By Stephen J. Kotz
Members of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee on Friday were briefed on everything from the Sandy Hollow affordable housing complex to prospects for a townwide ban on plastic shopping bags.
Dieter von Lehsten, the co-chairman of the Southampton Town Sustainability Committee, told the small gathering that opposition to the 28-unit Sandy Hollow affordable housing complex, was “more emotional than factual.”
The Southampton Town Board on Thursday, June 12, approved a Planned Development District allowing the apartments to be built after months of contentious hearings that saw widespread opposition to the development from neighbors.
Mr. von Lehsten said the sustainabilty committee supported the project but added that housing it would provide was a small drop in the bucket considering the vast shortage of affordable housing in Southampton.
The town board’s unanimous decision in support “was not a political decision, but an essential one,” he said.
“You can never ever have a project where everyone is happy,” said Mr. von Lehsten. “The town council, I can say without reservation, put a lot of work into making sure everything was covered.”
CAC members said they were interested in learning about the Sandy Hollow project because of the need for affordable housing Sag Harbor.
“This is something that could be placed in Sag Harbor,” said John Lindner, the CAC’s co-chairman. “We have $2 million from Bulova. If we had a direction for that, we could say here is a builder, here’s something that worked. We can do the same thing.”
Committee members also queried Mr. von Lehsten on the status of Sand Land, a sand mine and mulching operation on Millstone Road in Noyac, which has come into the crosshairs of the Noyac Civic Council because of concerns that its operations could be polluting the groundwater.
Mr. von Lehsten said a court decision ordering the company to curtail much of its operations had been overturned and it is now operating legally. He said at this point, it is up to the state Department of Environmental Conservation to make sure that the operation does not violate the terms of its permits.
Mr. von Lehsten also explained that the sustainability committee is working on a climate action plan for the town that would recognize the threat of global warming and offer ideas for combating it and working on ways to lessen groundwater pollution from septic systems.
He praised East Hampton Town’s recently enacted goal to provide 100 percent of the community’s electricity need with renewable sources by 2020, even if he did think it ambitious.
“If they could get 50 percent by 2020, it would be a fantastic success,” he said.
Mr. von Lehsten also said the sustainability committee was working on getting the town to ban the use of plastic shopping bags, as East Hampton and Southampton villages have already done.
An estimated 23 million plastic bags are used in town each year, he said, with only a fraction being recycled. The committee agreed it would throw its support behind a plastic bag ban. “It’s a foregone conclusion,” Mr. von Lehsten said. “Why can’t we be on the forefront and not behind?”