farm. Representative for the applicant, Kyle Collins of KPC Planning Services of Westhampton, showed the Southampton Town Planning Board a video simulation of what the property would look like with the additional structures and how it will function with the alternative energy sources.

Collins said that the proposal is to farm the site with a possible apple orchard, flowers and switch grass for the production of 100 percent organic products using only renewable energy components such as wind and solar power. Collins also told the board that the products will be grown for commercial use, but with only 13-acres to work with, it is not expected that the farm will be producing large quantities of these items.

“The intention is to generate all the power you need on site,” Collins explained on Thursday.

“I am in full favor of sustainable agriculture,” said Helene Mahoney, a neighbor of the proposed farm. “But I don’t know whether to be pleased or frightened about this new development.”

Mahoney expressed concerns about noise pollution and well water pollution at her home. She told the board that the applicant has proposed a loading dock, and explained that the dock would add more traffic and noise. Mahoney also expressed concern over the addition of a fence around the property. She added that an existing 10-foot fence around a Peconic Land Trust property along Ocean Road is similar to that at a penitentiary and ruined a potential real estate purchase adjacent to the property. Mahoney said that if this applicant constructs a similar fence around the property, it could be a potential deal-breaker for her property or others that border it.

“The loading dock is right outside my dining room table,” added neighbor Georgia Rose. Rose also said that it would be nearly impossible not to include a fence around the perimeter of the proposed farm because the developers will need something to keep the deer off the property, which she said will be attracted to the flowers.

“It’s a beautiful plan – but it’s in the wrong place,” Rose said.

Rocco Lettieri, the designer of the sustainable farm, said that the loading dock area can be changed and informed the board that if a fence is necessary, he would like to propose one that exists in the middle of two hedges, so it could be hidden from the neighbors.

The hearing was closed, but has been left open for a 30-day written comment period.

 

Vintage Vines

 

Also on Thursday, the planning board held a scoping session for the proposed 37-lot Vintage Vines subdivision, located along Scuttle Hole Road near Channing Daughters Vineyard in Bridgehampton.

The 48.6-acre property is being proposed for subdivision by owner Dennis Suskind, and is listed in the Town of Southampton as a Community Preservation Fund priority parcel.

Thursday’s scoping session was the first step in the Comprehensive Environmental Review, required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

Group for the East End’s Jenn Harnagel attended the meeting to express her concerns over the proposed development. Harnagel argues that the property is an essential habitat for the endangered species of the Eastern tiger salamander. Harnagel urged the board to consider buying the property through the Community Preservation Fund and notified them that the 37 lots, if developed with their respective septic systems, will have a negative environmental impact on the surrounding community.

The board is allowing three weeks from the date of the meeting for any written comments. 

Brown To Replace Toy On Sag Harbor Planning Board

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The Sag Harbor Village Planning Board has had a fair amount of heavy lifting to contend with over the course of the last two years. In that time, it has engaged in a lengthy review of the now approved condominium projects at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory and at 21 West Water Street, as well as the conversion of the controversial Havens Bar and Lounge on Bridge Street into retail and residential space, and the review of the Loeffler office building across from the Breakwater Yacht Club on Bay Street.

And as the board is about to embark on yet another prolonged review – this time of the proposed 18-unit luxury condominiums at 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road – it has said good-bye to its former chairman, Jerome Toy. Barring a dramatic turn of events, the board will accept new member Nathan Brown at its October 16 work session.

On Tuesday, October 14, the Sag Harbor Board of Trustees is expected to appoint Brown to the planning board in a unanimous resolution, according to Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris. Brown will take Toy’s seat on the board. In August, board member Neil Slevin replaced Toy as chairman of the planning board and will continue to lead the board through its review of the Ferry Road application. (See interview on page 9).

According to Ferraris, after interviewing Brown, his appointment was inevitable.

“It really came down to what his thoughts were on the village,” said Ferraris. “Where it has stood now, where it has evolved from, and where he thought it should evolve to. We talked a lot about the process, and how he would handle hypothetical situations. In terms of being able to digest information and make educated decisions, I think he really showed he would have the village’s best interest at heart.”

Brown, who along with his wife Gloria, can be seen at virtually every meeting that takes place in Sag Harbor – from village board meetings to library board meetings and forums arranged by the Coalition of Neighborhoods for the Preservation of Sag Harbor (CONPOSH) – has been an active member of the community, noted Ferraris, a key quality the mayor was looking for in a replacement for Toy.

“He knows the process, and what the planning board is up against,” he said.

For Brown, deciding to throw his name in the hat was a simple decision.

“I live here,” he said on Tuesday. “I figure I have the time to get involved and make it better. This is my home. I can’t see living in a place and sitting in the background doing nothing.”

Brown’s background is in technology. He worked for 25 years at IBM before retiring and starting a small company for himself in New Jersey. Brown and his wife have owned their home in the Chatfield Hills neighborhood of Sag Harbor for 24 years, and are now retired there.

In addition to his service as the co-president of the Chatfield Hills Property Owners Association, Brown is also a member of Save Sag Harbor, has worked with CONPOSH, is a trustee with the Suffolk County Library Association and volunteers at the Sag Harbor Food Pantry each week.

“I know this is going to be quite a challenge,” said Brown. “But at least I know I have the time to devote to this.” 

ZBA Grants Approval For Bulova Watchcase Factory Project

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With little to no fanfare and just a handful of people looking on, the Sag Harbor zoning board of appeals formally gave their approval to the proposed project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory. The moment officially ends one of the more contentious chapters in the village’s review of the luxury condo project and places the project sponsors, Sag Development Partners, mere steps away from being able to move forward with the restoration and redevelopment of the historic landmark in the heart of Sag Harbor Village.

Sag Development Partners is hoping to redevelop the property into 65 luxury condo units in the factory building and eight newly constructed townhouses. The project, which is designed in the hopes of reaching a platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, also boasts a recreation center with glass enclosed pool and underground parking facility.

On Tuesday, August 19 the zoning board, with Chairman Michael Bromberg abstaining after he recused himself last month, formally voted to overturn a Suffolk County Planning Commission mandate that the project include 20 percent on-site housing.

It also voted in favor of approving five variances needed for the project to move forward in its current incarnation, including several that allow historic elements like a chimney and water tower to be built outside village code height restrictions. A special exception permit was also approved, which allows a residential apartment building in the village business district.

It was the housing vote, not the variances that divided members of the Sag Harbor community over the course of the last year and a half.

Throngs of people called for on-site affordable housing at a March 2007 public hearing on the project, and a subsequent letter from the Suffolk County Planning Commission mandating 20 percent on-site affordable housing left many believing it was a foregone conclusion. Sag Development Partners, in turn, expressed concerns that they would have to walk away from the project should they be forced to include on-site housing, and instead made a series of financial offers to the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust – a branch of the village’s own affordable housing plan. The final offer weighed in at just over $2.5 million in lieu of the 13 on-site units requested by the county.

Both the planning and zoning boards had to vote with a supermajority, or four of five members, in order to override the planning commission. After some initial hesitation by planning board chairman Jerome Toy this spring, the planning board overrode the county. Last month, with Bromberg personally choosing to recuse himself after being one of the biggest critics of accepting money in lieu of housing, the rest of the zoning board unanimously agreed to override the county in a straw poll vote. That vote was made official this Tuesday, without a single comment from the board or the scant few residents in attendance. 

Next week, on Tuesday, August 26, the planning board is expected to grant the project site plan approval – the last village approval needed for the project to move forward. A building permit will have to formally be issued by the village building department before any construction can begin on the site. No construction schedule has been set for the start of the project, although Sag Development Partners has promised the village it will only work during the off-season, and not during the summer season.

                                                       Group for the East End

While the Bulova project may be sailing easily through the end of its environmental review, the village is still in litigation with the Group for the East End over the planning board’s decision to give the project a negative declaration.

Under the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) of any project, a negative declaration means a project is not subject to further environmental review through an environmental impact statement as it does not feel the project presents the potential for a significant adverse environmental impact.

Since the environmental review of the Bulova project began in the village over two years ago, the Group for the East End has steadfastly called for an impact statement, but in March the planning board disagreed with the not-for-profit, adopting the negative declaration. Shortly thereafter, the Group filed suit against the village and its planning board.

The lawsuit, filed with the state supreme court, seeks to annul the negative declaration the planning board granted the project and asks the court to order the village to issue a positive declaration and require a draft environmental impact statement. The suit also asks the court to award the Group, and petitioners Eliza Werner, Kate Evarts, Dolores Fenn, Carol Magidoff and Barry Magidoff the costs and disbursements of this action and other relief “the court deems just and proper.”

Last week, the village responded to the Group’s suit through village attorney Anthony Tohill. In his submission to the court, he argues for dismissal of the suit on a basis that the adoption of the negative declaration is not “ripe for judicial review” as any SEQR review is incident to a site plan review. Site plan review, argues Tohill, had yet to be completed when the Group filed its suit this spring and is still yet to be finished by the village planning board. Until the board has awarded site plan approval – the last action in a review – the case law argues no party could be injured by the negative declaration.