Tag Archive | "Southampton Town Trustees"

Trustees Talk Role in the Modern World

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By Gianna Volpe

About 50 residents and community members gathered at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons on Monday at which representatives of the East Hampton and Southampton Town Trustees discussed their role in modern government.

The Trustees of both towns trace their authority to colonial-era patents and were once the local governing bodies when King James II was on the throne in England. They remain to this day, with a primary focus on protecting the East End’s undeveloped common lands, including beaches and the bottomlands of ponds.

The forum took place at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton.

“The Trustees were the governing board long before there was a town board, long before there was a supervisor, long before there was a United States of America, so our patents are recognized right up ’til now,” explained Southampton Town Trustee Ed Warner Jr. “We had a lot of natural product that was here and was very important to England and that’s why they made sure we had good management practices in the colonies.”

Mr. Warner, a commercial fisherman, said this focus on protecting natural resources has led to his interest in educating the town board and others on the ways of the bays and oceans, particularly in terms of the town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.

“When I first became involved in this program they didn’t even recognize sea level rise,” Mr. Warner said of Southampton’s LWRP. “One of the things that I brought to the Urban Harbor Institute is the understanding that we live on a barrier beach…that protects the mainland, and the town or the village is allowing people to build very big residences right close to the dunes…. Something that should be incorporated into this is a fallback plan. Basically, these houses should be moved back as the dunes and the beaches wash away slowly, which is inevitable.”

He said such plans should focus on things like making sure hard structures like rock abatements and bulkheads are avoided or only temporary solutions, and said care should be given to dredging projects.

“You can only dig so much sand out of the ocean, and you’re losing fish habitat,” he said of the importance of doing environmental impact studies of dredging projects. “I’m a commercial fisherman and my son is a dragger and we work in these areas every year. It’s one of the most productive squid fisheries on the East Coast. It’s a multi-million dollar fishery, and if we take away the habitat for these squid, which is a bait for larger fish like striped bass, we’re going to lose all the bigger fisheries out here.”

East Hampton Town Trustee Diane McNally stressed the importance of establishing such plans when there is not an emergency.

“The LWRP was drafted at a time when everyone was…thinking about the resources on multiple levels as they need to be protected,” she said. “When people see that water coming at them, they panic and that’s when mistakes get made.”

Southampton Town Trustee Scott Horowitz said he is interested in working respectfully alongside the town board when it comes to resolving such issues.

“I think it’s important that there is a mutual understanding and a respect that each board has an authority and a jurisdiction and if there’s a respect for that, I think we can get along and work together just fine,” he said. “The press always likes to paint that there’s a big rift or a problem. Sometimes we do disagree, but there’s a lot of things we do have common ground on, that we do have respect for each other and we work hard on, but people don’t want to write about the train running on time, they write about the train wrecks…I’m very, very happy to work with whatever department it is – federal, state, the town, the county whoever it is…. The only thing I require is a mutual respect back and forth to the fact that we’re trying to solve a problem in the best interest of the people we represent.”

That resonated with Southampton Town Board member Bridget Fleming, who said she came to the meeting because she also believes board and Trustee members should work closely with one another.

“Our coastal resources are our greatest assets, so we have to work closely with the Trustees who have so much experience,” said Ms. Fleming. “They’re out there on the bays every day, so I really admire the effort and the experience. I think it’s always best for the community when two important decision making boards are working…with mutual understanding because we do sometimes have different points of view, different interests and different constituencies protecting different parts of our coastal assets and our resources, but if we have mutual respect we can learn from experience.”



Southampton Town Trustees, Police Request More Funding in the Town Budget

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By Mara Certic

Three weeks before the Southampton Town Board is slated to adopt its 2015 budget, representatives of two departments came before the board to ask for additional funding.

“We offer all of our departments and department heads the opportunity to come before the town board as part of the budget crafting process to discuss any thoughts they have, suggestions, complaints et cetera, et cetera,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said at the beginning of a work session on Thursday, October 30.

The Southampton Town Trustees and the town’s police department were two such entities that asked for a larger share of the town’s preliminary budget.

“When you took office for the first time the town’s finances were not in the greatest of shape, and the Trustees have always operated on a very, very lean budget all through the years,” Eric Shultz, president of the Trustees, told the supervisor on Thursday.

“I just wanted to start discussing bringing the Trustees’ budget back up to pretty much what it was before this financial crisis started,” he said. “The Trustees have contributed the lion’s share of that budget and feel that we really have helped the town weather this storm.”

Mr. Shultz said there were certain line items that were no longer budgeted for, including overtime pay for bay constables, upkeep of vehicles, legal fees, salaries for office staff and so on.

“In this budget we were told it was basically going to be the same as last year and we need to start coming out of the hole a little bit,” Mr. Shultz said, adding that some of the Trustees’ employees had been driving a vehicle until a spark plug blew out of the engine.

“We’ve not had to ask the town board for any vehicles or any boats or any motors or any repairs to our buildings in the last four or five years because of our sand sales, and that’s coming to an end. There has been zero dollars realized from the sale of sand this year,” he said.

The Trustees made $1.2 million in sand sales in the year following Super Storm Sandy, which they used for upkeep of their fleet and their properties. The current state of Southampton beaches, however, suggests sand sales won’t be on the rise any time soon.

Ms. Throne-Holst said the conversation was one that should have taken place as a part of the requested budget process, where departments lay out what money they need for what projects, so the town can budget accordingly. She added the Trustees are an enterprise fund, meaning they have a revenue source of their own.

The Trustees suggested they brought in the most money to the town, and that as those charged with protecting the waterways, they “control the economic engine of this town.”

Ms. Throne-Holst acknowledged their contributions, but added both the town’s Building Department and Justice Court bring in hefty sums in permit fees and fines as well.

“So what we need to do now is set back the clock and pretend we’re back in September when the budget came out,” she said. “But we need to follow timelines here like everyone else,” she reminded the Trustees. “We’re so understaffed in our office, its hard to get things done,” responded Mr. Shultz.

Southampton Town Police Chief Robert Pearce came before the board to address portions of his department’s budget that concerned him. Chief Pearce had put in a request for six new police officers in order, primarily, to increase police presence in Flanders as well as a request for more money for severance pay and vehicle upkeep.

“That is the reason I am asking for six,” he said, “It is my understanding I’m getting three with a possibility of a fourth in 2016.” In the current budget, there will be three new names added to the police payroll, filling two new positions and one vacancy.

The town has budgeted to add another lieutenant and sergeant to the department—both will be internal promotions—and then to fill those positions and an existing vacancy with department officers.

If Suffolk County adopts its preliminary budget, Ms. Throne-Holst explained there would be a new agreement to provide the town with a greater share of sales tax revenue to use for public safety.

The supervisor suggested some of that money be allocated to pay for one officer immediately, with a commitment to double the amount in the next calendar year.

“It won’t get you there immediately, but it will get you there roughly in a year or so,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. Chief Pearce said back when he had 102 officers he ran a lean department. As the budget stands, his department will have 90 officers in 2015.

“We were running lean then, we’re running emaciated now,” Chief Pearce said. The supervisor said the seasonal nature of the town makes budgeting for the police particularly difficult.

“We try to do the best we can in a way that achieves a balance between the season and the off-season,” she said.

East Hampton Budget

In East Hampton Town, Budget Officer Len Bernard presented another review of the tentative operating budget for 2015. Since it was first presented to the public in September, the town has added $29,124 in net expenditures to the budget. More money for human services, town cemeteries, the East End Arts Council and the fisheries committee, among others, account for the increases, Mr. Bernard explained.

Mr. Bernard said more money had found its way into the revenue fund. This is in part due to expected lease payments from solar companies. According to Mr. Bernard the contracts have been drawn and will be signed shortly. “This is going to happen real soon,” he said.

The overall net to the tax levy, he said, is $152,400 in revenue, which will very slightly lower the projected tax increase. Also, it will put the town $329,569 under the tax cap, which it can carry forward to the next year.

In a work session meeting on October 21, Councilwoman Kathee Burke Gonzalez asked that an additional $36,000 be put into the airport budget in order to install cameras to record flight activity.

Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc requested the town also budget for a part-time skilled carpenter to conduct small repairs on town buildings. “I think Peter’s proposal is acceptable, as far as I’m concerned, and encouraged,” said Councilman Fred Overton.

Mr. Bernard said he would add both of those items to the budget. Both towns are scheduled to adopt their operating budgets by November 20, as stipulated by state law.

Estuary Program Eyes Ligonee Brook for Restoration

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web_Ligonee Creek 10-19-11_2517

Historically, Ligonee Brook in Sag Harbor has served as a migration path for alewife, a species of herring, and eels, which travel up the brook from Sag Harbor Cove to spawn in the fresh waters of Long Pond.

But in recent years, the lack of consistent water flow has become an issue in the brook. For that reason, the Peconic Estuary Program has earmarked almost $17,000 towards the research, engineering and design of a restored Ligonee Brook in an effort to re-establish the fish populations.

The Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt (FLPG) want to make sure this project — one of five fish path restoration proposals funded by $80,000 in grants secured by Peconic Estuary Program through the New York Department of Environmental Conservation — earns public support. According to FLPG vice-president Sandra Ferguson, one of those projects will ultimately be implemented through another $100,000 grant, and FLPG members want to do everything they can to make sure their project is considered a top priority.

They are so committed to the restoration, last week FLPG president Dai Dayton said that even if the project is not given funding for implementation, armed with the engineering schematics and research developed over the next two years, the organization would seek funding from the Southampton Town Trustees.

“We are going to make this happen,” said Dayton.

Last spring, the Peconic Estuary Program announced that Land Use Ecological Services had won the state bid to develop a comprehensive plan to restore Ligonee Brook and improve fish migration. Dr. Will Bowman will oversee the project, according to Ferguson, and over the next two years will develop and present his proposal for the brook.

The Ligonee Brook Diadromous Fish Passage Restoration will specifically develop a plan to restore drainage water flow, freshwater wetlands and the alewife and eel run at Ligonee Brook.

Other fish passage restoration proposals being developed through the funding are located in Southold, East Hampton, Shelter Island and Riverhead.

On Friday, October 7, Ferguson and FLPG member Priscilla Ciccariello reached out to the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee for its support.

While Ligonee Brook has traditionally served as a migration path for the fish, because of barriers — some natural, but mostly manmade — like the culvert under Brick Kiln Road and debris in the brook, Ferguson noted there is not always sufficient water flow to allow the migration.

“We, as the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, have cleaned the shores and the bed of the brook, we have cared for the creek, but this is an opportunity for a very serious restoration project that will restore the natural flow of the brook,” said Ferguson.

With no guarantees the project will be implemented, Ferguson said FLPG is reaching out to local civic groups and organizations to help raise public awareness about Ligonee Brook and its potential restoration.

“We want every level of government to understand this project has strong community support,” said Ferguson. “We want to be the voice of the Long Pond Greenbelt as this moves forward and we would like you to be with us.”

The CAC agreed to be a vocal organization in support of the project.

According to Ciccariello, one aspect of the Ligonee Brook restoration that makes it a viable contender for financing is that it is a digestible project, that wouldn’t likely take much funding to implement.

“But even if we don’t win that prize we will still have the schematics, which is quite a gift in itself,” she said.

Trustees Irked by Waterfront Plan

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By Claire Walla

For several years, Southampton Town officials have made attempts to create a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP), but nothing ever came to fruition. This year, the town is confident plans to finally institute the plan will succeed. However, the Southampton Town Trustees — which have jurisdiction over all town waterways up to the high-water mark — want nothing to do with it.

“The LWRP delves into everything the trustees do,” said trustee Ed Warner. “It’s just going to complicate the whole process.”

At a trustee meeting last Monday, January 3, members voted to pass a resolution exempting the trustees’ jurisdiction from any proposed LWRP. According to the resolution, “the Trustees do not wish any town agency to include any lands or structures under trustee jurisdiction in any application to New York State, specifically any Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.”

LWRPs are administered and approved by the state. So, even though the planning document is prepared at the local level, a state representative will work with the town to analyze local land and water systems and ultimately form a comprehensive plan for future growth and development.

Town trustees worry that adding another layer of bureaucracy will merely elongate the time it takes them to make decisions.

“It could take years for a simple rule change,” Warner added. “Now, we can make a decision right away. For example, if we had a major coastal storm and 50 people needed sandbagging, [with the state involved] we wouldn’t be able to expedite that process.”

A Southampton Town steering committee has been created to discuss the prospect of implementing an LWRP. It is composed of Southampton Town Land Management officials, as well as Warner and town councilwoman Bridget Fleming.

“The town has no interest in changing the authority of the trustees,” Fleming said. But, she added, there are certain issues — like stormwater runoff — that bridge the divide between water and land regulations.

“Stormwater affects what the trustees do, but they can’t regulate that,” she said adding that this is one area where a comprehensive plan would come in handy.

Fleming said she welcomed hearing the trustees’ concerns, because the steering committee hopes to tease out any issues in order to implement a plan that has more perks than not.

“One objection [to the LWRP] is that it might introduce additional regulations,” she said. “This is important to consider, but we also need to look at how land-use regulation affects the quality of our waterways. [The LWRP] gives us an opportunity to consider that in a holistic way.”

At a meeting of the trustees on December 20, members heard from several trustees in neighboring districts with LWRPs of their own, like East Hampton and Southold. They also heard from Robert Herrmann, a consultant who studied the affects of these LWRPs.

Hermann explained that the LWRP has made many processes more cumbersome, such as issuing site-specific permits. He added that the town has to fill out pages and pages of compliance reviews and assessments, then wait for the Department of State approve them, or not.

“I don’t think that the Southold Town Board fully contemplated what they were adopting until it was adopted and they saw the results of it,” Herrmann said.

However, Fleming reiterated the benefits of such a plan.

“This is a big town, and we have an extensive waterway system. [Forming a comprehensive plan] is not going to happen naturally,” she said, and explained that the town welcomes state aid for such a complex project.

“An LWRP would provide a comprehensive plan for the waters,” she added. “And if it’s also a revenue source for grant money in the future, then that’s a good thing we shouldn’t reject out of hand.”

At this point, even though the trustees have opted out of being governed by a proposed LWRP, Fleming said the town will still work with the trustees as LWRP discussions continue.

“We still value the trustees’ opinions,” she said. “Even if they’re not regulated [by an LWRP], they’re going to help inform it.”

CONPOSH Forum Focuses On Water

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With a topic as wide-ranging as “water,” the focus of a Coalition of Neighborhoods for the Preservation of Sag Harbor meeting turned to water quality for many in the crowd of over 30 who gathered at the First Presbyterian (Old Whalers’) Church on Sunday afternoon.

Panelists invited to the event were as varied as the topics discussed. Paddy South, the director of public relations for the Suffolk County Water Authority, Southampton Town Trustee Fred Havemeyer, East Hampton Town Natural Resources Director Larry Penny and Peconic BayKeeper Kevin MacAllister all attended, for the most part discussing what they were each working on in terms of what is arguably the East End’s most valuable resource — its water.

CONPOSH member Valerie Justin opened the forum by talking about the “critical need” to face the issue of stormwater runoff on the East End, as well as water quality in general, and oversight of valuable bodies of water, like those found on the Long Pond Greenbelt.

And with the exception of South, who focused on basic facts about the water authority, it was stormwater runoff and protecting natural resources that dominated the panelists’ presentations.

Larry Penny focused less on what the town was accomplishing, than what he felt residents should be wary of when it comes to water.

As natural resources director since 1984, Penny oversees some 410 nature preserves and helped author both the town’s comprehensive plan as well as a water resources plan.

“They don’t test enough and they don’t have enough study,” said Penny of the water quality on the East End, noting contaminants in water can cause disease. Penny did add the SCWA has been “leading the charge” in terms of conserving water and keeping it clean. However, he added, medical contaminants are a new challenge environmentalists must face. The drugs that people ingest can still be active, and may not be filtered out through sewage systems, said Penny. They can have wide ranging effects over time on the ecology and health in a community, he said.

Pesticides and nitrates, due to farming on the North Fork, he said, are also prevalent in the Peconic Estuary, and vector control and pesticide use also need to be monitored.

“We are still fighting things that have been put into the ground 30 years ago,” noted Penny, adding that the absence of bay scallops and the increase in the disappearance of eelgrass beds is directly connected to water quality.

“Why is the winter flounder population flat, zero,” asked Penny. “Because they like to breed in eel grass.”

Havemeyer, as a member of one of the oldest boards in the United States — the Southampton Town Trustees, which was founded in 1686 — is charged with protecting much of the water in Southampton.

One of the biggest issues the trustees contend with, he said, are dealing with development and protecting the wetlands in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The same principles used to protect saltwater can be applied to freshwater, said Havemeyer, including combating stormwater runoff, which Havemeyer and MacAllister agreed was one of the biggest threats to water quality on the East End.

Havemeyer advocated creating wetland buffers in any stormwater runoff area of concern as a natural filter.

MacAllister, as the Peconic Baykeeper, has been advocating for such a natural wetlands filter at Havens Beach for over a year now. On Sunday, he noted, as a Baykeeper initiated a testing cycle on the popular bathing beach was near completion, he expects the village will begin to address Havens Beach and other stormwater runoff sites as it moves forward with a comprehensive village stormwater runoff management plan.

 “Ninety percent of Long Island’s water bodies are considered impaired, meaning they do not support these kinds of uses,” said MacAllister of bathing, shellfishing and propagation of marine life as benchmarks for water quality. Road runoff, collecting a myriad of bacteria from pesticides, fertilizers, bacteria from pet and wild animal waste is primarily to blame, said MacAllister.

However, said MacAllister, it is not just the municipalities that are responsible for taking this task on. He noted the Baykeeper has a “bayscaping” program, focused on teaching East End residents how to care for their properties in an environmentally sensitive manner.

“We have to start employing this on an individual level, but also as a community,” said MacAllister.



Pondering the Ebb and Flow of Ligonee Brook

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When Southampton Town Trustee President Jon Semlear was a child growing up in Sag Harbor they called Ligonee Brook, also known as Ligonee Creek, Alewive Dreen.

“My whole life they called it the alewive dreen,” he said. “My experience growing up in Sag Harbor was there were always alewives traveling up the stream, particularly on the west side of the [Sag Harbor] turnpike where the stream comes to the road.”

Semlear, fellow Southampton Town Trustees Fred Havemeyer and Edward Warner, Jr., Southampton Town Chief Environmental Analyst Marty Shea, with photographer and writer Jean Held, members of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, the Group for the East End and the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee in tow, conducted an inspection of Ligonee Brook on Thursday, October 9 to assess its current condition.

In town politics the brook has been caught up in a debate over a proposed Sag Harbor Gateway Study, which, at its core suggests the rezoning of a little over half a dozen properties on the Sag Harbor Turnpike – including land that borders the brook. But for Semlear, and a number of others on the Thursday afternoon ramble, the excursion was more about familiarizing themselves with the brook, its history and about addressing what the trustees can do to ensure the brook’s health.

The brook is a part of the Long Pond Greenbelt, a system of ponds, swamps, streams and woods, which extends from Sag Harbor to Sagaponack. The greenbelt includes 30 freshwater ponds, as well as a number of swamp and marsh areas and Sagg Pond, a salt pond that occasionally lets out into the ocean. As Held noted on Wednesday, the Long Pond Greenbelt has a plethora of rare flora and fauna specimens as a result of its delicate ecosystem.

Ligonee Brook is first referenced in New York State records in January of 1803, according to a history of the brook in a record compiled by Held through Southampton Town documents and histories in local newspapers. In New York State records, “legonee creek or brook” is defined as a boundary marker to what the state referred to as the “port of Sagg Harbor.” 

According to Held, while often referred to as Ligonee Creek, Alewive Dreen, the Long Pond Dreen, or the Long Pond Drain, the proper name for the stream is Ligonee Brook, which she notes is what the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation calls the stream.

Throughout old issues of The Sag Harbor Express, the brook, in all its various identities is shown to be the site off great eel catches and alewive sightings, as the migratory species used the brook to travel from Sag Harbor Cove to Long Pond. As early as 1874, in local papers there were calls for Sag Harbor residents to roll up their sleeves and help clear debris – brush and leaves – from the brook during the dry season, as it would accumulate at levels that would block the flow of water during the times of year the water would run.

Whether the brook is still a part of the migratory patterns for alewives and eels has been a debated subject as of late, particularly when discussed in Southampton Town Hall as a part of the Gateway Study. There have also been questions raised as to whether the brook still runs with water, or if it has dried for good.

Robert Reid’s family has owned a parcel of land that now houses Reid Brothers Incorporated, an auto repair shop, for several decades. The Reid property is one of several being considered for re-zoning by the town under the Sag Harbor Gateway Study. For a majority of the parcels looked at in the gateway study, the town’s department of land management suggests a change in zoning from highway business, which allows large commercial enterprises to hamlet office, which would permit only smaller professional offices and retail locations.

Any business, like the Reid Brothers, that is already in place would be considered pre-existing, non-conforming and could operate business as usual even if the business changed hands as long as a change of use was not proposed.

At a Southampton Town Board hearing on the Gateway Study in September, Reid asked the board how Ligonee Brook – cited by a handful of residents and advocates in support of the gateway study – could be a viable breeding ground for a number of species if it was dry.

According to Reid, at one point the brook, which borders his property, was dry for 23 years, although he said it did start to run again when water was pumped from the Rowe Industries Superfund site nearby.

“But it miraculously stopped running this past winter,” said Reid.

Reid also believes the brook may have been man-made, although he said if that was the case it was likely around the time of the first settlement in Sag Harbor.

Held said the brook does run dry, but said it is a part of the natural ebb and flow of the brook, and said as early as last fall the brook was running. Held added outside influences, like the Sag Harbor Water Company which used Long Pond as a water source, did have an effect on the flow of water in the brook, although she said she did not believe the brook ever remained dry for a period as long as 20 years.

“I have no problems with making this creek do what ever we can to make it a real creek,” said Reid on Wednesday, noting his concerns with what have been discussed on the town level have less to do with Ligonee Brook and more specifically lie with what he sees as spot zoning of his family’s property. Reid said he would attend this Tuesday’s 6 p.m. Gateway Study public hearing at Southampton Town Hall.

According to Semlear, the trustees do have every intention of ensuring the brook’s flow is not interrupted by debris or build up of sand.

During the walk on October 9, the brook was in fact dry, although member of Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt and trail leader Dai Dayton said she had personally seen the brook flowing last year. The walk, which began at the trail entrance at Mashashimuet Park and ended where Long Pond and the brook meet, was productive, said Semlear, who noted a number of trustees had yet to walk the brook.

“The alewive stream is in pretty good shape,” he said on Wednesday. “There are a few areas where debris should be removed so we can ensure during times of high water [alewives and eels] have the ability to make it up the pond. There is also some areas where we need to clear some sand out of the culvert.”

As a lifelong resident and trustee, Semlear said there were many times he observed the brook dry and many times where he saw it run fully. Regardless, he said, there is no question in his mind that Ligonee Brook is an essential part of the Long Pond Greenbelt as a whole.

“When you remove something from an ecosystem, it sets things out of balance,” said Semlear. “When the creek is running it has a productive, positive influence on the pond and Sag Harbor Cove on the other end. It is definitely a key element in the uniqueness of the Long Pond Greenbelt.”

And, according to Held, it is the ebb and flow of the brook that lends the area to a vast array of rare flora and fauna species, some of which would not be able to survive there if the level of water was constant.

“That is part of what makes them rare,” she said. “And that makes the area very interesting to me.”