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Sagaponack Budget comes in just over $500,000

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On Monday, at their regular board meeting, the Sagaponack board of trustees were given their first look at Mayor Don Louchheim’s tentative budget. The spending plan is expected to be just over half-a-million dollars and residents may be seeing a slight reduction in their property taxes if the tentative budget is adopted.
Louchheim gave his 2009-2010 budget message and during the presentation, announced that, despite the acquisition and renovation of the new village hall, there would be “no increase in the village tax rate, for the third year in a row.”
Further, Louchheim added, “village taxpayers will continue to pay no more in total property taxes than they would have if the village had not been incorporated.”
Total spending in the new budget is estimated at $548,809, down slightly from the $552,873 the year prior.
According to Louchheim, the new debt service costs from the village hall project “will be offset by lower, more realistic projections” of the net costs of the land use department, based on its first full year of operations.
He also noted that village voters approved borrowing up to $2 million for the project — but the total cost of the building was held at $1.5 million and the bond is expected to be less than $1 million.
Louchheim also explained for a home assessed at $1 million, it will cost a homeowner $82.80 in taxes, which is a slight reduction from $83.40 last year.
On Monday, Louchheim also announced projections for revenues other than property taxes including mortgage taxes, franchise taxes and other fees — which he said would be $283,350.
Louchheim said the amount expected to be raised by property taxes would be $265,459. According to the mayor, the tax levy also includes $100,000 to be added to a capital reserve fund for future road improvement projects, as has been done in the last two years.
“During the previous and current fiscal years the village has achieved operating surpluses, primarily as a result of higher than expected mortgage tax receipts,” said Louchheim. He said the bulk of these surplus funds will be used to reduce the amount borrowed for the village hall project.
Although village voters approved borrowing up to $2 million for the project, the total cost of the new village hall and renovations to the property were held at $1.5 million. According to Louchheim, the bond issue amount for the new village hall is expected to be no more than $1 million.
“The new budget includes a one-time expense of $37,000 in fees for the bond issue and a debt service cost of $74,854 for 2009-2010,” the mayor said. He added that until the bond is retired, the annual debt service amount will be “about the same.”
“So there should be no adverse debt service impact on future tax rates,” said the mayor.
In closing, Louchheim said he was proud of the young village government, which he added has achieved a “great deal in a short period of time.”
“We are fortunate to have truly involved and highly motivated residents on our board of trustees and two land use boards, as well as a talented, dedicated and enthusiastic administrative staff,” said Louchheim who told the trustees he believed they would find the budget to be fairly “straight forward.”
In the tentative budget, revenue from the building department is projected to be half of what was collected over 2008-2009. Likewise, mortgage tax revenue is also expected by the mayor to see a reduction of $122,620 over last year.
Trustee Alfred Kelman said the budget appeared to be a “superb analysis.”
On Monday, March 23, there will be a work session on the tentative budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, at 4 p.m. at village hall in Sagaponack.
In other Sagaponack news, the village hall is moving forward as planned. The building repairs and “touch-ups” have been completed, according to the mayor. The parking lot and the sidewalk were expected to be finished earlier this week.
Kelman said he visited the new site on Monday and joked that he engraved his initials into the sidewalk.
Village clerk Rhodi Winchell gave other updates for the new village hall and how it is progressing. She said the sprinkler and lawn are now completed, the fencing and floors have been re-done and the phone system has been ordered.
Louchheim said he is working on buying lumber and finishing a new table for the village hall.
The trustees also looked at some possible signage for the new building. Deputy Mayor Lee Foster showed a possible design of the new sign that would hang outside village hall along Montauk Highway.
Trustee Joy Sieger was concerned about the size of the lettering on the sign that was estimated to be four inches in height. She said motorists might have a hard time making out the wording.
Sieger also noted that a flag pole would need to be considered for their new hall.

Sorting Out Summer Soirees Before Season

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Sagaponack Village officials are plugging away on requests to hold parties, due to their recent adoption of a local law pertaining to outdoor assembly permits, and are planning some changes to help the process move along faster.

At their regular board meeting on Tuesday, Sagaponack trustee Joy Sieger voiced her concerns about the way the process for obtaining an outdoor assembly permit is presently done.

Currently, the village asks for a letter of intent to hold an outdoor bash six months in advance with an application to be filled out four months in advance.

Sieger acknowledged that the village made a conscious effort to deal with outdoor events last year by adding the new local law, but now that the law has been enacted, officials have noticed missing information in the dozen or so letters of intent they have already received. Those questions surrounded issues dealing with parking, number of attendees — and for charitable affairs — the percentage that will go to the beneficiary.

Sieger said that she and village clerk Rhodi Winchell would like to suggest altering the law so that the village would require an application and a required letter of intent submitted together — both six months prior.

That way, the village would be able to get a better picture of the proposed event.

“We believe that by just submitting the application form along with the letter of intent would give us more information and we wouldn’t have to do all this waiting around,” Sieger said.

The trustees seemed to all agree that was a good idea, but trustee Alfred Kelmann said he wants to know precisely, “what proceeds are going to the local charities,” when dealing with benefits.

“We need to get to the heart of this thing,” he said, asking that parties not be run “as a business but as a local event.”

For now, Mayor Don Louchheim said the letters of intent would not be approved until the full application is filled out.

As the trustees went over a few pending letters of intent for summer 2009, they discussed which of the events are “rooted locally.”

“That is a distinction we need to make,” Deputy Mayor Lee Foster said.

“We have the right to say no, without any explanation,” argued Kelmann, “we are extending ourselves by even creating a policy.”

Audience member and Group for the East End’s Director of Development, Judy Christrup, then offered some advice.

“Can I make a suggestion,” she asked, “you could ask them what their numbers were last year, and if they’ve never had it before, they could give you a projection. It costs a lot of money to put on an outdoor event here, so you have to have some high contributors to actually make a profit,” she continued.

“Well, it costs a lot of money to stage a truly non-profit event and they may raise nothing. They could spend $5000 and bring in $250 bucks,” Kelmann said.

After going over some other letters of intent and closing that portion of the meeting, Louchheim said, “It’s a learning curve, but we are getting somewhere here.”


The New Village Hall


By the end of the week, the new village hall in Sagaponack is expected to be near completion, according to the mayor. He said the village is “right on target” with their February 28, deadline. 

There were some minor repairs being done since the village bought the property at 3175 Montauk highway in October. The sole remaining component would be the excavation of the parking lot, which will be completed by the end of March or beginning of April, when paving plants in the area re-open.

Louchheim also said there is an old sewer line at the new location, measuring 12 feet that may be replaced.

The village plans to move into the new hall in a month and half, if there are no other major problems.


Party Planners in Sagaponack May Have Problems this Summer Season

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With new codes pertaining to events now in place, party planners hoping to host shindigs in Sagaponack this summer are coming forward to share their plans with the village board — and some are finding it difficult to get approval.

The new local law requires that a letter of intent be sent by party hosts to the village 180 days before the day of the event – which means now is prime time for those hoping to throw parties in Sagaponack come July.

Justin Taylor Ward, an event planner with a dozen years of experience who has planned parties in the area for the last eight years, went before the Sagaponack Village Board of Trustees on Monday night at the board’s regular work session. As required, Ward had sent the board his letter of intent to throw a bash in the village for 300 guests as a fundraiser for the Harlem Children’s Zone. The party is planned for July 18 and begins at 7 p.m.

The board of trustees voiced some concerns about the event, the first being that the party wouldn’t benefit a local charity. Ward told the board that he will hire local people to staff the event and added that local artists were invited to showcase their work at a silent auction and a local chef would be offering the cuisine. He also said that one of the three wines to be served at the event would be a Wolffer Estate wine.

Trustee Alfred Kelman said he was concerned how much money would actually be going to the charity, Ward said he would be giving 25 percent of the proceeds to the charity, while Ward would keep the remaining 75 percent to pay for costs of the event and his overhead.

“I am the fundraiser of it … it does take a year to put it together,” Ward said.

“Well it sounds like a profit making venture for you, rather than the Harlem Group,” mayor Don Louchheim said.

“They [Harlem Children’s Zone] get a considerable amount of money,” Ward maintained. “I’ve worked with many businesses and have volunteered my services in the past.”

Kelman said for future parties, he would be interested in knowing which events benefited charities and how much of the proceeds will go to the particular charity.

“We need to try to delineate between charity and events so they can have their party,” Kelman said.

He added after Ward left the room that during certain charity softball games, “everyone donates their time” and he said that 80 to 95 percent of the proceeds would go to the charity.

Deputy mayor Lee Foster, thought that there may be another problem that might prohibit Ward from holding his event. She explained that if the vehicles were parked in the fields at 231 Hedges Lane, nematodes, a type of roundworm that lives in the field, could pose a problem. She told the applicant to contact the Westhampton office of the State Department of Agriculture and Markets because she thought they may need to take precautions to ensure that nematodes are not transferred to other areas by cars.




At their last meeting in January, the Sagaponack Village Board discussed changes to the Poxabogue Golf Course located on Montauk Highway in Wainscott, in close proximity to the Sagaponack Village Hall. The board and trustees had concerns at that meeting about being uninformed about changes to the course.

Louchheim announced on Monday that last weekend, East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill McGintee met with the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee and showed the CAC a four-phase plan for the Poxabogue Golf Center. That multi-phase plan includes a mini golf course and the acquisition of the adjacent Mulford property, among other changes.

Louchheim said that Southampton Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski was “apologetic for leaving us out of the loop, but at the same time no one has tried to get us in the loop.”

Sagaponack Feeling Left Out

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At Sagaponack Village’s board meeting on Tuesday, village trustees and mayor Don Louchheim expressed frustration with both East Hampton and Southampton towns for leaving Sagaponack out of dialogue pertaining to changes to Poxabogue Golf Course.

Last week at an East Hampton Town Board meeting, council members voted in favor of $1.1 million worth of capital improvements to the course. Because the golf course is owned by both towns, Southampton Town also has to agree to the expenditure.

“We were not even informed of the expansion of the restaurant and pro shop,” said Louchheim who also talked about the possibility of a miniature golf course. “And I’m not sure we are getting away from night activity.”

“Talk about arrogance,” added Louchheim, expressing irritation that the town has left the village out on these talks. “We need to ask our attorney what authority we have over this.”

Trustee and parks and recreation liaison, Alfred Kelman said that there was a lot of controversy about the idea of nighttime activity and a miniature golf course at Poxabogue from various citizens advisory committees.

“Let me find out and I will get us in the loop,” Kelman said.

“I’m sure there is going to be a lot of community opposition,” Louchheim said. 

Trustee Joy Seiger said that she wouldn’t mind a miniature golf course, and it would be something that would add value to the community.

“I would be there playing,” she said.

But according to Ed Wankel, of Long Island Golf Management, who represented the golf course at the East Hampton meeting, the first phase of the Poxabogue plan involves moving the driving range tee line up and adding safety fencing around the course. There will also be improvements to the irrigation system, he said, and two additional sheds are proposed to house ball-dispensing machines.

In an interview Wednesday, Wankel said that plans for a miniature golf course had been discussed, but are not included in this initial phase. He added that if plans for a miniature golf course go ahead, it will be proposed without lighting. He also notes that phase one of the project does not include any changes to the parking, pro shop or restaurant.

Special Events

Sagaponack Village officials are asking for more changes to their local laws. In July of last year, the village created a new local law requiring a permit for outdoor special events that include 50 or more people. A letter of intent is to be sent to the village at least 180 days prior to the event, which makes this crunch time for any events to be held in June 2009.

So far the village has received four letters of intent for outdoor assembly permits and on this week’s agenda, three of them were up for discussion.

The village board didn’t have any problems with one of the events, scheduled for July 25 at the Wolffer Estate when the James Beard Foundation will host an event expected to entertain 600 or so guests.

Mayor Louchheim did, however, express concern over another event to be held on the same grounds. The Group for the East End has submitted a request for an event on June 20, but the letter of intent does not include the number of people expected to attend.

“If we are giving them the tentative green light — do we have any other requirements?” Louchheim asked rhetorically, “We should, to get an idea of the size.”

He requested that the current local law be changed to include the projected size of the event.

Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt showed up for Tuesday’s meeting, to make sure they have complied with the village’s requirements for a fundraising party on June 13 at Tee and Charles Addams Foundation on Sagaponack Road. Their letter of intent includes the size of the party, which is estimated at 150 people, but the board was more concerned about the parking.

“Where would you be able to park?” Louchheim asked party planners, “You have to make arrangements … a lot has changed since the incorporation [of the village].”

“We have a quarter mile long driveway, that’s the problem,” said Kevin Miserocchi, executive director of the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation, who noted the driveway is too narrow for parking. He asked the board if parking would be allowed in front of the property along Sagaponack Road.

“We try to discourage it,” said deputy mayor Lee Foster.

“That corner has had so many accidents over the years,” trustee Lisa Duryea Thayer said.

“But I think there is enough room to get off the road and onto the shoulder,” Louchheim added.

Miserocchi said that he would be willing to hire a valet company for the event.

“We will work with the valet company,” Sieger said representing the town, “it really works out very well.

Sagaponack tackles sign pollution, tree rot

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The fiscal crisis may not be affecting every member of every community, but that doesn’t mean that people are not being cautious with major decisions that could impact their personal finances.

Sagaponack resident and village zoning board of appeals member Cindy Greatrex said she is leaving the village for the West Coast to take a position with the company she has worked for as vice president and stakeholder for several years. Greatrex said that the only way not to take the transfer would be to resign her employment.

“In this uncertain economy, this would not be a wise move,” she said in her resignation letter.

At Monday’s board meeting, the trustees passed a resolution to accept the resignation of Greatrex and appointed Patrick Guarino to fill the unexpired five-year term — which will expire in July 2013.

Another resident moving out of the village is architectural review board member Don Sachar who is moving to North Haven. Sachar’s resignation was accepted and the board members appointed Barbara Slifka to fill the three-year term, which will expire in July 2011.

Deputy mayor Lee Foster said she regretfully accepted both resignations with gratitude. The board also appointed Elliot Meisel as chairperson to the zoning board for a term set to expire in July 2009.

Also at the Sagaponack Village board meeting on Monday, a resolution was passed allowing Mayor Don Louchheim to sign a license and indemnity agreement with David Seels allowing him to contract with the Barlett Tree company to care for diseased trees on public property. Sagaponack resident David Seels received permission from Southampton Town to plant 50 trees for his wife’s 50th birthday. Two of the trees on what is now village property have been discovered to have root rot. Fred Hoffman of Bartlett Trees attended the meeting and told the board about the problem.

“The trees get stressed from the heavy and wet soil, but that is not the only reason,” he said. “The fungicide we used has worked in the past and I will assess them in the spring.”

Hoffman said that he will have to do two more treatments for the trees next year. Hoffman said he would be happy to donate his time to look at all the trees in the village and assess them.

Also last week, at their monthly work session, the Sagaponack Village Board discussed the excessive bike path signs within the village. Village clerk Rhodi Winchell said at this week’s meeting that she contacted Tom Neely, director of transportation and traffic safety and a member of the Biking Citizens Advisory Committee of Southampton Town, to look at all the signage. Winchell said Neely was able to go out and look at all the signs, and the town is going to conduct a survey to reduce the sign pollution within the village. The signs, according to the board, were decided upon before the village was incorporated.


Planning Board Meeting


Following the regular village board meeting on Monday, the Sagaponack planning board members were thrown a curve ball when an applicant asked if there was the possibility of adding agricultural buildings on open space after a subdivision application had been given its final approval, which restricted agricultural buildings in that area.

At the public hearing, representative for the applicant of the property, Randall Weichbrodt, asked the planning board to consider the option of adding an additional agricultural building on the open space portion of the 17-acre parcel on Gibson Lane.

“Open space will remain open space, otherwise we wouldn’t have approved a negative declaration,” said planning board and village board of trustee member Al Kelman.

Although Weichbrodt asked the board to consider the option of an agricultural building on the reserve, the applicant, Jay Bialsky, said he had no problems with the board’s decision not to allow any agricultural buildings on the open space for this particular site.

The public hearing for the Gibson Lane parcel was adjourned until December 15.



Sagaponack Seeking To Rein In Big Events

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Special events applications once again took center stage at the Sagaponack Village board meeting on Monday. And at the end of the meeting, Mayor Don Louchheim gave a “preview of coming attractions” for next year.
“Once summer is over, time to lay the groundwork [for how we are going to handle special events in the future],” said the mayor.
He said they are going to look into enforcement, possibly changing laws specifically dealing with how late music can be played at parties, and whether parking restrictions should be amped up in the tiny village. He also wants to institute some sort of “end of summer” meeting where residents can come and voice their opinions about how they were affected by the high number of fundraisers and galas that take place in the high season months.
On Monday, the village trustees decided to approve a special event they denied only a week before. The event, The Hamptons Trunk Show, is expected to draw roughly 50 people and will be held today.
The applicant, Tracy Frost Rensky, attended Monday’s meeting and asked the board to reconsider her application. After slight grilling by the trustees, she was granted permission to hold the event.
“You have merchants in the area who have to pay taxes and need to make a living,” said trustee Lisa Duryea Thayer. “Basically you’re in a residential zone running a commercial venue and that bothers me as a general principal of things.”
Frost billed the event as a kid friendly afternoon featuring face painting and arts and crafts, where two retail clothes vendors will set up shop for the day. A small portion of the proceeds will go to a non-profit organization called Citibabes that provides day care and services for mothers in Manhattan. The majority of the proceeds however will go to the vendors and that seemed to be the sticking point.
“I just have real concerns of us approving continual trunk shows. I don’t think that’s why people live [in Sagaponack],” said Duryea Thayer
Trustee Lee Foster said why not just remove the vendors and have a fun afternoon for the kids.
“This places us in such a cruel position. I hope you realize that,” said Foster. “I find it difficult to approve.”
Trustee Joy Sieger acknowledged the fact that the village had yet to deny a special event application this summer, though many were approved with reservation. And she pointed out that it might not be the best idea to make an example out of Frost.
“We’re in a funny position this summer,” she said, “because we’re going to make it known [next summer] that activities like this need to be applied for well in advance.”
“They need not apply at all,” responded Louchheim.
“I don’t think we need to make her an example of our upsetness with the whole summer. It’s coming down to the wire,” added Sieger.
“I am adamantly opposed, but I think we have to go ahead and approve it,” said the mayor. “She is applying for something and we have not turned anybody down, we basically have had no criteria, no lines drawn, no deadline.”
The board voted three to one in favor of Frost’s application. Duryea Thayer was the lone dissenter.
In a related issue, Louchheim raised the issuance of tent permits for outdoor parties in the village. Currently the Southampton Town approves such permits but Louchheim believes that might need to change in the future.
“There are [events] going on we don’t know about,” said Louchheim. “These tent permits that the town issues and then send us a notice on the Friday before the weekend of the event – usually the tent permits are for large parties that nobody has applied for. I think we should consider taking over the tent permit process.”
Under that scenario, the mayor said if someone comes into the village hall for a tent permit for 200 people and they have not filed a special event application, they will simply be denied.
He also brought up something the board has been discussing all summer concerning the high number of special events. They hope to sit down and establish criteria for the events, such as whether or not they benefit local charities. He said, under such guidelines, a trunk show benefiting a city not-for-profit would “not be permitted at all.”
The board also discussed the issue of enforcement. They believe there are a number of events that have taken place in the village this summer that did not have permits. As far as enforcing those events, Louchheim said he would have to talk with the town’s ordinance inspectors.

Top Photo: Sagaponack Village trustees Lisa Duryea Thayer, Lee Foster and mayor Don Louchheim at Monday’s meeting.