Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees"

Sag Harbor Village Board Revokes Page at 63 Main Outdoor Dining License

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Waiters remove chairs from Page at 63 Main Friday afternoon after the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees revoked the restaurant’s outdoor dining license. 

By Stephen J. Kotz

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees on Friday, July 18, revoked the outdoor dining license of Page at 63 Main restaurant. The village board took the action, Mayor Brian Gilbride said, primarily because of ongoing code compliance issues with the restaurant’s new Back Page café, which opened earlier this year.

It did so after attorney Dennis Downes—who told the board the outdoor dining on Main Street earned the restaurant between $7,500 and $10,000 a day—said its owners would shut down the Back Page café immediately until zoning code violations were resolved and a site plan was issued if the village would allow it to keep its outdoor dining license.

Minutes after the village issued its order, at about 5 p.m., waiters were busy removing the tables and chairs that had graced the front of the restaurant next door to the Municipal Building.

The restaurant found itself in hot water when village officials said it made improvements to the property without first obtaining building permits. Village officials also said the restaurant created an outdoor dining area with a slate patio, when the village Planning Board had intended for it to be used simply as a waiting area for patrons who wanted to dine in the main restaurant.

Village officials also said a refrigerated Dumpster enclosure that was built behind the Back Page posed a fire hazard because it was wired for electricity, a charge the restaurant’s representatives denied.

The village also charged that Page did not remove the same number of seats from inside the restaurant as it offered outside, as it had agreed to do when applying for the license.

Last week, the village building inspector suspended the Main Street dining license, pending the restaurant’s appearance next week in village Justice Court. In the meantime, said Mayor Gilbride, the restaurant’s owners “thumbed their nose” at the village.

“We’re here talking because when there was a suspension… the right thing would have been to remove the tables and chairs and let’s get to the bottom of this,” the mayor said.

Mr. Downes sought to prevent the village board from taking action, saying the outdoor dining right was “a valuable property right” that the village could not revoke without “due process.”

Village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. called those charges “ludicrous,” adding that the village only charged $100 for a license and said if outdoor seats were as valuable as Mr. Downes said they were, the village should be charging more. “It’s a privilege to use public property for a private use,” Mr. Thiele said.

Mr. Downes conceded that mistake had been made, but said the restaurant had been held up during the planning process and had to do the work to be ready for the summer season.

“Without those seats, there is a lot of money being lost,” said Mr. Downes of the outdoor dining. “It could be the difference between being able to stay alive in the winter where there are less people out here.”

Septic Rebates Stalled

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by Stephen J. Kotz

The Sag Harbor Village Board on Tuesday tabled a proposal to launch a pilot program to offer rebates for septic system upgrades after questions were raised about how the program would be funded and who would qualify for the rebates.

Trustee Robby Stein, who is typically the most vocal member of the board in supporting anti-pollution measures, questioned who would qualify.

“My concern is we’re not subsidizing the 1 percent,” he said.

“I question why myself, as a Main Street resident, would be subsidizing people who own waterfront homes worth millions of dollars,” added former Mayor and Trustee Pierce Hance.

Although Mayor Brian Gilbride said he wanted to allocate $50,000 to the project, much as Southampton Town did with a similar program last year, Mr. Hance argued that the way the law was written there was no spending cap. He also said the board should determine whether the septic rebate program should really be a top priority for the village.

Trustee Ed Deyermond asked where funding would come from, and Mr. Gilbride said it would be taken from a surplus fund of more than $1 million that the village has on hand.

“I applaud the village for taking this on,” said Bruce Tait, the chairman of the Harbor Committee, “but I was actually shocked that the harbor committee wasn’t informed.” He said because the village has a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, it might qualify for state aid.

The village program would provide rebates limited to between $2,500 and $3,000 for the replacement of old septic systems that were installed before 1981.

The board tabled the discussion until next month.

Septic Rebate Law Up for Hearing

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees will hold a public hearing on a new law that would offer rebates for homeowners replacing aging septic systems when it meets at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 10.

The law would offer rebates for up to half the cost of replacing a septic system that was installed before 1981 and had not been upgraded or repaired since.

In most cases, the rebate would be limited to $2,500, although it would be doubled for alternate sewage disposal systems as defined by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

Rebates would be increased if a septic system being replaced  was within 200 feet of any water body.

Last month, Mayor Brian Gilbride noted that the village had set aside $50,000 in next year’s budget to kick-start the program, which would provide funds on a first-come, first-served basis.

The law will be tweaked to prevent homeowners who are upgrading their septic systems as part of any development project to qualify for the rebate, the mayor said.

A similar law was adopted in Southampton in 2013.

“In the upper cove, we are starting to see issues,” Mr. Gilbride said last month. “We are a waterfront community, and this is something I’d really like to get done.”

Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees Closing the Books

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees will meet at 9 a.m. next Thursday, May 29, for its annual end of the fiscal year meeting. The board will also consider any other items that must be addressed in a timely fashion at the meeting, which takes place on the second floor of the Municipal Building on Main Street.

The North Haven Village Board of Trustees will hold its own meeting to close the books on the 2013-14 year at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28, at North Haven Village Hall on Ferry Road.

Personnel Salaries Capped in 2014-15 Sag Harbor Village Budget

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees unveiled a tentative budget on March 19, highlighted by $91,040 in cuts made from a previous draft of the 2014-15 spending plan, primarily through the reduction of full-time salary increases across several departments.

What was originally an $8.59 million budget was cut between March 5 and March 19. Personnel cuts were made in the justice court’s budget, which was reduced by $7,610; the village treasurer’s budget was cut by $1,680; the clerk’s full-time personnel costs were cut by $1,050; central garage personnel was cut by $2,747; custodial personnel was cut by $5,305; and highway department personnel was cut by $14,181.

A line item for a proposed administrator for the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps, originally budgeted to cost $80,942 next year, was reduced by $17,442 to $63,500, which, according to Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, accounts for salary and benefit expenses associated with the position.

During last Wednesday’s meeting, Trustee Ed Deyermond asked about dock repairs in the village. That line item under Harbors & Docks was cut by $10,000 to $50,000 for the next fiscal year. Mr. Deyermond said that repairs would be necessary, not just for Long Wharf, but for all of the village’s docks including those at Marine Park. The village board is currently awaiting an engineering report on what repairs are necessary on Long Wharf. It has debated whether or not to tackle those repairs piecemeal or to bond for what will likely be a project that costs several thousand dollars.

Trustee Deyermond also raised concerns about the fire department’s truck reserve not being adequately funded. The fire department’s $401,406 budget does not include any money for the reserve account, which the department uses to purchase vehicles.

“We always put something in that account,” said Trustee Deyermond, adding the reserve has about $174,000 remaining, but the department is on schedule to purchase a new pumper in 2017. Without adding to the reserve annually, it will not have the funding to pay for that new vehicle.

“We have been down this road for many, many years and I think we have to plan for the future,” Mr. Deyermond said.

Mayor Gilbride said he would like to see a full assessment of the fire department’s vehicles made by an outside agency.

Trustee Deyermond replied that he had no issue with a needs assessment, but did want to make sure the truck reserve had adequate funding.

“I don’t see, especially with the tax cap we are all trying to stay under, us coming up with a big chunk of money two or three years down the road,” he said.

Kelly Dodds, president of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, also approached the board, asking it to reinstate some of the chamber’s $4,000 in funding, cut completely out of the 2014-15 spending plan.

That funding, she noted, helps the chamber pay the $11,000 annually it spends to staff the windmill at Long Wharf, which had 9,000 visitors this year all looking for information on Sag Harbor and the East End.

Mayor Gilbride questioned the money the chamber raises in arts and crafts festivals and HarborFest, noting it charges people who have booths at both events.

The Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit entity, noted Ms. Dodds.

“Our events are meant to break even,” she said. “The money we make from those events goes into publicizing those events, paying for insurance. We have the lowest membership rates on the East End.”

Ms. Dodds asked the board to reconsider.

On Tuesday, Mayor Gilbride said he expected little would change before the budget is considered for adoption, on Wednesday, April 2, at 4 p.m.

In Sag Harbor, A Priority of Public Projects for 2014

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By Kathryn G. Menu

In its last meeting for 2013, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees met in special session Thursday afternoon to talk about a list of village projects that are coming into focus for 2014.

Repairs to Long Wharf, upgrading the Municipal Building with an elevator that would allow access to the long-vacant third and fourth floors of that Main Street building, and constructing a helipad at Havens Beach for emergency service use were three projects village board members debated Thursday.

At the close of the session, board members passed a resolution to get estimates on the cost of all three projects.

While board members agreed all three projects were worth looking at, at the start of the session, with just Mayor Brian Gilbride, Trustee Ken O’Donnell and Trustee Robby Stein in attendance, there was division on how a project like Long Wharf — a project that likely comes with a hefty price tag — should be funded.

“My feeling is we should bond it and do it all at once,” said O’Donnell.

Stein agreed, noting that village treasurer Eileen Tuohy has advised trustees interest rates are historically low, making it desirable to bond for a project of this size.

And sizable it will likely be.

While the village board will now await an updated survey detailing the repair and maintenance needs of Long Wharf, it has been several years since anything outside of annual maintenance performed by village crews has been completed on the aging facility.

In 2010, part of the impetus for Suffolk County to look to Sag Harbor Village as a means of ridding itself of ownership of Long Wharf was a report from the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, outlining over $600,000 in immediate repairs necessary to keep the wharf in working order. While the transfer of Long Wharf to Sag Harbor Village — an over two-year process — did go through, neither the county nor the village ever completed that list of repairs.

In March of this year, village engineer Paul Grosser compiled a schedule of repairs over a 10-year period. The village board discussed funding those repairs — at a total cost of $1 million — with $100,000 annually earmarked annually. Last month, Tuohy suggested it might be fiscally prudent to consider bonding instead.

Gilbride, who has staunchly opposed bonding for the repairs, noted the reserve repair fund has $1.2 million and while the village has paid for the Havens Beach remediation, it is expecting close to $300,000 back from the county and the state for that water quality project.

“I think we have to get a closer handle on what Long Wharf needs,” said Gilbride.

Stein agreed.

“Once we know about the cost, then we should talk about how to pay for it,” he said. “I am not so worried about bonding. I just don’t want to do piecemeal for this project.”

A longtime goal of Gilbride has been to see the village open up the third and fourth floors of the Municipal Building through the construction of an elevator. The village currently has a lift, which provides access from the first to the second floor including the meeting room, building department and justice court for the disabled. However, noted Gilbride, that lift has begun to falter and rather than replace it, he would like the board to consider installing an elevator that would enable the village to make use of the third floor for office space and the fourth floor for storage.

“It’s a key element to getting into the third floor and moving the building department up there,” he said, noting making the fourth floor usable in terms of office space is a larger — and pricier — challenge than he would like to take on this coming year.

According to Gilbride, installing an elevator would cost the village about $165,000.

A 2012 report detailing the cost of Municipal Building repairs and upgrades, including the elevator, estimated $1.8 million in funding would be necessary, which would include sprinkler system for the third floor and the extension of fire escapes to all floors in the building.

On Thursday, the board agreed to look into the cost of just installing the elevator, sprinkler system, and fire escapes — all necessary if the village wants to legally do business on the third floor.

The board also signed off, with little debate, on having an estimate drawn up for the creation of a helipad on Havens Beach. The helipad would specifically be for emergency service providers to use in the instance where a medevac is required out of Sag Harbor.

The next Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for January 14 at 6 p.m.

Sag Harbor Village Trustees Unanimously Adopt $8.78 Million Budget That Lays Off an Officer

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Early last Thursday morning, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees adopted an $8.78 million budget for 2013-2014 which includes a $519,000 budget for the village’s sewer fund. But among the items reduced for 2013-2014 is the village police department’s budget —  which will now be forced to cut one officer, leaving the department with 10 officers and its chief.

The decision, after months of debate, will result in officer David Driscoll losing his job with the department as its newest hire. Driscoll, an officer who transferred to the department from the Southampton Town Police Department, was honored as the village’s officer of the year this past January for his work in 2012, including for his service as a member of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office East End DWI Task Force.

The general fund budget of $8,263,381 is a 2.57 percent increase over the 2012-2013 adopted budget and falls below the allowable 4.1 percent spending increase under New York State’s mandated two percent property tax levy cap.

The tax rate under the budget, per $1,000 of assessed value, is set at 2.830, a 3.89 percent increase over last year. Village treasurer Eileen Touhy estimates a house valued at $795,000 in Sag Harbor Village would pay $2,249.85 in village taxes, a 0.0389 increase or $84.27.

Throughout the budget process, the village board discussed scaling back the number of officers in the Sag Harbor Village Police Department to 10 officers. The department currently operates with 11 officers and the chief after the departure of officer Michael Gigante last year amid an ongoing contract negotiation between the village and the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA).

Officers in the department have been working without a contract for close to two years now. That contract negotiation is currently in arbitration.

While the vote Thursday morning was quickly held — and was unanimous among the board’s four members, Mayor Brian Gilbride, Deputy Mayor Ed Gregory, trustee Kevin Duchemin and trustee Robby Stein — what followed was a prolonged debate between members of the department, its chief and the village board about the impact this decision would have on public safety in Sag Harbor.

Police Chief Thomas Fabiano questioned the decision and asked if the board intended to increase his overtime budget, estimating it could cost as much as $300,000 in overtime to replace losing an officer.

“To me this is, again, an incomplete budget,” said Fabiano, adding he feels officer Driscoll has been used as a carrot in ongoing negotiations with the PBA.

Gilbride dismissed that claim and questioned how the schedule would necessitate an additional $300,000 in overtime.

“This is not about an officer or anything else, but it is about the fact we don’t have an unlimited budget,” said Stein. He added he has received calls from people asking the future of the department be put to a public vote, something he is reluctant to do because he is unsure whether the outcome would result in Sag Harbor maintaining its own police department.

Fabiano noted the village board had not even reached the tax levy cap limits yet and questioned why Stein — or other board members — had not talked to him about the impact this will have on his department.

Stein responded he had spoken about this cut at previous meetings, but did not want to have private meetings about a public issue.

Gilbride said ultimately the decision came down to whether or not the village could afford these kinds of costs. The police department budget for 2013-2014, before any figures are calculated when arbitration ends and officers are compensated retroactively for any increases in salaries or benefits for the last two years, is for $1,659,765.

Fabiano said this is a safety issue and called on the board to develop a long range plan for the police department.

“Summer’s coming up and now I have another guy leaving,” he said, adding part time officers are reluctant to come to Sag Harbor given the level of discourse regarding the police department.

“I am confident with 10 people this village can run a police department,” said Gilbride, who added he went to arbitration last week with a specific goal of trying to keep the 11th position with the support of the full village board. He alleged the PBA asked for a three percent increase in salary and eight-hour fixed shifts, but did not make an effort to save officer Driscoll’s position.

“Why would we put ourselves in a position to not negotiate on behalf of the total membership,” asked PBA president Patrick Milazzo.

He added that the village has offered zero percent salary increases in negotiations and denied claims the PBA did not try to save the 11th position.

“I don’t believe you,” said Gilbride. “And this is not the first time you have not done something to save that 11th position.

“What I am trying to do is negotiate for my entire membership,” countered Milazzo. “What I am not going to do is put myself in a position where I am going to negotiate for a portion of my personnel. That is absurd.”

He added he believes the village is trying to paint this picture to put the blame of this loss on the PBA instead of the village board.

“The village is getting to the point where we can’t afford it,” said Gilbride.

“Then don’t,” said Milazzo. “Do it or don’t, but don’t half ass it.”

“Are you saying we should put something up to abolish the police department,” asked Gilbride.

“If you are not going to do it the right way, don’t do it,” said Milazzo, noting that has been his position consistently when discussing the future of the Sag Harbor Village Police Department.

“By diminishing our department by officer Driscoll’s position you are putting us all in jeopardy,” said Sergeant Paul Fabiano.

He added he believes the police budget and the ongoing contract negotiations should not be linked.

“We are supposed to train, we are supposed to prepare but when you have a one person shift, you don’t have adequate personnel, equipment to do the job, you are set up to fail and that is what is happening in my opinion,” said Sergeant Fabiano.

He added the chief was able to find some $70,000 or more in the budget to try and save the position and the village board should have worked to find the rest of the estimated $180,000 needed to keep the 11th position for the upcoming fiscal year.

The fear is not just for the community, said Sergeant Fabiano, but also for officers on duty, some of whom he feared may have to be on duty on their own to accommodate this loss of an officer.

Gilbride said he believed most shifts would remain two-man shifts.

“Can this department run with 10 people, yes. Does it run efficiently, no. Is there a safety issue, absolutely,” said Sergeant Fabiano, adding Detective Jeff Proctor — the department’s only detective — must work patrol duty, taking away from his investigative work.


Sag Harbor Village Hatches Long Term Plan for Long Wharf

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It’s been about two years since Suffolk County officials first approached Sag Harbor Village with news that a mounting county budget deficit had led them to consider giving the village Long Wharf, technically a county road, and all costs associated with its long-term maintenance.

Since that time, the county legislature waffled on the transfer, then appeared willing to go through with the offer. But then a change in command came in 2011 with the election of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, further stalling an official transfer of Long Wharf to Sag Harbor as the county reorganized itself under new leadership.

However, last month, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman — a longtime supporter of the transfer of Long Wharf to Sag Harbor Village — said he expects the county to formally sign off on the deal some time before December.

If the deal goes through, the village will have in its ownership one of the most iconic properties in Sag Harbor, a wharf that already provides a source of revenue for the village, but also comes with a lot of expenses.

During Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting, Mayor Brian Gilbride said he has contacted village treasurer Eileen Touhy and asked her to advise the board about creating a capital reserve fund to cover the long-term costs of maintaining Long Wharf.

According to a 2010 assessment of Long Wharf, completed by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, at that point a total of $621,000 in repairs were necessary to keep the wharf in good condition.

Mayor Gilbride estimated Long Wharf incurs an estimated $100,000 in maintenance needs each year, meaning as of 2012 about $800,000 in repairs and maintenance could be needed.

While the village does have an estimated $2 million in its reserve fund, Mayor Gilbride said that money should be reserved for critical projects like the remediation of the Havens Beach stormwater runoff drainage ditch and for emergency expenditures.

Taking a cue from an idea presented by the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee last year, Mayor Gilbride said he would like to see all revenues from renting Long Wharf — this season an estimated $85,000 — funneled into that account.

Gilbride said he hopes to have a reserve account for the wharf in place sometime in the next two weeks.

Trustee Seat Up For Grabs

On Tuesday night, with Sag Harbor Trustee Robby Stein still hospitalized after a bicycle accident Sunday and with the recent resignation of trustee Tim Culver, Mayor Gilbride was joined on the dais by just two members of the village board — trustees Kevin Duchemin and Ed Gregory.

Sag Harbor resident Nada Barry wondered when the board would look to appoint someone to the board to replace Culver, whose term was set to expire in nine months.

Mayor Gilbride said at this point he had no intentions of making an appointment, later adding if it is the will of the board he would prefer to see the public elect a new trustee next summer rather than appoint someone.

Harbor Committee Talks Ferry

In other news, the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee met on Monday evening and at the close of its session, members talked about the possibility of the Hampton Jitney proposing a long-term passenger ferry service out of Sag Harbor.

This summer, the Hampton Jitney launched a passenger ferry, the Peconic Bay Water Jitney, which runs service between Greenport and Sag Harbor villages.

Ferry service — passenger or vehicular — is illegal under the Sag Harbor Village code, but early this summer the village board agreed to allow the Hampton Jitney to operate the service on a temporary basis for one summer season to study the impact it could have on the village.

The service started out slow, but picked up in terms of passengers as the summer season progressed, prompting the Hampton Jitney to expand the service through the month of September.

The village’s conditional approval of the ferry service sunsets at the end of October.

Whether or not the Hampton Jitney will pursue an application for a long-term passenger ferry service out of Sag Harbor Village remains uncertain. According to Hampton Jitney vice president Andrew Lynch, the company has yet to make a decision on that front.

However, members of the Harbor Committee are already attempting to understand the legal implications of such a proposal.

According to Sag Harbor Village attorney Denise Schoen, if the village board wanted to consider allowing a long-term service it would need to adopt a new local law.

Suffolk County is the permitting agent for all ferry service in terms of its license to operate and rates and has already given the Peconic Bay Water Jitney a five-year license. However, the ferry cannot operate out of Sag Harbor without village approval once its conditional approval ends this fall.

“My question is, once we give them a permit to dock on our dock do we have any control on where they go,” asked Harbor Committee Chairman Bruce Tait on Monday night.

Tait said his concern was the service could balloon from a small ferry service between the North and South Forks to a multi-pronged ferry service offering other destinations like Montauk or Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.

Schoen said she did not believe the village could mandate how the Hampton Jitney decides to run its passenger ferry business, but that village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. was already researching the village’s options should it want to continue to allow the service, but with some restriction.

Tait also wondered if a year-to-year license agreement might protect the village.

Schoen said as property owners of Long Wharf a license agreement may give the village board leeway in deciding not to renew the license if the service grows beyond what the village deems appropriate for Sag Harbor.

“The general consensus from the public and from our internal ferry committee is the negative impact of the ferry has been very little,” noted Tait.

“One of the caveats to that,” added Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren, “is that is based on where the ferry is right now.”

“And we don’t know what the future is,” agreed Tait.

Sag Harbor Trustees Withdraw Bamboo Ban

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Following both praise and criticism by Sag Harbor residents over a proposed law that would have banned bamboo in the village, on Tuesday night the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees voted to withdraw the legislation from consideration.

“I have been talking to different people and I think the best thing to do is to advise people not to plant invasive species,” said trustee Robby Stein, first suggesting the proposed legislation be tabled and then suggesting it be withdrawn completely.

The rest of the village board supported Stein unanimously, including Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride.

The legislation was originally introduced in September after the village board heard the pleas of resident Pat Field this summer. Field said she has done almost everything imaginable in an effort to kill bamboo spreading onto her Madison Street property from a neighbor’s yard. The bamboo, said Field, was threatening her very home.

Originally, the legislation targeted all invasive species of plants, but was quickly scaled back to address only bamboo. According to the last version of the draft law, if adopted residents would not have been allowed to have bamboo “planted, maintained or otherwise permitted to exist within 10-feet of any property line, street, sidewalk or public right of way.”

However, the legislation was criticized by some in the village — including homeowners facing a similar battle as Field — as being too far reaching for the local municipality, and potentially costly for village residents who bought properties that already contained bamboo.

“I think the discussion we have had was  a great discussion, but it showed clearly this is a neighbor to neighbor issue and the bigger issue here is there are residents who have bamboo and have done everything right,” said Mayor Gilbride. “It is the encroachment onto neighbor’s properties that really needs to be addressed.”

Prior to the meeting, Mayor Gilbride said he would ask Sag Harbor Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. to explore what options the village has to ensure property owners are properly maintaining their bamboo and not negatively impacting their neighbors.

Village to Take Closer Look at Municipal Building

Following a special Sag Harbor Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, December 8, the village has agreed to spend $15,000 to explore the structural integrity of the Municipal Building on Main Street.

According to Mayor Gilbride, the goal is to ascertain whether the third and fourth floors of the building — now used for solely storage and not open to the public — could be made accessible through an elevator in the building.

Currently, the Municipal Building has a lift installed to help disabled residents gain access to the second floor, which houses the village justice court, building department, main meeting room and the mayor’s office.

While much depends on what this structural assessment shows, Mayor Gilbride said it has long been a dream of his to have the third floor opened up for use by village government. An elevator is required by law for the village to place any entity needed by residents on the third floor.

Mayor Gilbride said he envisions moving the building department to the third floor, if an elevator could be installed, so that department would have more space in which to work. A mayor’s office and conference room for the village boards could also be carved out of that space, he added.

The village’s justice court has largely taken up most of the office space traditionally used as the conference room, as well as the mayor’s office.

According to Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley, he will work with engineers to first try and locate the original schematics for the Municipal Building, which dates back to at least 1850, he said.

After that, ascertaining the possibilities for the Municipal Building should happen rather quickly, said Yardley.

“These are all new thoughts,” cautioned Mayor Gilbride. “The toughest part will be seeing if we can get an elevator in here at all.”

A Divided Community in the Battle over Bamboo

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Carl Peterson takes a pick ax to the bamboo in his yard.

Carl Peterson takes a pick ax to the bamboo in his yard.

By Kathryn G. Menu

Carl Peterson has been battling bamboo on his Garden Street property for over 20 years. He fights back new shoots each spring and drives down barriers around one particularly dense bamboo stand to prevent it from crawling even closer to his foundation, which is also protected by barriers.

“The roots are like a cancer,” added Peterson Tuesday morning in his backyard. “The roots intertwine with all the other vegetation, and it is virtually impossible to control.”

While Peterson has fought the bamboo crop that originally was planted by a tenant 30 years ago on the property next door, he, along with several other village residents, expressed concerns this week over a proposed village law that would virtually outlaw most of the bamboo in Sag Harbor.

The proposed law is a scaled back version of an original law that sought to banish all invasive plant species within the village. The new version addresses only bamboo.

According to the draft law, residents would not be allowed to have bamboo “planted, maintained or otherwise permitted to exist within 10-feet of any property line, street, sidewalk or public right of way.”

At Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board meeting, a host of residents turned out both in favor and against the proposed law, although most said it needed to be more specific.

Before a public hearing on the proposed legislation was even opened, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said he had received a number of phone calls from residents concerned about the law.

“I have received a couple calls on this also,” said trustee Ed Gregory. “One person had bamboo on their property for 10 years and did what was necessary when it was installed to prevent it from migrating on other properties. They were concerned it presented a nice screening, but also to remove it and replant other plants would be quite expensive.”

Trustee Bruce Stafford wondered if instead, the village board should look at requiring property owners with bamboo to install barriers to prevent it from encroaching on neighboring properties

Former mayor Pierce Hance said that rather than outlawing bamboo altogether, he believed the village should look at requiring property owners who have bamboo encroaching on a neighbor’s land to take responsibility for its removal if the village hears a complaint.

Peterson wondered if it was something the village should legislate at all, or if it should be left as an issue handled neighbor to neighbor.

“Bamboo often comes back after supposed removal and the removal is extremely expensive,” said Peterson, adding adopting the law was tantamount to reducing the property values of anyone who has bamboo on their parcel. The properties containing bamboo could be viewed in the same light as a one with an underground fuel tank or termites, he said.

Peterson added that while the bamboo on his property is a result of a planting that occurred on his neighbor’s property, if he ran into property damage issues, he would reach out to his neighbor or in the worst case scenario consider litigation.

“It would never occur to me to come to the village trustees and ask them to address the situation,” he said.

Resident Mary Falborn does not have the same relationship with her neighbor as Peterson. She said after returning to her Sag Harbor home in July she discovered bamboo from her neighbor’s property had traveled some 30-feet into her yard, with 190 stalks visible on her property alone.

“Am I responsible,” she asked. “Do I have to put the barrier in for his bamboo?”
“Honestly, I think whoever planted the bamboo should be responsible,” said Mayor Gilbride.

Diane Schiavoni’s Oakland Avenue home has an established bamboo stand that has been there for two decades. If she is forced to remove it, Schiavoni said she would be left with a view of an unpainted garage.

“I think this is a neighbor to neighbor problem,” she said. “The answer is containment.”

Pat Field — who originally requested the village address encroaching bamboo — said she believes the law should focus on future plantings of bamboo, unless it is traveling over a property line, in which case the responsible party should install barriers.

“That was my idea,” she said. “I don’t want to change all of Sag Harbor.”

Sag Harbor Garden Center owner Phil Bucking’s business is surrounded on three sides by an enormous stand of bamboo that stretches across several properties. One property owner, said Bucking, has been responsible and contained the bamboo, which has prevented it from weaving its way onto Bucking’s property. The rest of the bamboo is not contained.

Bucking added that grandfathering in bamboo stands would be complicated because the plant spreads to other properties so quickly.

At the close of the hearing, Mayor Gilbride said he was unsure if this was something the village should legislate, but agreed to hold the hearing open through December to allow residents to continue to comment, while the village board weighs its options.