Tag Archive | "Southampton Town"

East End Supervisors Budget $200,000 for Wastewater Management Plans

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Southampton Town Supervisor allotted $100,000 in her tentative budget for 2015 to found a partnership with Stony Brook University. They intend to do nitrogen mapping in an attempt to prevent future toxic algal blooms, like the one that took place in Sag Harbor Cove, above, this summer. Photo by Mara Certic.

By Mara Certic

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and her East Hampton counterpart, Larry Cantwell, have both advocated for improving water quality on Long Island, and in their proposed budgets for 2015, each has allotted $100,000 to wastewater management plans.

Eastern Long Island lies over a sole source aquifer, meaning all of the drinking water in East Hampton and Southampton comes from one groundwater supply. There is no external source of water to import, and both private wells and “public water,” installed by the Suffolk County Water Authority, get their supply from the groundwater.

In his budget message, Mr. Cantwell said, “Management of wastewater is a challenge staring us straight in the eye.  The town needs to continue developing a town-wide wastewater management plan to address this key issue.”

“To date, the town through its staff and outside consultants has begun to gather, sort and analyze data that will eventually result in a comprehensive wastewater management plan for the town,” he continued.

According to East Hampton Budget Officer Len Bernard, the next phase is a continuation of the work Pio Lombardo of Lombardo Associates has been doing. Mr. Lombardo has written a draft wastewater management plan for the town, which includes neighborhood wastewater treatment centers and enforcing septic system inspections.

The management plan is concise and provides information for the many different areas of East Hampton Town and tentative solutions for each issue. “All the background numbers are done. Now they’re going toward specific actions with specific places,” said Mr. Bernard.

“I have included $100,000 in the tentative budget to begin the development of specific actions of the plan, recognizing that once the basic plan is completed and presented to the public, capital-funded construction and improvements will be required to carry out its recommendations,” Mr. Cantwell said.

“In order to reach that point, however, we need to fund the groundwork that must be performed now,” he said. That groundwork, Mr. Bernard said, will include the formation of “working groups” for different areas and neighborhoods. Those groups will have meetings Mr. Lombardo will attend in order to come up with appropriate wastewater management systems for each part of the town.

Mr. Cantwell also included an extra $10,000, for a total of $20,000, to go toward water quality testing in East Hampton.

This money, the supervisor said, is “for the specific purpose of performing more water quality testing to ensure water bodies that should be open are open and those that should be closed are closed, with the causes identified and mitigation plans established.”

According to Mr. Bernard, the water testing will be done jointly in conjunction with the East Hampton Town Trustees and will involve the same scientist they use for their testing, Dr. Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

Ms. Throne-Holst put $100,000 into Southampton’s operating budget to fund a partnership with Stony Brook University that will seek to mitigate excessive nitrogen in town waters.

Dr. Gobler himself compiled the partnership proposal for the town, which has two main objectives. The first is to attempt to identify the amount of nitrogen that needs to be removed from specific waterways in order to improve water quality.

According to Mr. Gobler, “Recently, a series of serious water quality impairments have emerged within Southampton Town waters including harmful algal blooms that have led to declines in seagrasses and fisheries.” One of the prime causes identified as intensifying the algal blooms is excessive nitrogen loading.

In the past two years, thanks to support from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Dr. Gobler has collected enough data to identify how much nitrogen loads must be reduced by in order to minimize the effect of toxic algal blooms on waterways and their ecosystems.

The second prong of this partnership will be to promote an awareness program about nitrogen loading for the residents of Southampton. According to Jen Garvey, Ms. Throne-Holst’s deputy chief-of-staff, some of Mr. Gobler’s doctoral students have developed a “nitrogen home footprint model.”

In this model, which will be available through the town website, homeowners can enter the size of their property, what fertilizer they use, the number of bathrooms, information about their septic systems, and so on. The model then estimates their household nitrogen output and offers personalized solutions for how to remove nitrogen from wastewater.

According to Dr. Gobler, “this proposal seeks to support the Town of Southampton within both efforts by enhancing public awareness of the nitrogen loading problem, how it has changed with time, and how they contribute to the problem, as well as by identifying specific nitrogen loading rate reduction strategies that will lead to improved water quality and ecosystems within Town of Southampton waters.”

Preserving the Past for the Future

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Architectural Conservationist Joel Snodgrass, at left, looks on as Volunteer Bill Single and Southampton Town Historian Zach Studenroth work on Nancy Rose's headstone as part of the restoration of the headstones at the Old Burial Ground on Little Plains Road.

Architectural Conservationist Joel Snodgrass, at left, looks on as Volunteer Bill Single and Southampton Town Historian Zach Studenroth work on Nancy Rose’s headstone as part of the restoration of the headstones at the Old Burial Ground on Little Plains Road.

By Gianna Volpe; photo by Michael Heller

Community volunteers learned about restoring historic burying sites this weekend at the area’s oldest graveyard – the Old Southampton Cemetery – during workshops led by preservation expert Joel Snodgrass.

Funded by the historic division of the Southampton Town Clerk’s Office, Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer said the weekend was invaluable to ensuring her records are as comprehensive as they can be.

“That’s exactly what these stones are,” Ms. Schermeyer said at Friday’s workshop. “They’re records, so it’s great that people are doing their part to help see that things like this are being preserved.”

Mr. Snodgrass, who received his Master’s Degree from Columbia University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, said preventing such sites from falling into ruin is gaining importance among those working in historic communities.

“We take for granted that historic, colonial burying sites sometimes contain the only record that remains of the existence of a person,” he said. “There’s no written records, there’s no church records, there’s no burial records – there’s no records; no nothing – so they’ve become very, very important from a genealogical and town record standpoint.”

Southampton Town historian Zachary Studenroth, who spent time Friday afternoon gently scraping sea foam green lichens from the nooks and crannies of the centuries-old tablets, said he’d witnessed this potential loss of history firsthand. ?“Years ago I was contacted by someone who said they’d moved to town and found a headstone in their carport and, not knowing where it belonged, had erected it in the woods behind their house,” said Mr. Studenroth. “Modern surveys showed no record of the stone, which belonged to a child we called ‘Little Danny,’ though it was included in an earlier cemetery survey done in the 1930s…It was very creepy because the stone was about the size and weight of a child, so it really was like we were carrying ‘Little Danny’ out of the woods to be reunited with his parents.”

Stories like that of  ‘Little Danny’ is exactly what made the workshop significant for volunteers like Karen Kiaer.

“It’s less about the stone preservation, although that’s important; it’s about the stories of the people under the stones,” said Ms. Kiaer, cemetery preservation project chairperson for the Shelter Island chapter of the Daughters of Revolution. “Stone by stone – as you’re digging up monuments to reset them  –– you’re also uncovering the monument of a person, and in Southampton, Southold and Shelter Island, you’re going back to the 1600s, to patriots, to the American Revolution.”

Southampton Town Videographer Charlie Styler took footage at this weekend’s workshop for a special he said will soon air on the Southampton Town Area Educational and Governmental Cable Channel 22.

Those interested in learning ways to bring sites like The Old Cemetery back to life can watch Mr. Styler’s footage to better understand preservation techniques like probing and pinning.

The first technique requires the use of thin, metal poles to “probe” the cemetery dirt for the buried bottom of a broken head or footstone, which Mr. Snodgrass said generically represents one-third the length of the entire stone.

Workshop volunteers like Bill Single and Chris Robinson used probing to find the bases of both head and footstones lying in the grass of The Old Southampton Cemetery grass, helping Mr. Snodgrass in “pinning” the broken pieces together after an epoxy was applied.

Mr. Snodgrass said extreme care should be taken when executing these techniques, as the historic objects are extremely delicate.

“You wouldn’t just pull it up because sometimes even suction on the back case of the fragile stone can cause damage,” he said of the need to excavate in order to make a match. “An inscription of a name – or typically initials – is usually an indication that they belong to each other.”

Maintenance to those stones still standing was also done this weekend, including the application of a microbial wash to remove lichens and other biological growth from the surfaces of porous marble and brownstone tablets.

“The porous stones, particularly ones with a granular quality to them, suffer from lichen growth,” Mr. Snodgrass said, adding gravestones offer the perfect environment for such clinging plants.

“[Gravestones] act as a perfect substrate,” he added. “They’ve got sort of a rough surface that can retain moisture and allows them to cling on easily, but more so, if you get normal rain the ground is damp, [gravestones] act as wicks, so the moisture will come up through the stone and evaporate out the surface of the stone.”

To mitigate biological growth at Old Southampton Cemetery, workshop volunteers used small pump sprayers to apply a non-toxic product called d2, which is used on the White House.

“It’s not meant to be put on and then it’s squeaky clean in 15 minutes,” Mr. Snodgrass said of the non-toxic liquid. “It’s designed to work over a period of time, so a month later you’ll see a change, even six months later. We treated the right one of two stones side by side – a husband and wife in a historic burying ground on the north shore – with d2 and the one on the right is entirely white now.”

 

 

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst Proposes $88.5 Million Budget for Southampton

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Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, pictured above, presented the Town’s Tentative 2015 Budget on Tuesday. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst presented Southampton Town’s $88.5 million proposed operating budget for 2015 on Tuesday, September 30.

“The 2015 tentative budget, and my previous four budgets, is based on the notion that sound financial footing is the bedrock upon which all town services rests,” said Ms. Throne-Holst.

“The degree and quality for which the town can provide for public safety, safe and well maintained roadways, clean and accessible beaches, parks and public spaces—and a host of other services that support and improve the quality of life for our citizens depends on our ability to provide that sound financial footing,” she continued.

“I am proposing modest increases in both the operating and capital budgets—principally in the Highway and Public Safety Funds, while proposing offsetting reductions or revenue increases in other areas,” she said.

Ms. Throne-Holst has included $695,000 in the budget in order to cover the salaries and benefits of eight new employees. The supervisor intends to hire one administrative position, an ordinance inspector, an environmental analyst, a maintenance mechanic, two police officers and two automotive equipment operators.

“In the past four years we have reduced overall staffing by about 15 percent,” the supervisor said. “However, as you all know, our town population continues to grow, and so then too, the need for services,” she continued.

The budget accounts for a 2-percent annual increases in salary and incorporates increases in employee contributions to health benefits, according to the supervisor. She added Southampton’s contracts represent “the most conservative increases in Suffolk County.”

The budget also includes funds for the town’s 375th anniversary celebrations and for a special prosecutor to focus solely on code enforcement issues.

Money has also been put aside to found a partnership with Stony Brook University in order to create a nitrogen mapping and awareness program, “as part of our overall effort to address water quality in our community and region,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.

While the budget calls for an additional $3 million in spending, Ms. Throne-Holst said that steadily increasing revenues and appropriating modest amount from fund balances would offset the budget-to-budget differences and allow for no increase in the total tax levy.

“As anywhere else, our operating costs continue to rise, but fortunately our annual revenue to support the offset has grown as well,” she said. Mortgage tax revenue for 2014 is currently expected to be $1.2 million over the budgeted projection, she added.

Increased permit fees, fines and penalties have provided an increase in revenue as well, she said, as has the more aggressive prosecution of offenders. Combined, these revenues offset roughly $1.7 million of the $3 million in additional spending.

The budget as written proposes to draw the remaining $1.3 million needed to balance the budget from the town’s “very healthy fund balance.” The town’s fund balance is mandated to be 17 percent of the total operating budget; according to Ms. Throne Holst, the current balance is $29 million, which represents 32 percent of the budget.

She added, however, that she would be open to discussing the possibility of a 1.5-percent tax rate increase with the other members of the town board in the coming weeks.

“While my budget proposes a zero tax levy increase, New York State has offered municipalities incentives in the form of a rebate equal to the amount of any town tax increase up to the tax cap limit,” she said.

Governor Cuomo’s Tax Relief Rebate Program would entitle eligible taxpayers to a full rebate of their tax increase, which would translate to a zero increase to the taxpayer.

Ms. Throne-Holst proposed not to increase taxes because of how robust the fund balance is, she said, but also to not add to the tax base in future years. There is no guarantee the rebate program will continue in future years or that Southampton Town will be eligible in the future, she said.

She would be willing to consider the other option, to take advantage of the tax relief program, which could provide funding for future non-recurring projects. Ms. Throne-Holst explained the state program could fund additional necessary police and code enforcement vehicles as well as town fueling station upgrades and public safety communications equipment, all at no increased cost to the taxpayer.

“In such an option, homeowners would receive a tax rebate for the increase and the town would then benefit by not having to borrow or provide for them in future,” she explained.

“This is an option that warrants more discussion, and I look forward to evaluating the merits of utilizing this program with my colleagues as we move through the deliberative process and final budget adoption,” she said.

A series of public hearings and discussions regarding the tentative budget will take place over the next few weeks with the budget adoption slated for November 20.

Southampton Town Board To Add New Conditions to Special Exception Permits

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By Mara Certic

The Southampton Town Board is expected to add new standards, safeguards and conditions for retail businesses over 5,000 square feet that apply for special exception permits from the town Planning Board.

The news comes following highly controversial plans to build a 9,030-square-foot CVS pharmacy on the busy corner of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton. On July 28 of this year, BNB Ventures IV and CVS Caremark applied for a special exception permit from the planning board to open the two-story pharmacy on the lot previously occupied by a small beer distributor.

The proposal has caused distress for members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee and other residents, who have created an offshoot organization Save Bridgehampton Main Street, hired lawyers, done a traffic study and even held three protests and counting.

Those opposed not only fear that a CVS would negatively affect traffic on an already dangerous intersection, but worry that the pharmacy giant would detract from the rural charm of Bridgehampton’s village business district.

“We all know that one of our key assets is the character of our downtowns,” said Town Planning and Development Administrator Kyle Collins at a town board work session on Thursday, September 4.

He explained the prior town board adopted a special permit exception for uses in the village business district between 5,000 and 15,000 square feet but added, “the code does not provide for safeguards or conditions with that kind of special exception law.”

He explained special permit exceptions exist in the town code for certain land uses such as horse farms and marinas. “A lot of them are things that would be looked at through SEQRA,” or the State Environmental Quality Review Act, he said.

Although the general standards refer to things like traffic impacts, he said, the proposed new standards would require a traffic impact analysis as well. “Traffic is a key issue within all our business districts,” he said. Certain parking characteristics will be taken into account too, he added. The proposed 9,030-square-foot building, complete with basement and elevator, will have 10 parking spots for employees and clients, according to plans.

Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera said the special standards also include taking a deeper look at the surrounding local retail community and also will require a local market analysis. These safeguards would be put in place in order to protect existing businesses in the village business districts.

The town board scheduled a public hearing about the proposed new standards for Tuesday, September 23, at 6:30 p.m. Ms. Scalera said on Tuesday if the public hearing does not attract a huge crowd, “we’d put it on for the next meeting for adoption.”  After that point she said it typically would take two or three weeks for the law to be formally adopted and put on the books.

CVS opponents have said the pharmacy’s attorneys seem to be looking for a swift and speedy approval process, but if adopted by the board soon, the new standards could realistically slow them down.

Bridgehampton CAC Briefed on CVS, Landmarks Law and Takes Aim at Leaf Blowers

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By Mara Certic

Members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee seemed somewhat encouraged by a Southampton Town Planning Board meeting when plans for the much maligned, proposed CVS pharmacy were discussed for the first time.

Peter Wilson, a member of the CAC who was at the planning board meeting on Thursday, August 14, discussed the proceedings with his fellow CAC members at their monthly meeting on Monday, August 25.  “Essentially, it was totally process-oriented,” he said. The meeting was delayed by a full hour, he said, but he got the impression that the board “wanted to see this through properly and give it their due course,” he said.

CVS Caremark and BNB Ventures IV are seeking a special exception permit to build a pharmacy on a vacant lot at the corner of Montauk Highway and the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike. The plan has angered Bridgehampton residents who believe that the pharmacy would cause a traffic nightmare at an already dangerous intersection. “We’re hoping the next decision will go our way. This is somewhat of a win for us,” said CAC co-chairwoman Nancy Walter-Yvertes.

The Bridgehampton CAC announced that members of Save Bridgehampton Main Street will hold another protest at the proposed CVS site this Saturday, August 30, at 10 a.m.

Sally Spanburgh, chairperson of the Southampton Town Landmarks and Historic Districts Board, was invited to speak to the CAC about legislation that was recently passed in Southampton that provides an incentive for owners of historic houses to preserve them.

The new law allows homeowners who allow their houses to be designated landmarks to add a guest house or carriage house to their property. In exchange the town would extinguish one of its development credits. Ms. Spanburgh showed pictures of each of the 46 properties in Bridgehampton that would be “technically eligible” to build new structures under the new law, but explained that even some of those would pictured would not necessarily meet all of the requirements.

In other action, the CAC unanimously passed a resolution on Monday asking the  town to ban gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer season.

Bridgehampton resident Steve Jones has become somewhat obsessed by the excessive noise that the landscaping equipment creates without appropriate regulation, he said. “The landscape convoys that stream into our town every morning have turned our residential areas into industrial zones,” Mr. Jones said.

The town’s noise ordinance was adopted in 1983 and has not been amended in the past 20 years. The code states that during the day, airborne noises should be limited to 65 decibels, with some exceptions—none of which are for leaf blowers.

Many gas powered leaf blowers create noise of up to 100 decibels, creating winds of 200 miles per hour. Mr. Jones invited two doctors, and residents of Huntington, to address the Bridgehampton CAC on some of the other side effects of the gas-powered leaf blowers.

Doctors Lucy Weinstein and Bonnie Sager are members of Huntington CALM (Citizens Appeal for Leaf blower Moderation) who have been trying to restrict the use of the equipment in their town. According to Dr. Sager, 16 towns in Westchester County have restricted their use, the country Israel has banned them and the City of Toronto now hands out $5,000 fines to leaf blower operators.

Not only is the noise and air pollution harmful, but also according to the doctors, the leaf blowers throw up topsoil and nutrients, which results in the need for more fertilizers. Often, Dr. Sager said, lawns then become fertilizer-dependent, which, in turn, increases the nitrogen content in groundwater, potentially causing dangerous algal blooms.

The CAC members and the doctors discussed alternatives, mentioning electric and lithium-powered leaf blowers. Jeff Peters, who owns JCP Landscaping in Sag Harbor, uses gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer, he said. He has been using new, quieter leaf blowers in his business and added that a ban would result in higher bills for customers. A ban on leaf blowers would add 20 to 25 minutes of work per lawn, he estimated. Electric leaf blowers, he said, “have no power,” and require noisy generators themselves.

Mr. Jones said he had been in contact with Southampton Town Councilman Brad Bender about introducing some sort of legislation that would ban the gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer. Mr. Bender could not be reached for comment by the time of this paper’s publication.

East Hampton Town Board to Hold Special Meeting on Aircraft Noise

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Due to overwhelming interest, the East Hampton Town Board has announced that it will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, August 27, where residents from both forks are invited to air their concerns. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Mara Certic

The East Hampton Town Board will hold a special meeting next week to give residents from the North and South forks the opportunity to express their concerns about aircraft noise.

The board’s decision followed a meeting of the Noyac Civic Council at the Bridgehampton Senior Nutrition Center last week that attracted a crowd of well over 100 residents, a large number of whom had to stand in the back of the room for the entirety of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting. Residents from as far away as Mattituck attended the meeting to air their concerns in front of Congressman Tim Bishop, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., other East End elected officials and several Federal Aviation Administration representatives.

All of the East Hampton residents at the Noyac meeting urged those who live in Southampton Town and elsewhere to attend the East Hampton Town Board meeting, scheduled for the evening of Thursday, August 21.

Charles Ehren, vice chairman of The Quiet Skies Coalition, urged all of those gathered to “make your case to the East Hampton Town Board.”

But with the prospect of a large crowd descending on Town Hall, the East Hampton Town Board scheduled the special meeting to discuss the airport for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 27, at LTV Studios, 75 Industrial Road in Wainscott.

Bob Malafronte, who with Barry Holden, represents Southampton residents on East Hampton Town’s helicopter noise abatement committee, made the same plea and said next week’s meeting “is going to be an important one.”

“We understand a large number of East End residents wish to address this issue and many planned to attend the August 21 regular meeting of the Town Board. Based on the turnout of citizens attending recent meetings on this issue in Southold and Southampton Towns, we would anticipate an overflow crowd on the night of August 21 when the Town Board already has 13 public hearings scheduled,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said in a release issued on Monday.

“Such a turnout will leave many people without seating, standing in the entryway and outdoors. In order to adequately host the number of people who wish to address the Town Board, we are inviting residents of the North and South Fork to attend the special meeting on August 27 at LTV Studios,” he continued.

The Quiet Skies Coalition also issued a press release on Monday informing its members of the change. “Quiet Skies Coalition congratulates the supervisor for recognizing the importance of this issue and making a special effort for community input. QSC urges all noise-affected residents to attend this meeting to voice concerns regarding aircraft noise,” it read.

There has been little doubt, according to airport critics, that the current town board in East Hampton has been much more responsive than previous administrations.

“It’s a different board now,” said Barry Holden at last Tuesday’s meeting.

“The people on the board are looking in the right direction. But we’re up against a group of business people and owners of corporations.”

Residents, who say they are being tormented by the noise, and environmentalists hope that the town board will stop accepting money from the FAA when the current grant obligations expire on December 31, 2014.

At that point, the board would be able to impose stricter regulations on the airport and, some hope, ban helicopters.

 

Elected Officials To Pressure East Hampton Town on Ending Helicopter Crisis

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Congressman Tim Bishop answered questions about helicopter noise at a very well-attended meeting of the Noyac Civic Council on Tuesday, August 12. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic

It was a full house at the Noyac Civic Council’s August meeting on Tuesday, as residents from all over the East End perched on desks and hovered outside open doors to hear Congressman Tim Bishop and other elected officials address the ongoing issue of helicopter noise at the East Hampton Airport.

Residents from Sag Harbor, East Hampton, North Haven, Noyac and Mattituck gathered at the Bridgehampton Community House on Tuesday, August 12 and expressed their frustration with the seemingly endless helicopter traffic that continues to plague eastern Long Island.

Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council, played a recording of helicopter noise taken at her house to the FAA representatives who had come to answer questions and listen to grievances at Tuesday’s meeting. “This is what it’s like when you’re having company, or having a birthday party,” she said over the sound of whirring blades and engines.

Ms. Loreto complained about the “B-team” of FAA representatives who had been sent to the meeting, asked where FAA administrator Michael Huerta was, and accused them of being mute.

FAA representatives responded that Mr. Huerta was in Washington D.C. and that they would report back to him. “A lot of what we’re doing is listening to what your concerns are,” said Mark Guiod of NY TRACON. He was the only FAA official to express sympathy to the crowd and said, “what you’re experiencing just shouldn’t happen.”

“The issue we’re going to focus on is what’s in the best interest of the people that we represent,” Congressman Bishop said on Tuesday. He added that he has reached out to the senior leadership of the FAA inviting them to a meeting with Senator Charles Schumer and supervisors from the five East End towns. “We hope to have that meeting in the next week to 10 days,” he said.

Shelter Island Supervisor Jim Doherty announced loudly, “Shelter Island cannot take it anymore.” The island recently banned the taking off or landing of any helicopters other than emergency services. “What has been our reward?” he asked. “We’ve become a dustbin.”

“We’re fed up and we’re with you all the way,” he said to the crowd.

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. encouraged the masses.  “Our goal is to get the federal government to act as soon as possible,” he said, adding that they need to identify exactly what changes need to be made. “It’s not good enough to rearrange the furniture on the Titanic,” he said to great applause.

There was much discussion and some confusion throughout the meeting of the various helicopter routes, but it became apparent that no new route could provide a satisfactory result. Wainscott resident Barry Raebeck said, “Shifting helicopter routes does not solve the problem of noise and pollution. It does not even lessen the problem. It simply shifts the problem to other people. There is no such thing as an all-water route to a land-locked airport.”

The way to solve the problem, he said, “is to eliminate commercial operations at East Hampton Airport.”

Kathy Cunningham of the Quiet Skies Coalition, and countless other speakers, implored the citizens of neighboring towns to attend the next East Hampton Town Board meeting on Thursday, August 21. “They need to see this support,” she said.

When asked what chance the East Hampton Town Board had of imposing regulations on the airport, Congressman Bishop directed that question to the amassed FAA representatives. Mary McCarthy from the FAA answered that until the grant assurances expire on December 31, 2014, the town board would not be able to restrict the use of the airport except for safety reasons.

After that point, however, if the town board decided not to take anymore FAA money, the airport would be able to impose flight restrictions. Frank Dalene, who serves on the airport subcommittee of the town’s finance advisory committee, said they have found that if helicopter traffic were eliminated from the airport, it would still be able to support itself without the help of FAA money.

“The decision maker on January 1, 2015 will be the town board,” he said. He added that East Hampton lawmakers needed to know there are people who would support new regulations.

All those who spoke about the East Hampton Town Board mentioned the encouraging changes that they have seen in the new administration, including North Haven Mayor Jeff Sander. The next step, he said, is to get the board to regain control of the airport from the FAA.

“But I think there’s a much larger problem here. I’ve seen letters from the other side, and I’ve seen the distribution of those other letters,” he said, adding that every billionaire on the East End is on that distribution list, and that an expensive lawsuit will ensue.

“This is a regional problem. We’ve got to make it a regional fight,” he said.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst at this point announced that the board was planning to have a special meeting on Thursday, July 14 to pass a memorializing resolution that would support East Hampton in a decision to refuse money from the FAA. She added they are encouraged by the change in town board, and addressed the representatives of the FAA, “We should not have to worry about getting sued for making decisions that should be happening on your level,” she said.

When asked if they would support the East Hampton Town Board if they were to make this decision, both Congressman Bishop and Assemblyman Thiele said that they would support whatever decision the town makes.

“When the people lead, the leaders will follow, and I think that’s what it’s about here tonight,” Mr. Thiele said.

Editor’s note: Barry Raebeck is the father of Sag Harbor Express reporter Tessa Raebeck.

Plastic Bag Ban Being Considered for East End

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By Mara Certic

A regional ban on single-use plastic bags could be in the cards for the East End of Long Island.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst met last week to discuss a ban on thin plastic bags within the East End towns. Ms. Throne-Holst had previously met with supervisors from Southold, Riverhead, Shelter Island and Brookhaven about the possibility of a regional ban.

At an East Hampton Town Board work session on Tuesday, August 12, Mr. Cantwell discussed the potential ban with the public, and his fellow board members for the first time. “Today was kind of the kick-off,” said Alex Walter, the East Hampton Town Supervisor’s executive assistant.

According to Mr. Walter, other members of the board agreed they want to look into the ban and try to move in that direction. East Hampton and Southampton Villages both banned single-use plastic bags in 2011, which “has worked out pretty well,” according to Mr. Walter.

Supervisor Cantwell asked the East Hampton Town Litter Committee, Sustainability Committee and Business Alliance to join forces to explore the possibility of this ban and “see what it means for everyone,” Mr. Walter said.

Frank Dalene, chair of the East Hampton Energy Sustainability Advisory Committee, was at Tuesday’s meeting to support the ban. “[Mr. Cantwell] suggested we get together with the Litter Committee, which I have already done,” Mr. Dalene said on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Cantwell asked the Litter and Sustainability committees to hold public outreach and education programs about this issue, Mr. Dalene said. “As far as the Energy Sustainability Committee, we’re in support of it,” he said.

Jennifer Garvey, Ms. Throne-Holst’s Deputy Chief of Staff, said on Tuesday that the Southampton Sustainability Committee have been working on outreach programs and conducting similar research. “There’s an effort to try to coordinate the towns for a regional ban,” she said.

Ms. Throne-Holst has said that a town-wide ban would not have a sufficient effect, and called for a region-wide ban at an East End Supervisors and Mayors Association meeting in April of this year.

According to Dieter von Lehsten, the co-chair of the Southampton Town Sustainability Committee, the Town of Southampton hands out 23 million bags a year. Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera began an educational “bring-your-own-bag” campaign in 2012, which asked residents to pledge to recycle their plastic bags, and distributed reusable bags.

Even still, only 11 percent of plastic bags handed out in Southampton are recycled, according to Mr. von Lehsten.

“We have a gigantic problem,” he said during an interview last month.

“The issue is that the litter goes into the ocean and kills the sea mammals, kills the birds, kills the fish and the sharks.,” he said. “A plastic bag looks like a jellyfish, and so sea turtles eat them.”

Equally concerning are the giant plastic islands that have formed in the centers of turning tides. The 5 Gyres Institute is an organization dedicated to “witness plastic pollution decline in the environment until it is no longer found in the world’s oceans,” according to their website. The 5 Gyres Institute went on a three-week research voyage from Bermuda and Iceland earlier this year to study the plastic pollution in the North Atlantic Gyre.  According to the organization’s website, every surface sample collected during the 21-day trip contained plastic.

 

 

CPF Rebounds

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The Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund, which collects a 2-percent tax for open space purchases from most real estate actions, saw its revenues rise by 4.3 percent for the first half of 2014 as compared to the same period in 2013.

So far, according to a press release from New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., a total of $45.75 million has been collected this year. That compares to $43.87 million for the first six months of 2013.

Southampton Town continued to lead in revenue. It collected $26.79 million, an increase of 4.6 percent from last year. East Hampton Town saw a decline of 3.2 percent, collecting $13.87 million. Southold collected $2.21 million, an increase of 30.8 percent, Riverhead collected $1.79 million, an increase of 68.9 percent and Shelter Island collected $1.1 million, a decline of 5.2 percent.

“The CPF continues to see steady growth in revenues in the first six months of 2014, exceeding 2013 by 4.3 percent. The highest percentage increases have been on the North Fork. 2013 was the second largest year for CPF revenues, exceeded only by 2007. For the first six months, CPF revenues have been consistently between $7 and $8 million per month. This reflects the continued strength and stability in East End real estate and the continued availability to local Towns of the necessary revenues to protect community character.”

Since its inception on 1999, the Peconic Bay Regional Community Preservation Fund has generated a total of $930.5 million. The CPF has generated $97.33 million in the last 12 months.

 

Southampton Town Helps Keep Farmers Farming

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Elected officials and local farmers celebrated the protection of 33 acres of farmland in Water Mill on Tuesday. Photo by Mara Certic.

By Mara Certic

In one afternoon on the East End, you can visit rolling estates, beachfront shacks, or thousands of acres of working farms.  Preserving that farmland has been no small feat, but thanks to the work of the Peconic Land Trust, Southampton Town has established a precedent that might make farming easier throughout the state.

The Southampton Town Board voted unanimously in May to impose additional developmental restrictions onto agricultural land that would ensure that it remained productive and affordable, and on Tuesday, local and state elected officials, farmers and conservationists gathered to celebrate this latest success.

“This is farmland preservation 2.0.,” said New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., at a Tuesday morning press conference in Water Mill, where officials gathered to celebrate the purchase of 33 acres from the estate of Charlotte Danilevsky.  “And more than farmland preservation, this is farming preservation,” he said.

For the past few decades, as real estate prices have continued to rise, local farmers and conservationists have struggled to find ways to keep the farms working and in the hands of farmers.

In the 1970s, the town started buying the developmental rights on farmland, which prohibited future owners from building on the land. It did not, however, stop developers from turning the acreage into vast lawns or horse paddocks.

“We were preserving land, but that land was ending up being the front yard or the rear yard of an estate. Or ending up as a horse farm, or for horticulture,” Mr. Thiele continued.

The Peconic Land Trust purchased the Water Mill farmland, on Head of Pond Road, earlier this year for just over $12 million. According to John v.H. Halsey, president of the land trust, if the town had purchased the standard development rights for the parcel of land, it still would have cost a potential buyer approximately $120,000 an acre.

“It is abundantly clear, especially on the South Fork, where we have an overheated real estate market, that this farmland that has been protected can trade for between $100,000 to $200,000 an acre and that really puts it out of reach, particularly of our food production farmers,” Mr. Halsey said.

With the help of the Southampton Town Agricultural Advisory Committee, chaired by Southampton farmer John L. Halsey, the land trust was able to propose some additional restrictions on the land that were unanimously approved by the town board on May 27. The sale went through on July 10.

“This project represents a milestone in the evolution of the purchase of development rights program,” Mr. Halsey said on Tuesday. “And that is that the Town of Southampton has not only purchased standard development rights that have been in place for nearly 40 years, but has enhanced restrictions that will ensure that this farm, this 33 acres, will be available to farmers at its agricultural value—its true agricultural value.”

Mr. Halsey said the land trust would now solicit proposals from qualified farmers who are interested in purchasing the land. According to Mr. Halsey, the land will now be available at approximately $26,000 an acre. Restrictions will ensure that 80 percent of it be used for food production, that it cannot be used for equestrian use, and certain resale restrictions allow the land trust to lease the land out to farmers if it remains fallow for more than two years.

Tim Davis of Corcoran real estate agreed to reduce his commission by 50 percent on the sale, which allowed the land trust to compete in the sealed bid process to purchase the land, according to Mr. Halsey. “I am honored to have played a critical role in the process of the Peconic Land Trust acquiring the Danilevsky parcels,” Mr. Davis said in a press release issued on Tuesday.

“Our goal is to make sure each farm is producing food for the people of our state and our country,” said Senator Kenneth P. LaValle on Tuesday morning. Mr. Thiele announced during Tuesday’s press conference that he and the senator had been working on legislation that would provide additional property tax benefits to landowners with similar restrictions on their farms. Mr. Thiele also announced that they have been working to increase the exemption on estate taxes, which can often force farm owners to sell their land.

“One of the things I’ve learned as county executive is that there are so many Halseys around here, I run into them all the time,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone joked on Tuesday morning.

Tom Halsey, John L. Halsey’s brother, was also at the event on Tuesday with his son Adam and grandson, Eben. Tom Halsey was instrumental in the introduction of the purchase of development rights in the 1970s.

“Please, I urge everybody here to stand here and look there,” he said, pointing toward acres of open fields adjacent to the property. “And then imagine what it would be if we had not had 40 years of preservation.”