Tag Archive | "Mecox Sailing Association"

Mecox Yacht Club Seeks Public Support

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Just a year ago, it appeared likely a sailing club would return to Mecox Bay this summer season, bringing back a historic yacht club to the area that would serve all residents of Southampton, including those without the means to own a sailboat or pay the often lofty price of a traditional yacht club membership.

Then, of course, a lawsuit was filed.

Now, as summer kicks off a second suit has been filed related to the Mecox Sailing Association and founder Jeffrey Mansfield. Mansfield is now seeking the support of town residents, financial and otherwise, so that he may continue to battle neighbors and bring the Mecox Yacht Club back to life.

Mansfield was approved in 2011 for a wetlands permit by the town conservation board and was given a license agreement by the Southampton Town Board to re-open the Mecox Sailing Association at the end of Bay Lane.

The sailing association hoped to re-open at the site of the former Mecox Yacht Club, now parkland that was transferred to the town from Suffolk County in the mid-1990s.

The Mecox Sailing Association and the Town of Southampton have been slapped with a lawsuit by a collection of Water Mill homeowners calling themselves the Mecox Bay Civic Association. The homeowners challenged the legality of the town’s wetlands permit, charging the Mecox Sailing Association should not be allowed to clear away vegetation in a designated wetlands area. According to Mansfield, two weeks ago, the same group of neighbors filed a second lawsuit against the town board for granting the not-for-profit a license agreement.

On Monday night, Mansfield gave an update to the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).

“This is restricting access to the bays,” said Mansfield who added the association has its own attorney working alongside the town’s attorney in fighting this case.

“We have collected x amount of money, but we need four times x in terms of what we have already spent,” said Mansfield. “In a way this is financial bullying. That is what is happening here.”

“Don’t they realize there are probably 50 ice boats that use that water every year,” asked Southampton Town Trustee Ed Warner, Jr.

“No — because they are somewhere besides here,” replied Mansfield.

Mansfield thanked the committee for their continued support and promised to keep them updated.

Town Seeks Direction to Protect Waterways

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By Claire Walla

The town of Southampton has just embarked on a two-year process that will culminate in a comprehensive plan to protect all town-owned waterways heading into the future. And at this stage in the game, it wants to hear from you, the residents of Southampton Town.

Members of the advisory committee for the town’s Waterfront Protection Program (WPP) gathered at the community center in Bridgehampton last Thursday, October 27 to give the initial presentation on what the plan is expected to entail. (The same meeting was held the previous night in Hampton Bays for town residents west of the canal.) But, as committee member and Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming told the roughly 50-person crowd, “right now we’re in the inventory and analysis phase.”

The WPP is similar in theory to a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP), which earns seaside and oceanfront towns and villages in New York financial assistance for certain funding programs. Southampton Town is, in fact, preparing its WPP in accordance with the New York Department of State so that it meets all the requirements of an LWRP. The only reason the town has chosen a new acronym, according to Assistant Town Planning and Development Administrator Freda Eisenberg, is because LWRP traditionally refers to waterfront in industrialized urban areas. Southampton Town, she said, doesn’t quite fit that bill.

In addition to members of the 14-person advisory committee, last Thursday’s meeting was also attended by faculty members of the Urban Harbors Institute (UHI) at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. UHI will work in concert with the Pace University Land Use Law Center to complete the first draft of the proposal for the town.

“Our expertise really lies in supplying scientific information,” said UHI member Jack Wiggin.

In general, the WPP will be designed to address several key issues that affect the waters of Southampton Town: flooding, erosion and sea level rise; public access; water-dependent uses and harbor management; water quality; fish, shellfish and wildlife habitats; land use ranging from housing to agriculture to open space; scenic, historic and cultural resources. But Wiggin added that before the UHI team can address such categories, it has to know what the pertinent issues might be. And for that, it needs public input.

All attendees of last week’s meeting — including Citizens Advisory Committee Chairs Fred Cammann and John Linder, as well as the Town Trustees and elected officials — split into four main groups, each facilitated by a member of UHI. They proceeded to discuss any personal or regional issues residents may have had. Issues ranged from chemical runoff and global warming to waterfront access.

“What’s happening here is that property owners adjacent to the ocean are trying to restrict access to those roads [that end at the water],” said Bridgehampton resident Jeffrey Vogel.

“The towns are hard-pressed to fight these things,” he added. “It’s a continuing problem and it’s happening all throughout the East End. Public access is being taken over by property owners through lawsuits.”

Vogel’s fellow Bridgehampton resident Jeff Mansfield, head of the Mecox Sailing Association, which has entered into a license agreement with the town to create a sailing school where the now-defunct Mecox Yacht Club was once housed, echoed these sentiments.

“We’re currently being sued by the homeowners [on Bay Lane in Water Mill],” he stated.

UHI member Steve Bliven, who facilitated this discussion, said, “that’s just the kind of neighborhood versus facility-access I’m talking about. That’s the kind of issue that the plan is trying to address.”

With a WPP in place, he added, the town will be able to confirm its stance on waterfront access issues, allowing officials to refer to written documentation for each case in which waterfront access is threatened.

“That way the town doesn’t have to address these things on an ad-hoc basis,” Bliven continued. “The best way to fight that is to have a clear set of laws and policies.”

Another topic residents raised was the inordinate amount of parking tickets issued throughout the town in the summer months.

“They give tickets all over the place,” Vogel explained. “Including in my driveway!”

Bliven said the same issue had been addressed the previous night with residents in Hampton Bays. He suggested that perhaps “increased signage” would reduce the influx of falsely issued parking tickets.

Across the room, a group of residents discussed water quality with Wiggins and his UHI associate Kristin Uiterwyk. Northampton resident Brad Bender (who is also running for Southampton Town Council) expressed concern with soil runoff from farmlands. And several other residents were worried by the presence of nitrogen in groundwater often caused by septic systems.

While Wiggin said he was happy to hear about these issues from the residents’ perspectives, he added that “I don’t think this plan would necessarily be the primary way you would go about addressing the septic problem. What’s happening with the septic system is causing concern for us, but this plan won’t provide the solution.”

Similarly, just as toxic runoff has an affect on town waterways, so do waters from neighboring towns, an issue some residents thought to address. Wiggin said the WPP would only govern areas within Southampton Town, even though town waters are integrally connected to neighboring towns.

“That was one of our frustrations,” explained Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

But she said she and her administration will continue to try to work with neighboring districts so that the affects of the WPP will have more far-reaching impacts.

“That is a big part of this plan,” she added. “We want to do it on a broader level.”

Town Votes Yes To Mecox Sailing Association

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By Claire Walla

The decision was unanimous. All five members of the Southampton Town Board voted on Tuesday, October 25 to enter into a license agreement with the Mecox Sailing Association which proposes to open a sailing school at the end of Bay Lane in Water Mill.

“I’m very pleased with the actions of the board last night,” explained Jeff Mansfield, a Bridgehampton resident who is spearheading the effort to turn the dilapidated site of the old Mecox Yacht Club into a new not-for-profit sailing association.

Members of the newly formed Mecox Sailing Association have waited two years for the Southampton Town Board to finally weigh-in on the issue. But, he continued, “At the same time it’s a bit bittersweet.”

The Mecox Sailing Association and the town of Southampton have been slapped with a lawsuit by a collection of Water Mill homeowners calling themselves the Mecox Bay Civic Association. The homeowners challenged the legality of the town’s wetlands permit, charging that the Mecox Sailing Association should not be allowed to clear away vegetation in a designated wetlands area. (Bram Weber, the lawyer representing the homeowners, could not be reached for comment.)

“It’s a frivolous lawsuit,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said. She went on to explain that the lawsuit was brought on by a group of homeowners, most of whom live on Bay Lane, which dead-ends into Mecox Bay.

“This is just a blatant example of [a private group] that happens to have a lot of money behind it,” she added,

The proposed Mecox Sailing Association “is a very low-key plan to teach kids from all walks of life to sail,” she continued. “The fact that that kind of money gets thrown in[to this scenario], I think is in really poor taste.”

Members of the Mecox Bay Civic Association have been fighting the Mecox Sailing Association since its proposed plan for a sailing school was put before the board in 2010. In the past, residents have complained about expected issues with traffic, parking and the school’s presumed exclusivity.

Mansfield has rejected these claims.

Though the current lawsuit takes issue with the fact that the town approved the clearing of vegetation in a wetlands area, Throne-Holst added that she believes the town and the Mecox Sailing Association are in the right.

“It’s town land, and we got the clearing permit,” she added.

For Mansfield, the suit filed against the sailing association and the town has less to do with the sailing school itself, and more to do with what he believes stems from homeowners’ efforts to maintain privacy. In fact, it’s an issue he said has resonated across the East End in recent months.

“There’s been an epidemic recently of individuals trying to block beach access,” Mansfield declared.

He pointed to the recent legal fight over a stretch of beach in Nappeague and this summer’s clash in Noyac over beach parking.

“It’s scary for our little group [the Mecox Sailing Association] because it’s quite costly to fight these battles,” he added. “We’re just a couple of mothers and fathers defending this.”

“If we don’t come together as a community,” Mansfield added, “We’re going to lose this access.”

Now that the sailing association has finally entered into a license agreement with the town, Mansfield said members will be putting their efforts into raising money to fight the legal battles before them. He said the group has applied for 501c3 status, which he expects to be achieved by year’s end. This would make all donations to the Mecox Sailing Association fully tax deductible.

Mansfield explained rather lightheartedly that he and other sailing association members initially expected to have the whole operation up and running last summer. Suffice it to say, the process has been a bit more elongated than he had predicted. And with a lawsuit now in the picture, he said he has no idea how long it will take before the sailing association will actually be able to begin clearing the small patch of land on the bay — if, of course, it wins the lawsuit.

“We’re not about to abandon ship here,” Mansfield added. “We have only yet begun to fight.”

Mecox Sailing Association One Step Closer To Deal

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The proposed Mecox Sailing Association—which aims to set-up shop on Mecox Bay in Water Mill—has finally overcome environmental hurdles and now only faces backlash from a group of Water Mill residents as its application with the town remains on the table.

Nearly a year-and-a-half ago, the town of Southampton put the land where the former Mecox Yacht Club existed up for bid.  It has been considering an application from the Mecox Sailing Association ever since.

Assistant Town Attorney Katie Garvin, who is overseeing the case, told town board members at a regularly scheduled meeting last Tuesday, September 13 that over the course of several public hearings they have heard enough information from both sides of the issue to make a decision on the matter.  And she advised the town board to officially close the public hearing.

The application comes from a group of Bridgehampton and Water Mill residents who put an application together to refurbish the dilapidated building still sitting on Mecox Bay at the tail end of Bay Lane.  The goal is to revive the former yacht club as a not-for-profit sailing association, which would offer small-scale sailing classes for kids, as well as sailing opportunities for Southampton Town residents.

“The vision that we seek to implement is to recapture the simplicity and timeless quality of the former Mecox Yacht Club, that has existed in this exact location the better part of the last century,” said Bridgehampton resident Jeff Mansfield on behalf of the Mecox Sailing Association.  “We hope to recapture this by creating a non-exclusionary, not-for-profit family-friendly sailing association, where local children can learn to sail and local families can enjoy sailing on Mecox Bay.”

The board had been waiting to make a decision on whether or not to enter into a license agreement with the applicant while the Southampton Town Conservation Board and the New York State Department of Environmental Conseravtion (DEC) surveyed the site.  And on September 9, Garvin said the conservation board officially issued the town a wetlands permit, allowing the Mecox Sailing Association to develop the waterside property for the organization’s intended use.

Throughout the application process, the Mecox Sailing Association has been attacked by a group calling itself the Mecox Bay Alliance.  Composed mostly of local homeowners, group members have primarily cited concerns with the potential for increased traffic on Bay Lane, the lack of parking at the end of the road and what they feel to be the exclusive nature of the association.

“The Mecox Sailing Association would not be a private club,” Mansfield said with an emphasis on “not.”  The lead representative for the association, Mansfield has maintained that the sailing school would be open to all members of Southampton Town, and the Mecox Sailing Association would be in a lease-agreement with the town.

According to group’s intended plan, the school would remain in operation from May 15 through September 15 and would hold classes two days a week for children aged nine years and older, with classes of no more than 10 children at a time.

Furthermore, he said, “The Mecox Sailing Associaiton is not an attempt by a select few to secure a place to keep their private boats.” All boats held on the property, he added, would be “house boats,” and would not be privately owned by individuals.

The sailing association, he continued, would be for the “promotion of sailing for those in our community who are not fortunate enough to live on or near the water, and all those in our community who are not fortunate enough to afford a boat, a trailer, expensive mooring fees or private yacht club dues.”

According to Garvin, the Mecox Bay Alliance has filed suit against the town, challenging the credibility of the wetlands permit that was issued earlier this month by the conservation board.  “This permit has been challenged in an order to show just cause,” she informed the board.

However, Garvin continued to say, “at least for this public hearing we have an idea of what the conservation board thinks of the project.”  The board ultimately approved of it on the condition that the town brings a botanist on-site with Chief Environmental Analyst Marty Shea as plans move forward.

Mecox Yacht Club Expected to Move Forward

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On Wednesday night, the Southampton Town Conservation Board is expected to approve plans for the development of the Mecox Yacht Club. According to Bridgehampton resident Jeffrey Mansfield the Mecox Sailing Association could be given license to run the facility by the Southampton Town Board as early as September 13.

During a Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting on Monday night, Mansfield said that “all indications are we should get the permit” from the conservation board on Wednesday night. The Mecox Sailing Association received its wetlands permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation this past June, meaning all that would stand in the way of the yacht club’s future would be an agreement with the town board to allow the sailing association to operate the club at the end of Bay Lane in Water Mill.

If successful in front of the conservation board, Mansfield said he expects there will be a public hearing on the proposal during a town board work session on September 9 where the sailing association will make its pitch. Also expected to attend that meeting are a group of neighbors who have opposed the plan. Theoretically, said Mansfield, if the town board supports the proposal despite neighbors opposition, it could sign off on a license agreement as early as its September 13 meeting.

That would end a years long effort by a group of Bridgehampton residents to resurrect public sailing at the site, for all residents of Southampton Town. The sailing association plans are limited in scope. Members hope to provide sailing instruction to Southampton Town youth at the site, which now hosts a dilapidated building hidden amongst the reeds, as well as a place to store sailboats and equipment.

However, residents have expressed concerns over an increase in traffic as a result of the yacht club, as well as restricted access to the beach, which sailing association members contend would not occur if they are approved to run the yacht club.

The proposal has long had the support of the Bridgehampton CAC, as well as the Bridgehampton Historical Society and the Water Mill CAC.

“You have done a yeoman’s job here in trying to serve the kids of Southampton,” said CAC member Steve Steinberg to Mansfield on Monday evening.

“We probably wouldn’t have hung around so long if we didn’t think it was such a good thing,” said Mansfield. “It looks like this may happen sooner rather than later.”

Town board member Nancy Grabowski, a Bridgehampton resident who sat in on the meeting, said the yacht club proposal dates back close to a decade, noting its approval is “a long time coming.”

Mansfield added that at a time when more and more waterfront access denied to East End residents, he sees the creation of the yacht club — which will not require expensive dues and will provide equipment for residents who cannot afford their own sailboat ­— critical to continuing the historic connection to the water that residents have cherished for generations.

“This is a change to promote and preserve sailing on Mecox Bay for years to come,” said Mansfield.

CMEE Begins to Develop Plans for Walking Trails

On Monday night, Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE) Executive Director and CAC member Steve Long announced tentative plans to create two walking trails north of the museum on land the organization already owns.

According to Long, the goal is to connect the children who visit CMEE to the natural diversity of the East End and in particular provide them an educational resource focused on the wonders of the Peconic Estuary.

The museum plans to partner with Group for the East End as well as the Southampton Trails Preservation Society in developing the venture.

After working with Southampton Town officials, Long showed two trails — one 700-feet and another 1500-feet — stretching to the northeast and northwest off an existing boardwalk that connects the parking lot with the museum.

While they may seem like short trails, Long added that for young children, a 700-foot trail is not a short distance to hike. The museum would work with Group for the East End to create markers identifying important aspects of the natural world for children to learn as they traverse the trails, he added.

Long said he would like to see the paths made wheelchair — and therefore stroller — accessible.

Long said the museum has already received a Peconic Estuary grant for the educational aspects of the trail and is working with the East Hampton and Southampton Garden Clubs to apply for a $25,000 grant to kick-start the trail system development.

The museum is looking at possibly building a boardwalk for the trail or using FilterPave, a porous pavement made entirely of 100-percent post consumer recycled glass.

The only drawback to FilterPave, which was suggested by Group for the East End, is while it allows light and rain to filter through the material, it would have to be situated on the ground and not in on an elevated boardwalk.

“As I said, this is still very much in the idea stage,” said Long, who noted there is an existing conservation easement on the trail land in question and the museum would need town approval to move forward.

“But before we started that process, we want to talk to people in the community, talk about what you think about the idea and how we can improve it,” said Long.

Mansfield said at places like the Elizabeth A. Morton Wildlife Refuge, his young children particularly enjoy the boardwalk paths elevated over wetland areas and streams. The boardwalk, he added, gives the small children a height advantage from which to view nature.

CAC member Ian MacPherson also wondered if the museum could form a partnership with the South Fork Natural History Museum, its neighbor across the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike which has property that connects to the trail system of the Long Pond Greenbelt.

Long said that was certainly the hope, and the museum has been waiting on Suffolk County to finish a sidewalk project on the turnpike that will include a crosswalk connecting the organizations, and eventually, its trails.

Mecox Yacht Club Waits for OK

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By Claire Walla

The Southampton Town Board is close to making a decision on whether or not to grant an operating license to the Mecox Sailing Association at the end of Bay Lane in Water Mill. But—with an important permit still pending—the board is not yet ready to weigh-in fully on the case.

After receiving approval from the DEC on June 16, the board is now waiting from the town Conservation Board to see whether or not plans provided by the Mecox Sailing Club to develop the land would be approved. (The Southampton Town Conservation Board met last night at 7 p.m., shortly after this paper went to press.)

At a town board meeting last Tuesday, July 9, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said that the town would have to hear back from the conservation board before meeting again with homeowners (many of whom are opposed to the plan) and those representing the proposed sailing club to “iron out” some of the remaining issues both parties have. The town is set to address the issue again at a board meeting September 13.

Assistant Town Attorney Katie Garvin explained that the DEC permit would now allow the sailing club to restore the existing boathouse, “selectively” cut some vegetation in the area and to construct three boat racks on the property. The conservation board will weigh-in on whether the club should be allowed to selectively cut, as Garvin phrased it, “nuisance vegetation.”

“If we don’t get the permit, then I’d like to explore with the conservation board what their alternatives are, or what their issues would be with the plans [as they are now],” Garvin said.

Many community members living on Bay Avenue (which ends at Mecox Bay, where the sailing club is proposed to be built) and nearby Wheaton Way spoke-out at the town board meeting against the plan. Residents primarily cited issues of increased traffic, environmental concerns, fears of property devaluation and even privatization.

“For the life of me, I do not understand why our town and our bay would benefit from privatizing this public space,” said Water Mill resident Stormy Byorum Good.  “I don’t understand what we would benefit from that we don’t have today.”

Similarly, Bay Avenue resident Ted Vittoria said “we have people walking down that street on a regular basis. We have workers who go with their trucks on their lunch hour just to look at the beauty of the bay. If the proposal is allowed, I think it’s going to affect these people to have clear viewing of this beautiful property for free.”

Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said the site plan, as proposed will not restrict beach access in any way. Supervisor Throne-Holst added: “the only thing it would do is allow for an entity to provide organized instruction there and the ability to store some boats and equipment there.”

In a statement issued by representatives for the homeowners, the Mecox Bay Civic Association further added that the details of the plan to develop the land and install a sailing school are still undefined.

However, Throne-Holst reiterated that the finer details of the site proposal will be addressed once the town board hears from the Conservation Board.