Tag Archive | "sag harbor cac"

Helicopter Noise at an Unbearable All-Time High, According to Sag Harbor CAC

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By Mara Certic

Helicopter noise dominated the discussion at the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee meeting last week.

Southampton Town Councilwomen Bridget Fleming and Christine Scalera attracted a small crowd of non-members to the CAC’s monthly meeting on Friday, July 18, in the Pierson High School Library.

Susan Baran, a member of the CAC, announced as she briskly walked into the meeting: “This is the worst day ever.” The helicopter noise over by Long Pond had started at 6 a.m. that morning and hadn’t stopped all day, she said. Those in the room agreed with Ms. Barren that it was “the worst it had ever been.”

Rosemary Caruso added that the “all-white helicopters are the worst,” and that she and her husband see them all the time from their North Haven home.

Bob Malafronte and Barry Holden explained the current situation with helicopter routes and answered questions. Both men are members of the CAC and are the only two Southampton representatives on East Hampton Town’s helicopter noise abatement committee. Mr. Malafronte explained that East Hampton has two airport advisory committees. One of the committees is made up of helicopter and airplane proponents, he said, and is “misleading at best.” The other committee that both Mr. Malafronte and Mr. Holden sit on and which is composed of those concerned with noise issues speaks “nothing but facts and the truth,” he said.

The current problem is exacerbated by the total lack of restrictions at the airport, Mr. Malafronte said. Pilots do not follow the designated routes, he said, adding that 83 percent of the helicopters that flew in and out of East Hampton Airport over July Fourth weekend did not comply with the altitude restrictions.

The two men said that they are in the minority on the committee. “We had to force our way on,” said Mr. Malafronte. He even suggested that airport manager Jim Brundige was “targeting” Southampton Town residents. “This man Brundige has to go,” he said.

Councilwoman Scalera interjected to tell the members of the CAC that they were “very, very, very well represented” by their two Southampton reps. “Without you behind us,” Mr. Malafronte said to her, “we’d be nowhere.”

Mr. Holden said that the new East Hampton Town Board does actually seem to want to solve the problem caused by helicopter noise, unlike the previous administration. He mentioned that East Hampton Town Board member Kathee Burke-Gonzalez sits on both airport advisory committees, and Councilwoman Scalera sits on the noise abatement committee, too.

Recently, the men said, the committees have been working on letter-writing campaigns. They emphasized the importance of documenting complaints about helicopter and aircraft noise, by calling the complaint hotline or writing letters to the editor in local papers.

Their new focus, however, “is to go after the FAA not just to ask for changes but to start demanding answers.” Mr. Malafronte said. “We’re going to focus on Huerta, the man has to produce answers.”

Michael Huerta is the administrator of the FAA, who Mr. Malafronte says “has been hiding.” Mr. Malafronte’s new tactic, he said, is to go after Mr. Huerta “more aggressively.”

A meeting with Congressman Tim Bishop scheduled to take place on August 12 is the next big step, he said. The committee members hope to have at least a representative from the FAA, if not Mr. Huerta himself, present to answer questions.

The meeting will take place at the Bridgehampton Nutrition Center  at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 12.

To register an airport noise complaint call 1-800-376-4817 or visit planenoise.com/khto/

Issues of dumping on Town Line Road continue to trouble members of the Sag Harbor CAC. Several members discussed the problems, mentioning that tires and have piled up and that some people have even gone as far as to dump their mattresses there. “They go out of their way to dump there,” said CAC member Steve Schuman.

“What’s the solution, besides setting up snipers in the woods?” asked CAC member Judah Mahay. He suggested that the CAC look into the feasibility of setting up security cameras, or even looking into getting police to do surveillance at the site once a month.

“If you report it to the public, this could be enough to mitigate it,” he said.


At Sag Harbor CAC Meeting, Four in Attendance Focus on Recruitment

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By Tessa Raebeck

With just four people in attendance, the discussion at Friday’s meeting of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) centered on recruitment.

CAC Chairman John Linder was joined by members Susan Baran, Eric Cohen and Bob Malafronte in expressing the need for better visibility and outreach in efforts to enlist new members for the all-volunteer group.

During the 1980s, the Town of Southampton organized ten CACs, volunteer branches of government designed for the town’s hamlet areas, in order to more effectively address localized issues and concerns.

In Bridgehampton, the CAC is a driving force on local policy that has dozens of members. With no elected government in Bridgehampton, the CAC largely operates as the hamlet’s vocal leadership.

Sag Harbor’s CAC, however, has enacted few legislative actions over the past several years and has seen its numbers dwindle. The town’s website lists eight active members of the CAC, but meetings this year have seen only four or five in attendance.

In cards designed by Malafronte to solicit new members, the CAC asks for those who are concerned, caring and committed to the Sag Harbor community to join. The cards outline the CAC’s primary areas of focus as the East Hampton Airport, water quality, pollution of the bays, over development and traffic.

“I would say our history – at least in terms of intention – is legislative,” Linder said at the meeting Friday evening. “We do want to see legislative changes.”

The group discussed bringing town board members Brad Bender and Bridget Fleming to future meetings as guests, in order to both let them know of the group’s goals and to draw in interested attendees.

A goal for the New Year is developing a community email list that would include the members of similar local groups, such as Save Sag Harbor, to expedite communication with like-minded individuals.

The CAC also contemplated visiting Pierson Middle/High School to educate students on the different avenues of government and how such grassroots organizations work.

“I’m always amazed at what people don’t know about that affects their property values,” said Linder. “If people know what outlets they have to participate in their community, they don’t have to participate, but maybe one day they will. Or they’ll tell their friends and neighbors – or somebody.”

“If we could just get two or three [members],” he added, “that would be fine, we don’t need a landslide here.”

The next meeting of the Sag Harbor CAC will be held January 10 at 5:30 p.m. in the Pierson Middle/High School library. For information, call 725-6067.

Eye the Environment

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By David McCabe

The Sag Harbor Citizen’s Advisory Committee turned its attention to the environment at the group’s meeting on Sunday afternoon, discussing septic systems, recycling centers and illegal off-road vehicles.

John Linder, the outgoing chair of the CAC, asked the committee to consider ways in which members could help the village preserve the sustainability of its bodies of water, especially in light of a report saying parts of Shinecock Bay have become toxic. Quickly, the conversation turned to the placement of septic systems in houses close to the water.

The problem, committee members seemed to agree, was that these systems are too often old and in disrepair. They differed, however, on their preferred solutions.

CAC member Stephen Schumann suggested Southampton Town could consider raising money to completely retrofit its sewage system. Other members of the committee said the cost of such a measure would be prohibitive, and that it would do nothing to solve the problem in the short term.

Linder raised the idea that the Town of Southampton could offer tax breaks to residents who have their septic system checked, allowing them to get the faulty systems repaired. Incoming CAC chair Judah Mahay said the group is concerned that the town, which is looking into ways to clean up local bodies of water, is not thinking in terms of specific programs that could be funded.

“You can’t just throw money at things,” Mahay said.

The committee also addressed the issue of illegal use of all-terrain vehicles in unauthorized areas in the town.

“It’s not that we necessarily want to curb the use of ATVs in general, it’s just when they are used in a place that isn’t really sanctioned,” Mahay said. “The laws are on the books with concern to ATVs, it’s just about making sure those laws are enforced and people are knowledgeable about them and the reasons they were implemented in the first place,” Mahay said.

The CAC also used the meeting to discuss how it could make it easier for Sag Harbor residents to recycle their batteries and electronic devices. Both require special recycling facilities. The CAC decided to wait until its next meeting, because a Sag Harbor resident had raised the concerns about the recycling center and the fact it was unclear where certain objects, like electronic devices, could be disposed of.

“A definite concern that we want to make sure is addressed is that the different recycling centers are working in tandem with one another,” Mahay said, adding he hopes the facilities could find a way to make it clear where residents of Sag Harbor must go to dispose of specific items.

CAC members also spent part of the meeting brainstorming ways to expand their membership, after an Express editorial commented on the group’s diminishing numbers and what the paper viewed as its waning power within the community. Some group members argued that community members think all the issues the CAC could deal with were already resolved, and so they have no interest in the committee.

In the coming months, the CAC will be reaching out to members of the local activist community. Instead of casting a wide net, CAC members will reach out personally to Sag Harbor residents they think may be interested. However, they stressed anyone with an interest in area issues is encouraged to join the committee.

“Anybody who’s a resident of the greater Sag Harbor area that’s interested in how the community develops would be a welcome addition to the committee,” said Mahay.

Sag Harbor CAC Attendance Wanes

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Claire Walla

If you haven’t been to a Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting recently, you’re not alone. Attendance at the community meetings has waned in recent months, last Sunday playing host to just two attendees — one of whom was the co-chair leading the meeting.

The duo briefly discussed issues affecting Southampton Town, as is a CAC’s purview, like the amount of nitrogen seeping into local waterways and a new proposal from Councilman Chris Nuzzi to create a committee to expedite the permitting process for builders and small business owners.

But with such a small audience, the meeting was mostly just informative.

“I’d like to grow,” Judah Mahay said of CAC attendance.

According to Mahay, co-chair of the CAC, the group technically has five active members. However, since February the meetings have only garnered two or three members (including the two co-chairs). The most populous meeting — in April — attracted a crowd of seven, and featured a speaker from the Quiet Skies Coalition who discussed the issue of helicopter noise.

At this point, he added, his main issue is building a core group of members. “We’re being proactive for community involvement,” he said.

Part of the CAC slow-down has to do with the fact that the organization is in a redevelopment process, explained co-chair John Linder.

“Clearly, we’re in a period of transition,” said Linder, who is prepping Mahay to take on the role in its entirety in 2013. Linder and Mahay officially became co-chairs this past February. “At this point, we’re just taking it month-to-month.”

The mission of all local CACs is to keep abreast and weigh in on issues affecting those areas that lie outside village jurisdiction, but within Southampton Town’s. At last Sunday’s meeting, Mahay explained to his one guest that the Sag Harbor CAC’s main priority at the moment is “being proactive to gain community involvement.”

Mahay himself is taking steps to give the CAC much more of a presence in the community, which includes giving the organization an online presence.

“We’ve thought about ways to bring people to the CAC, to not only show up, but to participate in the community,” Mahay continued. He mentioned setting up an information booth outside the library to explain what the organization is all about, in addition to creating an interactive website for the CAC.

Mahay said the website will include all the minutes from CAC meetings, as well as all letters drafted on behalf of CAC members that are sent to the town board or local publications. He expects the website to be up and running before the organization’s next meeting, July 8.

While Linder explained that a couple active CAC members are actually summer residents who have not yet arrived, some wonder whether the low attendance has to do with the current time slot: Sunday afternoons at 1:30 p.m.

CAC member Eric Cohen regularly attended meetings until they were switched from Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. to their current Sunday time slot.

“That’s the entire reason for me,” Cohen said, explaining why he no longer attends meetings. Plus, he said the issues in the greater Sag Harbor community are not as crucial as they were a few years ago.

CACs were established about 15 years ago so that areas in Southampton Town without a localized government could have a much stronger connection to the town board. The Bridgehampton CAC, for example, has a relatively high attendance rate because the hamlet has a significant population with issues that cannot be addressed locally.

Because Sag Harbor is an incorporated village, the Sag Harbor CAC is technically responsible for the areas of the greater Sag Harbor community on the Southampton side of town that do not fall within village jurisdiction. This includes Ligonee Creek to the south, and part of the Long Pond Greenbelt.

The most significant issue the CAC has dealt with in recent years was the push for a Sag Harbor Gateway Study along the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike, which essentially limits development in that area.

“The area we’re representing is small and there isn’t a lot of controversy right now,” said Cohen. “We used to have a much larger membership, with people who really knew how to speak up [for Sag Harbor issues in town board meetings]. But, with membership shrinking, there are fewer of us to get out there.”

For Linder, the greater Sag Harbor area will continue to see issues, whether it’s water quality or traffic on Noyac Road (Noyac, by the way, has its own CAC). But, the longevity of the Sag Harbor CAC will be left to the will of the people.

“If people see the value in it, some will come forward and participate,” he said. “If not, it will go by the wayside.” But, he continued, “the issues will remain.”

Sustainability Coordinator Sparks Debate at CAC

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Mirroring a similar debate at Southampton Town Hall – one that will likely be resolved by this week’s election – last week Sag Harbor Citizen Advisory Committee members Eric Cohen and Bill Collins entered a heated discussion about whether the town should utilize available grant monies and create a sustainability coordinator position.

On February 23, the Southampton Town Board tabled a resolution creating the position of sustainability coordinator, a position envisioned as one that would oversee conservation and energy issues within the town. The position, which would have been funded through a $206,600 grant from the United States Department of Energy, stalled after board members Chris Nuzzi and Jim Malone expressed concern the job would eventually become a civil service position funded by taxpayer dollars. However, according to the resolution, the sustainability coordinator would be a non-union position in the town.

According to Cohen, who broached the subject hoping to garner the support of the CAC in asking the town move forward with the hire, despite the support of Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and councilwoman Nancy Grabowski, without Malone or Nuzzi ready to approve the position, and without a fifth councilperson, the board was at a stalemate. A new vote is expected later this month, on March 23.

“It’s budget neutral,” explained Cohen, who said he was quite upset the town had not moved forward last month. “If we don’t take this grant someone else will take the grant.”

“This is why we are in such financial problems,” countered Collins, arguing the grant is funded by federal taxes.

“What I am saying is the money has already been spent,” replied Cohen. “It is a question of whether it comes here or goes elsewhere.”

Cohen argued that in addition to being funded by grant monies this year, the coordinator is responsible for securing grants to continue the position in coming years. There is also a financial benefit to having the coordinator, he said, as they will be charged with promoting and helping to find funding for energy saving projects within the town and for residents, as well as implementing sustainability programs that require a coordinator in order for the town to be eligible for grant monies.

“Because in theory you are opposed to spending taxpayer money, we can’t have the benefit,” asked Cohen. “Let’s let another town have it?”

Collins said often once a town position or department is created, no matter what, that department is never disbanded or the position eliminated.

“But if the person hired is doing something beneficial for the town and the individual saves the town money, wouldn’t you say that is a good hire,” countered Cohen.

Collins said he would like to see an in-house hire, rather than a new town employee, but Cohen said the town has looked in-house and failed to find someone interested or qualified for the job.

“I like to see government conservative in its spending, but I have never been a believer that we don’t have to pay for what we want,” said Cohen.

“And believe me, if this guy doesn’t deliver the goods, he won’t slip under the radar,” agreed CAC chairman John Linder.

Failing to reach consensus, Cohen said he would rather the CAC not weigh in on the issue as a body, although members later said they would write personal letters of support for the position.

In other CAC news, the head of Southampton Town Code Enforcement Donald Kauth approached the committee in what he said was a renewed effort by his department to reach out to civic associations in the town. After walking the committee through the code enforcement department’s role in the town, Kauth said it was his hope organizations and individuals alike continue to inform the department about any concerns they may have. The code enforcement department can be reached by calling 702-2927.

CAC Seeks Larger Role in Local Development

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John Linder, the chairman of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), wants to ensure large developments are not railroaded through the Southampton Town planning department without ample public input from town residents, he said during a meeting last Friday.

Linder would like the CAC, a civic organization regulated by Southampton Town, to be allowed to comment on issues like the development of the former Bulova Watchcase Factory, which is located in the Village of Sag Harbor and therefore is not subject to the CAC’s jurisdiction.

To this end, during the committee’s monthly meeting on January 8, Linder suggested the committee focus its efforts on the town’s planning department and board, with hopes of gently expanding the role of CACs in development issues on the East End.

The recommendations followed a meeting with Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst, who will host regular sessions with CAC chairs to take the pulse of the town at large.

“Anna, to her credit, seems to be welcoming and open to all this input,” said Linder. Frank Zappone, Throne-Holst’s deputy supervisor who will oversee the town’s interaction with the CACs, has asked that all CACs come up with a list of issues they would like the town to focus on in the coming year, said Linder.

Linder suggested the CAC concentrate on improving planning and zoning processes in the town by weighing in on developments in their hamlets at the beginning of the process rather than at the end, when changes become more difficult.

“We want to establish a culture that stresses planning over processing,” said Linder, citing the Town of East Hampton’s policy on public input early on in an application as a model for the Town of Southampton.

Linder said he would like to see a member of the board assigned to a geographic area and available to community leaders during the course of an application. He also said he would like to see professional standards set for board members, with performance evaluations and legislation in place that would allow for the removal of a board member if just cause was established.

“I am not sure I like that,” said CAC member Eric Cohen.

Linder also suggested the town re-examine the zoning for each hamlet, using community input, and the establishment of affordable housing guidelines for each community based on the hamlet’s wants and needs. He said there should be a focus on the town’s code enforcement department, and to ensure it is doing its job.

Shana Conron said she believed the Sag Harbor CAC should concentrate its efforts particularly on code enforcement and making changes to the planning process.

“I would rather work on two projects that may become a reality,” she said.

Linder agreed that while the rest of the CACs in Southampton Town may focus on this general list of priorities, he would also like to see Sag Harbor concentrate on code enforcement and development.

“This is a good beginning, because it will create a forum to address these issues,” said Linder. “What I am looking to do with this opportunity is, one, gently expand the CAC border and borderline issues so that, for example, we could get more involved in a project like Bulova; if the hope now is that someone will find new financing and bring a project to Sag Harbor that everyone wanted – one with mixed uses.”

The Sag Harbor CAC opposed the approved, and now stalled, luxury condo project at the historic watchcase factory, hoping for mixed uses at the site as well as affordable housing.

Linder said he would also like to revisit establishing affordable housing on the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike, although he admitted that budgetary concerns from the federal government down to the village government could make that project an uphill battle.

“I don’t know how this can happen, but we can at least begin a process,” he said.

In other CAC news, Cohen suggested the committee consider expanding its borders to include members of the Sagaponack community that disbanded their CAC after the hamlet became a village.

“We are called the Sag Harbor CAC, but we don’t really represent Sag Harbor,” said Cohen. “I was thinking we might want to change our name to the South Sag Harbor CAC – we might get more members that way.”

Linder said he would like to reach out to the community first to see if there was interest.

“I don’t know that we need to test this,” said Cohen. “They are unrepresented now, so if they join, great. I think it is really who we represent anyway.”

Stories of a Seasoned Journalist

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Interested in the spirit, and tactics, required of investigative journalists who uncover stories of political and environmental importance, Sag Harbor Citizen Advisory Committee (Sag Harbor CAC) Chairman John Linder reached out to the East End reporter, columnist, author and broadcaster Karl Grossman.

On Tuesday night, Grossman joined the Sag Harbor CAC, giving the group a brief history of his career in journalism and highlighting some current crusades the veteran reporter has made a priority.

Grossman has never covered Sag Harbor, although the reporter of 40-years has lived in the community with his wife, Janet, since 1974, and his grandfather worked at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory in the heart of the village before moving to New York City.

Originally, Grossman aspired to be a college professor – an aspiration he would eventually achieve, but after working at The Cleveland Press through an Antioch College program, Grossman found himself inspired by the newspaper’s motto, “Give the people light and they will find their own way.” After his internship at the press, “a scrappy little paper that took on power,” Grossman dedicated much of his life in the 1960s and 1970s to investigative journalism in New York and on Long Island.

Starting out at The Babylon Town Leader, Grossman found a knack for environmental journalism, taking on the all-powerful Robert Moses when he began a string of articles focused on the urban planner’s goal of constructing a four-lane roadway on Fire Island.

“I spent almost two years crusading against that road, while Newsday, The New York Times and The Long Island Press were all in Moses’s pocket,” said Grossman. “It really taught me, if you can give people the light, illuminate the real issue, people will find their way.”

Moses was ultimately unsuccessful, and Grossman said the powerful planner had him fired and almost blacklisted in the industry as a result, although he found his way back at The Long Island Press, his home as an investigative journalist until it closed its doors in 1977. There he uncovered political corruption in Southampton Town, and fought against the creation of a nuclear power plant in Shoreham.

“The environment became my main thing,” said Grossman of his career. “I finally felt as an investigative reporter, I was doing something that had meaning.”

It was during his tenure at The Press that Grossman began his career in broadcasting – which he continues to this day as a weekly commentator at WLIU-FM and through his nationally syndicated television show, “Enviro Close-Up.” Grossman is also a professor of journalism at the State University of New York’s College at Old Westbury and the author of six books tied to environmental journalism. He continues his role in journalism through weekly columns that appear in The Sag Harbor Express and The Southampton Press, as well as through magazine articles nationwide.

“I have been investigating a lot recently into this move to revive nuclear power as a solution to global warming,” said Grossman, noting nuclear power actually contributes significantly to global warming through the mining, milling and fuel enrichment needed to create the energy source. “And there is a real alternative, with solar, wind and other clean energies.”

Grossman said his energy bill clocks in at about $5 a month, due in part to the installation of solar panels on his roof.

“So there is no need to go nuclear except for those who profit from the industry,” he said.

“To me, environmental journalism is in part about the scenery,” said Grossman. “But I also see it as life or death …You have these vested interests, a combination of big business, big government, big science, but in the meanwhile people are dying and everyone knows it and there is no need for it.”

Sag Harbor CAC Set to Oppose Private Waste Management for Town

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The Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to the Town of Southampton continues to focus on regional issues affecting the whole of the town, this week continuing a discussion about public access to the planning board and how the town is handling its solid waste management department.

Currently, the town is just beginning to assess the true cost of its waste management department, which has been in the red and which some officials have suggested should be privatized to save taxpayers money. Members of the North Sea CAC and North Sea Civic Council are not sure the idea will save taxpayer’s money and have concerns it will increase traffic in their hamlet.

On Friday, North Sea CAC and Civic Council members Dan Gebbia and Lucy Dunne attended the Sag Harbor CAC to discuss their concerns. After hearing Gebbia and Dunne out, the Sag Harbor CAC agreed it would support the North Sea CAC by adding their names to a letter to town officials questioning the change.

According to CAC and Coalition for the Preservation of Sag Harbor (CONPOSH) member Priscilla Ciccariello, in light of these concerns CONPOSH will host a forum on Sunday, September 20 at 2 p.m. at the Sag Harbor Presbyterian (Old Whalers) Church discussing solid waste, although a panel of experts has yet to be announced.

CAC member Stephen Schumann is continuing to monitor areas where trash is being illegally dumped, in particular on Town Line and Scuttlehole roads. According to Schumann, now that the community is in the throes of summer, illegal dumping has gotten particularly bad.

Schumann said he intended to reach out to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who has helped the CAC on this issue in the past and the group decided not to take further action until that summit was held.

In other CAC news, the Coalition East – a group of CACs east of the Shinnecock Canal that have banded together in order to present a united front to town officials on regional issues – has continued to hammer away on recommendations it will make to the Southampton Town Planning Board in the hopes of giving the public a greater voice in the planning process.

According to CAC Chairman John Linder, not just community groups, but local contractors, support the concept of allowing public input early on in the planning process for developments in the town.

“We all just want the whole thing to be more streamlined and efficient,” explained Linder.

The Group for the East End has also been helping craft these recommendations, including one that would create a committee of experts which would review ambitious projects proposed in the town in an advisory capacity for the planning board, which is an appointed board.

Linder said a final draft was not ready, but that he would keep the committee informed when it was completed.

Lastly, the committee agreed to reach out to the Water Mill CAC to ask if they would like the Sag Harbor CAC’s support in their opposition to a proposed cell phone tower in Water Mill.

“It’s humongous,” said Ciccariello.

CAC Wants Voice at Planning Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad News From the County

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Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman presented some pretty grim news to the Sag Harbor Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) to the Town of Southampton on Friday, January 9. Schneiderman updated the CAC on the state of the county budget and legislative reforms for housing county sex offenders.
Schneiderman was a member of the budget working group that finalized the county’s 2009 budget. Nearly $1.2 billion of the county’s $3 billion yearly budget is garnered from sales tax. The budgetary group had predicted that sales tax revenues would increase by one percent for this fiscal year, but Schneiderman believes it will shrink for the first time since he was elected to the county legislature.
“Ten years ago, [sales tax revenues] were growing by seven or eight percent a year,” Schneiderman told the CAC. “[This year] there may be less goods sold than the year before and that would be devastating to the county in terms of delivering services.
This year, Schneiderman’s office reduced the number of grants it awards to various community organizations. Schneiderman’s grant money was decreased by almost $65,000. He focused his funding on organizations that provide necessities, like the Sag Harbor Food Pantry.
“I tried to focus on groups that do relief work, so some of the historical societies and beautification groups have lost their money,” said Schneiderman on Monday. He added that these relief groups augment the strain on the county by providing services to needy members of the community.
Schneiderman also discussed with the CAC two pieces of legislation related to housing homeless sex offenders, which he is trying to pass in the county legislature.
Currently, all homeless Suffolk County sex offenders who require emergency evening housing are taken to a trailer in the parking lot of the county jail in Riverhead. Nightly, the trailer houses some 20 level II and level III sex offenders. Level III sex offenders present the highest risk and are considered the most likely to re-offend. Schneiderman has received claims from members of the Riverhead community that these sex offenders have been seen wandering throughout the town and reportedly near areas where children gather. By law, a convicted sex offender is required to stay beyond 500 feet of a school, playground or daycare center.
The first of Schneiderman’s proposed legislations would require that no more than four homeless sex offenders are housed in any given trailer without a monitoring program. If the number exceeds four, then offenders would be given a tracking device or would be chaperoned if they want to leave the premises at any point during the evening.
The second piece of legislation calls for the facility at Riverhead to house only sex offenders from the five East End towns. The other sex offenders, proposes Schneiderman, should be sent to a trailer set up at their nearest police precinct. There are seven precincts in the county, and Schneiderman noted with his legislation, there would be a total of eight trailers in the county.
Schneiderman drafted both pieces of legislation hoping that the county legislature will choose one as a solution to this situation.
“It’s not that we shouldn’t be compassionate, but you really don’t want these individuals near your children,” said Schneiderman. “Some of their victims are young children.”
The Sag Harbor CAC members agreed that the second piece of legislation was better. CAC member Eric Cohen wondered if the first piece of legislation, which is designed to hinder the movement of these sex offenders who have already completed their jail time, would present certain issues of legality.

Above: Jay Schneiderman speaks with Sag Harbor CAC member Shauna Conran on the County’s finances.