Tag Archive | "Havens Beach"

Village Braces for Second Suit over Waterfront Condos

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The village of Sag Harbor has been served with a notice of claim by East End Ventures, the firm that has sought to construct 18 condominiums on Sag Harbor’s waterfront. The claim lays the groundwork for a possible multi-million lawsuit against the village over a new village code that drastically changes what development is legal on the parcel known to village residents as Ferry Road.

The same firm has already filed suit against the village over the enactment of the village code, which they allege was done without proper environmental review.

During a Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, September 8, Mayor Brian Gilbride confirmed the village had received the notice of claim. According to village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. such an action is required before a formal lawsuit seeking monetary damages can be filed against a municipality.

The notice of claim charges that the village “acted in bad faith in delaying [East End Ventures’] applications while the zoning code was changed.” In addition to seeking monetary relief, the notice of claim also asks East End Ventures’ proposal for 18 waterfront condos and 18 accessory boat slips be reviewed under the old village code.

In addition to prohibiting the construction of three-story buildings, which was proposed by the developers, the new code also reduces the number of units allowed on the parcel by more than half. In July, building inspector Tim Platt informed the Sag Harbor Planning Board, which has been reviewing a number of different proposals for the property over the last two years, that the current project did not comply with the new village code, effectively ending the review.

In related news, Mayor Gilbride said a title search was currently underway regarding a parcel located between the Ferry Road property and village owned beachfront. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced last month it intended to sell the property to East End Ventures, despite village requests since 1996 that the authority sell the land to the village with an ultimate goal of creating a public park next to the Lance Corporal Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Budget Woes

Sag Harbor Trustees are closely watching the current village budget, facing unexpected increases in retirement benefit costs as well as a decrease in transient dock rentals.

On Tuesday, Gilbride said the cost of the village’s retirement system for civil service employees and police officers could increase by $100,000 in February. According to Gilbride, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli informed municipalities that the state has seen a 27 percent decrease in investment revenues for the system.

“What happens is when the plan earns more in interest our contribution is less,” explained Gilbride on Wednesday. “In real hard times, when we can least afford it, our contribution goes up.”

Gilbride said increases may not be limited to this year alone. The village is currently exploring pending state legislation that would allow the village to pay for the increase over a 10 year period, said Gilbride, but may choose instead to pay upfront depending on the interest rate the state offers municipalities under the amortization plan.

In other budget news, trustee Tim Culver announced the village’s transient dock revenues are down $8000 from projected revenues in the current village budget, although Labor Day revenues have yet to be calculated. Last budget cycle trustees planned for a decrease, budgeting $25,000 less in revenue from the harbors and docks.

“It may turn out we are right on budget,” said Culver.

However, trustees said use of the village docks was noticeably down this season.

“This is the first year we have actually had slips available and sometimes there are even vacant slips down there and that never, never has happened,” said Gilbride.

Justice Court Talks Renewed

On Tuesday, the board voted to support a grant application for the Town of Southampton for the creation of video arraignments in its justice court, although Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano said he would like to see talks of a Sag Harbor Village Justice Court renewed.

With discussions of Southampton Town moving its justice court out of its village and into Hampton Bays, talk of a village court has been on the table since 2004. After lawsuits, the addition of a fourth judge in Southampton Town, talk of video arraignments and the town’s continued use of its Southampton court, trustees pulled back from the concept in 2007.

“The video arraignment is nice, but it will not resolve the issues we have,” said Fabiano on Tuesday, citing transportation costs, loss of potential revenues and a lack of control as reasons to re-open discussions about a village justice court.

“Southampton Village went to its own court and it has been more profitable and they have had more control over village issues,” said Fabiano.

Madison Street resident Patricia Field approached the board on Tuesday night, objecting to Stacey Pennebaker’s requests to expand an accessory housing law to include detached units. Under the current code, accessory apartments are allowed as attached units. Pennebaker has approached the board on a number of occasions asking them to broaden the law in favor of creating more affordable housing opportunities.

Field charged that Pennebaker, who is her neighbor, has made these requests for personal reasons, alleging a barn on Pennebaker’s property has been converted into an illegal apartment.

On Wednesday, Pennebaker said this is “a private dispute between two neighbors that regrettably has become public.” She said she would cooperate with village officials as they look into the matter.

In other village news, the board granted village planner Richard Warren of Inter-Science Research Associates permission to increase water quality testing at Havens Beach after rain events in order to test more locations at the bathing beach. The village is hoping current testing will identify a source of contamination in a stormwater runoff ditch at the bathing beach so they may remediate the area.

“It certainly seems like the right thing to do,” said Gilbride

“Without a doubt,” said Trustee Tiffany Scarlato.

County Warns Against Swimming in Havens Beach Over Weekend

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Humayun Chaudhry, Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health services, has issued an advisory against bathing at 64 county beaches, including Havens Beach in Sag Harbor, due to the heavy rainfall forecasted for Friday night and all day Saturday as a result of tropical storm Danny.
The advisory was announced today and is based on the potential that bacterial numbers in excess of New York state standards, resulting from heavy rain, will impact these areas.
The Department says the beaches covered by the advisory are located in areas that are heavily influenced by stormwater runoff from the surrounding watersheds and/or adjacent tributaries, and, because of their location in an enclosed embayment, experience limited tidal flushing.
Beaches not directly influenced by stormwater runoff, including those located on the Atlantic Ocean, the Peconic Estuary, and most beaches on Long Island Sound, are not affected by this advisory.
The Department recommends that bathing and other water contact be suspended in affected areas until the waters have been flushed by two successive tidal cycles – at least a 24 hour period – after the cessation of rainfall. Unless sampling done by the Department finds elevated bacterial numbers persisting beyond the 24 hour period, this advisory will be rescinded as of 8 am on Monday, August 31.
For the latest information on affected beaches, call the Bathing Beach Hotline at (631) 852-5822 or visit the website link at http://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/health and click on “2009 Bathing Beach Monitoring.”

One Step Closer Towards Havens Beach Remediation

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The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees is one step closer to identifying why bacterial levels have exceeded county health standards for swimming at the village’s lone bathing beach, Havens Beach.

On Tuesday, August 11 the board approved additional water tests at the beach aimed at giving the village definitive knowledge not only on what bacteria may exist in a stormwater runoff drainage ditch and adjacent beach, but where that bacteria is coming from. Theories on the source of contamination have ranged from the effect of an improperly filtered runoff, to sewage from boats illegally dumping offshore or animals waste.

Water quality at Havens Beach has been an ongoing debate over the last decade. In the last three years, Peconic Baykeeper Kevin MacAllister has raised the issue as a critical problem for village officials to address. At the same time, Suffolk County, which tests the water at Havens weekly as part of its health department’s monitoring of all bathing beaches in the county, showed just a couple of days annually where water quality at Havens Beach exceeded appropriate standards for swimming.

Eventually the Baykeeper and village officials seemed to reach an agreement, with the Baykeeper engaging the services of Chris Gobler, a Stony Brook Southampton associate professor and the director of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Program, to conduct a year of testing at Havens Beach. However, after a year of testing — and even a poster that alleged water quality at Havens Beach was poor —neither the Baykeeper nor Gobler have offered any testing results to the village, according to officials, leaving the village with no recourse but to begin a new round immediately.

According to Sag Harbor Village Environmental Planning Consultant Rich Warren, the village has secured Cornell Cooperative Extension to aid them in this project. Cornell’s Emerson Hasbrouck has agreed to use the extension’s source library – a database of bacterial sources – to help village officials identify the source of any contamination.

“We want to do duplicate sampling,” explained Warren on Tuesday. He said the key would be to broker a deal with the county where they take two samples at the same time during their weekly tests, and send the additional bottle of water to Hasbrouk. This, said Warren, would ensure everything aspect of the water collected was uniform, but would allow the village an independent lab to not only conduct testing, but identify where, if any, contaminants were coming from.

“We are taking the bull by the horns,” said Warren. “It will be interesting to see what shows up.”

A number of residents of the Azurest, Sag Harbor Hills and Ninevah neighborhoods attended Tuesday’s meeting in hopes of learning whether water quality at their bathing beaches was effected by the drain at Havens Beach. At a village meeting, convened a year and a half ago, the Baykeeper and village officials discussed the possibility of moving some of the testing into bathing beaches in front of those neighborhoods as well.

Laurie Gibbs told the board she was concerned about the water and wondered how widely disseminated any bacteria may be from Havens Beach.

“There was no plume,” cautioned trustee Tim Culver.

Gibbs quizzed the board on what action plan they had in mind for remediation.

Trustee Tiffany Scarlato explained the first step would be to identify the cause and without that the board could not move forward.

Azurest Property Homeowners Association President Anita Rainford explained the three communities had expected testing would have been expanded into their waters, hence the disconnect.

“Since then we haven’t heard anything, seen anything,” said Rainford.

“We have not gotten it either,” said Scarlato of the testing completed by Stony Brook Southampton representatives. “Some testing was done. We don’t know how it was done, we don’t have the data.” Scarlato added Stony Brook representatives seemed reluctant to present any findings to the village.

“We have been relying on the Suffolk County Health Department,” she explained.

According to village officials, they hope the testing and identification at Havens Beach is completed in the fall.

Sag Harbor Food Pantry Music Fest

The Sag Harbor Food Pantry was approved for a Music Fest at the Sag Harbor Historical and Whaling Museum, although trustee Scarlato and Mayor Brian Gilbride cautioned the Whaling Museum that they would only be allowed so many events each year per the village code’s rules on mass gatherings which limit the museum to six. In addition to the Sag Harbor Food Pantry Music Fest, scheduled for Sunday, September 13 from 6 to 9 p.m., the museum has scheduled a wedding and their annual clambake the same weekend.

“We are off to the races,” said Scarlato, noting the village should inform the museum of the code’s limitations on mass gatherings.

Village Moves Forward With Plan for Havens Beach

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Once the Village of Sag Harbor has identified with certainty that contaminants in the drainage ditch at Havens Beach are related to stormwater runoff and not another source, it will move forward with a remediation plan, according to Mayor Greg Ferraris, although what that plan will be remains to be seen.

For two years now, the village has been in an ongoing discussion with Peconic BayKeeper Kevin MacAllister about water quality in the ditch, and whether stormwater runoff contaminants or fecal coliforms found in the ditch itself are contaminating water off the popular bathing beach.

Over a year ago, MacAllister, who had engaged the services of Chris Gobler, a Stony Brook Southampton associate professor and director of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Program, had agreed to a testing protocol for Gobler’s research of the water quality at Havens Beach. At a meeting last August, a full-year schedule was agreed to, and Gobler, MacAllister and village officials vowed not only to determine what the water quality was at the beach and in the ditch, which runs north to south through marshlands and onto the beach, but also what the source of any contamination was.

As the dreen collects stormwater runoff from drains throughout Sag Harbor, MacAllister has long maintained he believes this is a stormwater runoff issue, but after hearing complaints from neighbors over concerns that boats could be illegally dumping waste into the bay, village officials said they wanted to identify the source of any contaminants with certainty before they moved forward, banning dogs at Havens Beach until the testing was completed to ensure results were not skewed by their waste.

Expecting results from Gobler in April, village officials said they were kept in the dark about the results of his testing before a poster was unveiled at a college symposium charging that Gobler found levels of bacteria exceeding appropriate levels for shellfish and bathing by 31 percent and 44 percent, respectively, during the full-year of testing.

However, on Monday night, the village’s harbor committee convened a session with Robert “Mac” Waters of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Bureau of Marine Resources, whose team by law tests the water quality in the bathing area at Havens Beach weekly.

Waters said his results differed greatly from the results displayed on the college poster, and he reached out to Gobler via e-mail to discern the differences between their results. According to Waters, Gobler apologized for the fact that the posted results included a number of samples taken from the dreen itself, and not the bathing beach, meaning the results are not indicative of the water quality specifically in the bathing portion of the beach.

In fact, Waters told the harbor committee that the county has only found levels of enterococcus that exceed state standards five times out of 110 samples collected at Havens from 2004 to 2008. Enterococcus is a bacteria the county tests for that helps determine water quality. It can cause health-related issues in humans such as urinary tract infections, diverticulitis and meningitis.

Waters said his results were specific to the bathing area of the beach, which his department hopes to start testing twice a week, rather than once. The department is also going to start a testing protocol in the ditch itself, which he noted can have elevated levels of enterococcus, particularly after a heavy rainfall.

While Waters assured “this beach is not a killer,” he did note the county, as a precaution, will issue a recommendation that county residents do not bathe for 24 hours at any beach with a stormwater runoff drain tied to it after a heavy rainfall. Unlike last year, added Waters, the county will start using local weather, rather than weather across the county, to determine when an advisory is issued.

“The take home out of this, from the testing we are doing, is that except for exceptional rain event days, Havens Beach is safe for bathing,” said harbor committee chairman Bruce Tait. “It is not exceeding levels.”

However, due to levels found in the drainage ditch, Tait and committee members expressed concern over parents allowing their children to play in the ditch. He asked trustees to place a sign at the ditch prohibiting people from playing in that water.

“I think it is great to put this issue, how big or small it may be, in the context of remediating stormwater runoff in the village,” said committee member Brian Halweil, who said he would also like to ask the village to begin looking for grants to address the stormwater runoff problem once the village’s research is complete.

On Tuesday, MacAllister said he was fairly certain this was a stormwater runoff issue, due to the salinity of water in the ditch itself, which had properties matching fresh water rather than bay water. He did add it was possible waste from waterfowl, dogs and other wildlife could have an impact on the water in the dreen, but as testing shows spikes in bacteria following heavy rains, stormwater runoff is more likely at the root of the issue.

MacAllister said he did not disagree with Waters that, as long as there has not been significant rainfall, swimming in the bathing area at Havens Beach is safe; although he said water in the ditch itself does pose a public health threat.

“I completely agree with Mac’s representation, but I would add a caveat,” said MacAllister. “I think it behooves the community to be cognizant of rainfall relative to the times they swim at Havens Beach.”

As for the lack of communication between Gobler and the village, MacAllister said he would try to bridge the gap in an effort to speed up remedial efforts at the beach.

According to Rich Warren, Sag Harbor’s environmental consultant, the village is just at the beginning stages for planning how it will handle the drainage ditch at Havens Beach should it be determined this is specifically a stormwater runoff issue, which he agreed was the most likely culprit. Warren said he will work with the harbor committee to formalize a program that will include additional testing. Warren is searching for a lab willing to identify the source of bacteria found in the ditch, and hopes to present the committee with cost estimates for that project at next month’s meeting.

As for a remedial plan, Warren said it would ultimately depend on the source of the bacteria, although if it is stormwater runoff, he noted there is technology available in the form of filter inserts for drainage basins. While Warren noted those inserts will certainly aid water quality in the ditch, filtering out sediments, oils and the like, he expected additional remedial efforts may also be needed.

On Tuesday at the Sag Harbor Village Board meeting, Mayor Greg Ferraris continued the discussion, telling community members the bathing beach is safe to swim in and explaining the county would issue advisories as a precaution during the warmer months of the year after large rain events. He asked Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano to purchase a sign to let village residents know when an advisory has been issued.

“I think we are all of the same mindset that these elevated levels are a result of stormwater runoff,” said Ferraris. “Although I don’t think we should make a decision until we know 100 percent this is the issue. Then we can more forward with some remediation.”


Havens Beach Study to Continue Through Summer

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Havens Study Will Continue
By Marissa Maier

Members of the Stony Brook University research team, who have been testing for harmful levels of bacteria at Havens Beach in Sag Harbor for almost a year, say their work will continue through the summer. Chris Gobler, a Stony Brook Southampton associate professor and the director of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Program, has spearheaded the team with help from graduate and doctorate students, like Florian Koch.
Koch was on hand at a recent Coastal and Estuarine Research Program environmental symposium with a poster showing the testing data as of March 2009. The team, in conjunction with Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, has been studying the site since April 2008 and say the data they have collected is alarming.
“I think the data speaks for itself … The water quality in this area is being negatively affected, but this isn’t a new issue,” said McAllister. “Hopefully, this report will place a spotlight on Havens and be a call to action for the village and the harbor committee.”
According to data presented by Koch at the symposium, levels of harmful bacteria have exceeded healthy thresholds for bathing and shell fishing throughout the year. From April 2008 to early April 2009, testing from the receding water stations located in the bay showed bacteria levels were above adequate standards for shell fishing 31 percent of the time during testing and 44 percent of the time for bathing thresholds. These numbers pertain to results collected from three testing stations set-up in the water.
At three “source” stations — which consist of a ditch, a culvert leading to the beach and a steady stream of water flowing from the beach into the bay — levels were even higher. When averaging the whole year, the source station surpassed healthy standards 70 percent of the time for shell fishing and 60 percent of the time for bathing.
Because the source stations indicated more frequent high bacterium levels than the receding water stations, Gobler said his team studied the source stations to ascertain where the bacterium was coming from. That research is ongoing.
Koch and his fellow researchers tested the beach on a monthly to bi-monthly basis, but did responsive testing after heavy rainfalls. The ditch, or the first “source” station, collects storm water run-off for a 275-acre area, said McAllister, through a complicated network of piping. According to McAllister, the water collected at the ditch, seeking the lowest elevation, then flows into Havens Beach by way of the culvert. Gobler added that it is possible the ditch is also subject to ground water seepage.
As the Stony Brook team has been conducting their research, Suffolk County has been testing the waters of Havens Beach.
“By law, the county tests Havens and all other beaches on a weekly basis,” said Sag Harbor Village Mayor, Greg Ferraris. “Suffolk County has never issued a directive to close the beach.”
McAllister said the discrepancy between the county’s and Stony Brook’s results could be attributed to the Stony Brook team’s responsive testing after heavy rainfall. He noted that contaminates are more likely to flow into the ditch when it rains, but in drier weather are likely to stay put.
Village planner Richard Warren, who also operates an environmental consulting firm, said the discrepancy could also be attributed to different testing methodologies. He added that he would like to sit down and review side by side the county’s results and the Stony Brook results, with the help of Chris Gobler.
“With Kevin [McAllister] and Chris [Gobler], I hope we can set aside a testing protocol and start having a dialogue,” said Warren.
Village officials said they weren’t contacted before the yearly results were presented at the symposium and felt this went against a communications protocol established by both parties.
“We expected once the testing was complete to meet and discuss the findings,” Ferraris noted. “[We hope] to review the data and come up with a plan of action.”
Although the Stony Brook team planned to test for only a year, Koch said they would continue through the summer with no fixed end point in mind. Gobler added that the team believes it is important to continue monitoring the site and he also wishes to set up testing sites to the east and west of the beach.
McAllister noted that beyond testing, actual measures would need to be implemented in the future.
“Havens Beach and this ditch is a problem,” he said. “But developing this data will hopefully lead to a remediation project. It is going to cost money to deal with this and I recognize the challenges the village is facing. Are they going to be able to finance a project that is going to eliminate this pollution problem?”

Wharf to Embrace the “Mary E” Schooner?

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The \"Mary E\" sailing in the waters of the East End.

Matthew Culen returned to the Sag Harbor Harbor Committee, on Monday, December 8, looking for a new home port for his 75-foot Schooner, “Mary E.” Culen hopes to permanently dock his boat on Long Wharf and to run a sailing charter business on it. This highly visible location is imperative to the success of the business, said Culen because it would attract walk-on clients. The committee, however, had many concerns. They told Culen his venture would require upland support. Among the committee’s chief concerns were parking accessibility for charter clients.

Previously, the harbor committee recommended to the village board to disallow permanent or transient docking on the north end and the west side of the Long Wharf. This recommendation targeted larger boats and yachts which obstructed views of the water and impeded local children from fishing off of the wharf. This decision, however, meant the village lost revenue from dockage fees.

“We made a decision to lose docking fees. We gave it over to public use. This boat would have a different historical use, but this seems like a revision of our decision,” said committee member Brian Halweil. The committee believed the “Mary E,” built in 1902, could be used for educational purposes with school children. The committee finally suggested that Culen return to next month’s meeting with a proposal for upland support, especially provisions for parking.

Sag Harbor Village Environmental Planning Consultant, Richard Warren, gave a brief status report on the study of storm water runoff contamination at Havens Beach. Warren said the Peconic BayKeeper, who is conducting the study, will deliver a full report by April. Jim Early, of the village department of public works, has also provided Warren’s office with a list of existing drainage systems in the village, and they are in the process of plotting them out on a map. Warren also reported that the village is looking into installing filter systems, which would be installed in the drainage catch basins.

Peconic BayKeeper Says Havens Beach Needs Remediation

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While a year long testing protocol of Sag Harbor’s Havens Beach will not be completed until April of 2009, according to Peconic BayKeeper Kevin MacAllister preliminary results show “elevated levels of bacteria, particularly after stormwater events” at the popular bathing beach — results he said should be looked at as reason enough to explore remediation of the site once more.

MacAllister presented his thoughts on the controversial subject at a Friday, November 7 Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting, where he discussed the role of the BayKeeper and the serious threat stormwater in general poses to the ecosystem on the East End.

The Peconic BayKeeper, in cooperation with the Village of Sag Harbor, has been engaged in a yearlong testing protocol of Havens Beach after a controversial pamphlet released by the BayKeeper in 2007 suggested water at the bathing beach could be contaminated by a stormwater runoff drain and dreen that empties into the water.

Village officials and MacAllister debated the merits of the information laid out in the pamphlet, but in 2008 — through the village harbor committee — came to agreement on a testing protocol at the beach. That testing is being conducted by Stony Brook Southampton associate professor and director of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Program Chris Gobler.

On Friday, MacAllister said while he did not have results in front of him, test results showed that after storm events elevated levels of bacteria were found at the beach, including levels that exceeded shellfish standards and bathing beach standards.

“We have to focus on some form of remediation to address the quality of the water and this situation,” MacAllister told the CAC. “We have committed to continued monitoring through April and will provide a full body of findings on the conditions of water quality at the beach.”

The BayKeeper said he would like to see some form of the Cashin plan – meandering the current dreen through planted wetlands and marsh areas creating a natural bio-filtration system – implemented to deal with any stormwater runoff contamination. According to MacAllister, in addition to ensuring Havens Beach was free of any elevated bacteria levels, even after a storm, the plan would also provide vast educational opportunities for children on the East End.

MacAllister said he had already spoken to village officials, who said they were interested in exploring a more comprehensive approach to stormwater discharge in the village, noting the Havens Beach drain is just one of many stormwater sites.

“I think to the credit of the village it sounds as if they want to start addressing stormwater runoff,” said MacAllister. “I feel like even if it is one pipe at a time, we need to make strides. Havens Beach is a priority because it is a public bathing beach and in terms of remediation, you have a blank canvas. You don’t have to rip up roads to accomplish this project.”

Other issues the BayKeeper is trying to tackle include convincing Suffolk County and the State of New York to change their regulations regarding septic systems. MacAllister noted that with increased development and excessive growth comes more septic systems that enrich the ground with nitrates that eventually enter the water, causing a host of problems including algae blooms.

“Looking at a dark shade of green in the summer is not a healthy color,” said MacAllister.

MacAllister said he would like to see the county look into requiring better technology for these systems and at minimum ask for mandatory inspections and replacement of antiquated systems.

The BayKeeper is also working with the Group for the East End on a “Bayscaping Program” designed to encourage people to landscape their properties with the environment in mind, reducing the use of chemicals and relying on native plants.

“We have to shift the paradigm from what I have seen in the last 20 years with people striving towards these trophy lawns,” said MacAllister. “Think about the entire Sag Harbor community, for instance, and what a benefit it would have on the local waters here if people began thinking in that direction.”



Sag Harbor Dogs Get Their Day

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Is there no friendly public place in Sag Harbor for the four-legged friends so many count as members of their family to frolic freely?

That was the question a handful of Sag Harbor residents asked the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees during their Tuesday, September 9 meeting, focusing on Havens Beach, a popular spot for dog owners to walk their canine companions. Dogs can often be seen romping in the grassy expanse behind the popular bathing spot, despite signs that popped up over the summer warning owners that dogs were prohibited at Havens Beach.

On Tuesday, Sag Harbor resident Tom Leo noted that he tried to find a place to walk his dog after learning they were banned from Havens, finally going to a field near East Hampton Airport, only to have his dogs come home covered in fleas. This week, Leo heard dogs were allowed back at the beach after an incident involving the Sag Harbor Village Police and asked the board to clarify what the law was regarding dogs at Havens Beach.

On Sunday, September 7 an anonymous caller complaining about dogs at the beach summoned village police. According to police, they found a Sag Harbor resident in the grassy area with his dog, and after reviewing village code, had no cause for further action.

According to village code, “dogs and other animals shall be prohibited from the beach and play areas of Havens Beach and Marine Park from the Thursday preceding Memorial Day through and including the Tuesday following Labor Day under all circumstances.”

The law also mandates owners pick up after their dogs and any person who violates the law can be subject to a fine not to exceed $250 or imprisonment for not more than 15 days.

But as Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris explained on Tuesday, one of the reasons dogs have been banned at the beach is that the village, with the help of the Peconic BayKeeper and Stony Brook Southampton, is nearing the end of a water quality testing program at Havens Beach after public concern over pollution there reached a fever pitch last year. The village hopes the testing, set to end in November, will be able to pinpoint whether there is water pollution at Havens and from what source.

“Hopefully this is just a temporary issue,” said Ferraris, adding the village was trying to hold off on allowing dogs back at Havens until the testing is complete.

On Wednesday, Ferraris noted that the board of trustees can put a public safety policy in place — like extending a ban on dogs at Havens Beach — in a situation like this.

“If there is a pollution issue, we have to try and pinpoint the cause, and we have to base our opinions on factual, scientific data rather than rumor and assumptions,” he said.

Elisa Nevel, another Sag Harbor resident, said that she noticed “noxious smelling dirty water” draining into the bay at least six years ago, long before the area became popular for dog owners, and took it upon herself to send samples to the county. She charged “it doesn’t take a lot of study” to know the cause of the pollution could be from a number of sources including the stormwater drains, boats illegally dumping and the influx of big homes in the area.

“It’s not our dog waste,” said Nevel.

“The whole group that comes down here has been extremely responsible,” said resident Judy Clempner. “Dogs are an important part of the community and a big part of the Sag Harbor community.”

Clempner said she respects the village’s need to continue testing and keep the area free of dogs until November, although she does not believe the cause of any pollution will be dog waste. Clempner’s hope is after the testing period, the area will be re-opened to animals, and possibly made a designated dog park.

“That grassy area is almost never used for anything else,” she noted. 

Health Testing At Havens Beach Is Incomplete

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For a week now, following an article and editorial in last week’s The East Hampton Star,  officials from the Village of Sag Harbor have been getting phone calls from residents wondering why the village would not inform its residents that swimming at Havens Beach in Sag Harbor could put them in danger.

While official testing data out of Stony Brook Southampton has yet to be completed, and county testing has continued on a monthly basis, the general consensus at a special Sag Harbor Board of Trustees meeting this week was swimmers need not “beware” of swimming at Havens Beach. However, storm water run off and other sources of bacteria are being studied, and especially after a large rain event can lead to high levels of bacteria, specifically at levels that prohibit the beach from being used to harvest shellfish, which was banned at the beach.

On Wednesday, August 20 the board of trustees convened a special forum with the Peconic BayKeeper Kevin MacAllister, Stony Brook-Southampton associate professor and director of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Program Chris Gobler, members of the Harbor Committee, village planner Rich Warren and East Hampton Town Natural Resources Director Larry Penny. The forum, said Mayor Greg Ferraris, was conceived in an effort to provide the public updated information on a yearlong testing protocol that started in April, and clear up some questions regarding county beach advisories and closures.

A drainage creek runs north to south through marshland and onto the beach allowing stormwater runoff, collected from drains around the area, to dissipate into the Sag Harbor Bay. About six years ago, a plan was studied to create a bio-filtration system to snake through the dreen in order to ensure bacteria would be naturally filtered. Ferraris noted that the estimated $300,000 project went as far as to go to bid, but federal funding had dried up, and at the same time the village received county testing figures back that showed a pollution problem did not exist at the beach.

Last year, in part because of a brochure issued by the Peconic Baykeeper, Ferraris said the village began looking at the possibility of contaminants in the dreen, specifically hoping to discern the cause, whether it be storm water runoff, animal waste, effluent from boats in the bay or even a result of the village’s own wastewater treatment facility.

“Really, what we wanted to do was try and put a testing system in place to try and pinpoint the contaminants,” said Ferraris. In April, with the help of the BayKeeper, the village began to do just that after a Harbor Committee meeting focused on the subject and a testing protocol. The BayKeeper, working with Gobler and Stony Brook-Southampton’s Coastal and Estuarine Research Program began their own testing protocol, using points in the dreen, as well as test areas 100 yards from shore. The sampling was scheduled for an eight-month period, between April and November of this year, although village officials did ask a full year’s testing be performed to ensure a complete study.

On Wednesday, Ferraris stressed the village board is responsible first and foremost for the safety of its residents and the bathers at Havens Beach, and should they be made aware the beach is unsafe they would immediately take action.

Ferraris presented the panel with correspondence from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Bureau of Marine Services Supervisor Robert Waters, who provided information on what a beach advisory is and what a beach closure is. Suffolk County Department of Health Services has never, wrote Rivers, closed Havens Beach due to “water quality criteria excedances,” or because a test came back with a unsafe level of fecal coliform for swimmers. According to Rivers, since 2003, “10 rainfall-related advisories recommending against bathing at Havens Beach, have been issued.”

“These were not closures for cause,” he continues. “Just precautionary recommendations to avoid bathing in water potentially impacted by storm water.”

According to the department’s website, these advisories can be triggered by even the anticipation of heavy rainfall.

“Havens Beach water quality is generally very good, and often excellent,” writes Waters. “There are occasional water quality perturbations however, likely due to storm water runoff through the pipe.” He goes on to say it is possible other sources, like waterfowl, boats and other sources may have played a role.

According to Gobler, the New York State Department of Health has switched its testing to focus on enterococcus as what it uses in monitoring bathing beaches. Gobler is looking at the same bacteria, but said the tests were not ready as his lab is currently in the process of upgrading to a bio-safety level two in order to complete the protocol, which should be done shortly. Preliminary results, he said, did show occasions where levels were exceeded, after wet weather events.

Gobler stressed enterococcus, not coliforms, is what determines safety at a bathing beach, although coliform levels are used for the opening and closing of shellfish beds.

“The very good thing in all of this is this is an issue that is being regulated by the state department of health,” noted Gobler. “So, thankfully, in the end, we will have a very black and white response on bathing and shellfish.”

However, said Gobler, the grey area will be the dreen on the beach itself and urged the village to think of how to deal with that from a safety standpoint in the future.

Village officials agreed signage, at the least, should be posted around the dreen and Ferraris later said the village would increase signage so residents know what a Suffolk County advisory is. 

Top photo: The dreen at Havens Beach, which has been the focus of storm water run off concerns in the Village of Sag Harbor. (michael heller photo) Middle photo: Peconic BayKeeper Kevin MacAllister, East Hampton Town Natural Resources Director Larry Penny and Stony Brook-Southampton associate professor and director of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Program Chris Gobler at a meeting organized by village officials about Havens Beach on Wednesday, August 20. 

Protecting Natural Resources

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If adopted by the Sag Harbor Board of Trustee’s the newly proposed zoning code will give the village’s harbor committee teeth it has never had before when it comes to the protection of natural resources like wetlands, tidal waters, beaches, vegetation, dunes and bluffs.

During a harbor committee meeting on Monday, July 14, village environmental consultant Richard Warren walked the board through a synopsis of some of the bigger changes proposed in the new code. While concerns in village hall over the last three months have focused on the effect of the code on Main Street, harbor committee chairman Bruce Tait’s concerns lie solely with the waterfront, which his board is charged with protecting.

Warren explained that the waterfront and marine districts had been merged, and at this point just a few properties have been moved in and out of the waterfront district, including a small parcel next to Bruce Davis’s house that currently belongs to Christie Brinkley. He added the reason the parcel was taken out of the waterfront district and placed into the office district was its small size, which made more sense for office rather than waterfront development.

One personal suggestion Tait made about the code, which Warren seemed to agree with, was differentiating between a boat dealer and a yacht brokerage, which Tait noted are far different uses. Warren seemed amenable to allowing a yacht brokerage as a permitted use in the office district, while keeping a boat dealer in a special exception category, which requires a permit.

“I have been watching this and paying attention,” said Tait of the code process. “I think the evolution has been a good example of public input … my position as I have been watching this is I did not want to see drastic shrinkage of the waterfront.”

Tait agreed that was not what was occurring.

Sag Harbor resident Cam Gleason wondered if Haven’s Beach should be kept in a residential area of the village, for fear a developer could snatch it up should the village ever sell the parkland.

“My guess is there would be about 1,500 more of you if someone tried to sell that,” said Warren. “They would have the tar pot boiling.”

Gleason also asked about the effect of the code on 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road — a proposed condo development on the waterfront next to the Graphic Arts Building on Long Island Avenue. Warren explained the parcel is proposed to be in the office district, which does have size and density limits.

Warren also noted it is a new chapter of the code, expected to be discussed at the August 11 meeting, which will truly expand the powers of the committee in its role as steward of natural resources. While the board has yet to comment on this chapter as they are currently reviewing it, the section outlines acceptable development and activities around wetlands, tidal waters, beaches, vegetation, dunes and bluffs.

Under the code, harbor committee approval will be required to fill near or in any wetlands, water or beach. Harbor committee approval is needed to clear or dredge, to construct homes, docks, accessory structures or bulkheads, or to have any septic systems, waste or storage system within 200-feet of wetlands, water or beach. No buildings or structures are allowed within 100-feet of a crest of a bluff.

Until this new code, the committee has been able to ask that a wetlands buffer of a minimum 25-feet be maintained, although generally they have allowed 25-feet to be the standard. In the proposed code, wetlands setbacks have been beefed up significantly. Any wastewater disposal system needs to have a 100-foot setback and the construction of all other structures would need a 75-foot setback. Lawns, turf and landscaping, as well as clearing or fertilization of vegetation must take place 50-feet from wetland areas.

Parcels in the waterfront district, or marinas do not have to comply with the setbacks as long as they have obtained site plan approval. 

 Above: Harbor committee member George Pharaoh, chairman Bruce Tait and member Jeff Peters concentrate on Sag Harbor’s new natural resources code. (k menu photo)