Tag Archive | "Southampton Town"

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.”

 

 

 

Wright To Head Hospital Board

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Southampton Hospital’s board of directors on July 12 elected Kenneth B. Wright its chairman.  He succeeds Peter Larsen who was a member of the board for 15 years and served 10 years as chairman.

A hospital board member since 2004, Mr. Wright was previously co-vice chairman along with attorney Richard J. Hiegel. He serves on the board’s executive, facilities and properties, finance and budget, and public affairs committees.

Born at Southampton Hospital, Mr. Wright is the son of the late Dr. Kenneth B. Wright, who at one time served as the hospital’s chief of surgery.

Mr. Wright is a resident of Southampton and is the founder of Wright & Company Construction Inc. in Bridgehampton.

Southampton Seeking Sites for Solar

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By Stephen J. Kotz

While East Hampton Town has created a great deal of buzz with its ambitious plan to provide all the community’s energy needs through sustainable methods by the year 2020, Southampton Town is taking a much quieter approach.

According to Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone, within the new few weeks, the town is preparing to issue a request for proposals to vendors asking them to analyze town-owned facilities and property to see if it will be feasible to use them for sustainable energy projects, like solar farms.

Unlike East Hampton Town, “Southampton does not have expanses of land like the airport that are relatively free of limitations,” said Mr. Zappone, citing restrictions imposed on Community Preservation Fund purchases and other factors.

While the capped North Sea landfill off Majors Path has also been named as a potential site for something like a solar array, Mr. Zappone said such a project would have be vetted first by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which would determine whether development would pose a risk to the landfill cap, among other things.

Christine Fetten, the town’s director of municipal works, is the point person for the town’s efforts to find suitable sites for sustainable energy projects. She did not reply to a request for an interview.

Dieter von Lehsten, co-chairman of the town’s sustainability committee, said this week that Southampton officials are wary of promising too much and delivering too little.

East Hampton, on the other hand, is shooting for the stars with its own ambitious plans, with the result that it might very well fall short of its goal, he said. Not that Mr. von Lehsten thinks that is a bad thing:  “They are taking the Greenpeace approach, which is to ask for 150 percent and be happy with 25 percent,” he said.

Mr. von Lehsten said that the sustainability committee is excited that the town is preparing the RFP.

“We are all behind this, of course,” he said. “We are helping push things along. It is on the regular agenda.”

Security Guard at Southampton Town Hall

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The Southampton Town Board last week announced it had hired a private security service, Summit Security Services Inc., for a guard who will stand watch during the board’s regular meetings.

“We do have a security guard with us now as is the norm at most public meetings today,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said at the board’s July 22 meeting, the first at which a guard was on duty.

The guard will also be in charge of signing in people who want to speak at public hearings, which Ms. Throne-Holst said members of the public had also requested.

Southampton Town Buys Market Property

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The Southampton Town Board on July 22 approved the purchase of the Hayground Market property on Montauk Highway in Water Mill. The town will pay just under $1 million for the development rights to the site. The market, long a landmark on the north side of the highway, has been for sale this year.

 

Lighted Crosswalk Proposed in Bridgehampton

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The existing crosswalk in front of the Hampton Library. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

Southampton Town is looking to install warning lights at what many say is a dangerous crosswalk on Bridgehampton’s Main Street.

Christine Fetten, the town’s director of municipal works, and Tom Neely, its public transportation and safety director, sought out community opinions at Monday’s Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee meting regarding the installation of the lights in front of the Hampton Library.

Library Director Kelly Harris approached Senator Kenneth P. LaValle for a grant for a lighted crosswalk system, they said, which the senator has secured.

The town had initially looked at in-ground lights, similar to those used on East Hampton Village’s Main Street, but it now has its eye set on Rapid Flashing Beacons. These solar-powered lights that flash to warn oncoming drivers when sensors detect a pedestrian, or when they are activated by pushing a button from the sidewalk.

There are some troubling visibility issues at the existing crosswalk, officials said. On the south side of the street, there is a very large linden tree that blocks visibility for eastbound motorists. Also, Ms. Fetten noted that the crossing is right next to the exit of a municipal parking lot.

According to Ms. Fetten, Bartlett Tree Experts examined the tree and determined that it was “not in very good condition.” CAC members unanimously agreed that they would be in favor of the removal of the tree if it were replaced with a more street-friendly tree.

They also said that they would support the installation of the rapid flashing beacons. Members of the CAC also suggested that Bridgehampton could benefit from more traffic cops during the summer who could help direct traffic.

Peconic Land Trust Still Working Hard to Preserve Farmland

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The Pike farm stand on Main Street in Sagaponack. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Mara Certic

The Peconic Land Trust has been dedicated to preserving the natural lands and working farms on the East End for over 30 years. As real estate prices continue to climb, the land trust has been exploring ways to impose restrictions that would keep local farmers farming.

John v.H. Halsey, president of the Peconic Land Trust, spoke about some of the methods to preserve farmland at this month’s meeting of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday, July 28.

The most common way, the purchase of development rights, was pioneered nationwide by Suffolk County in 1970s. The practice has since been emulated throughout the nation.

“A simple explanation is this: when you own land, it comes with a bundle of rights. Zoning, of course, gives you the parameters of what you can do with it,” Mr. Halsey explained on Monday. “Probably the most valuable right associated with land is the right to build,” he said. The other rights, such as the right to farm or the right to walk on the land have less value in the marketplace.

“So the farmer would sell the most valuable rights associated with the land, but they would retain all the other rights with it,” he said. This became an opportunity for farmers to tap into the equity of their land and afford the estate tax on their land. It was also a way to ensure that farmland remained agricultural land and to prevent the over development of open space.  Beginning in the early 1980s, East End towns began creating funds to purchase development rights and open space.

Another way of protecting agricultural land is through the subdivision process. The  cluster provision, which came into use in the 1980s, typically “clusters” development in the least valuable portion of the property and requires that 50 to 65 percent of the rest of the land be preserved.

According to Mr. Halsey, both methods have been successful components of conservation through the years, but more needs to be done.

“As land value goes up, the federal estate tax becomes more of an issue. The value of real estate has continued to go up and today it’s higher than it’s ever been and it’s higher than anyone could have thought,” Mr. Halsey said.

“Non-farmers are not bound by the same economic reality,” he continued. Over the past 40 years, 12,000 acres of farmland has been protected in Suffolk County; several thousand of those acres are in the Town of Southampton.

However much of this land has been taken out of production,  with much of it going top equestrian uses, which is defined as an agricultural use by New York State, he added.

Mr. Halsey was keen to say that he has no problem with horses, but stressed, “It is disturbing to me that that could end up being the only agricultural use that anyone has in the long run. I’m seeing the intent of these programs unraveling.”

“We need to do something and do it in a way that’s fair,” he added.

In 2010, the Peconic Land Trust purchased 7.6 acres of farmland from the Hopping family in Sagaponack for $6 million. It then sold the development rights to the county for $4.3 million. “We wanted to get this land into the hands of the Pikes,” Mr. Halsey said, noting that Jim Pike had farmed on the land when it was owned by the Hopping family but did not have the means to purchase it from them directly.

As a public charity, however, the Peconic Land Trust cannot sell something to someone at less than market value, and even without the developmental rights, the farmland was expensive for the Pikes.

So the trust borrowed restrictions that Massachusetts and Vermont have been using to protect farmland. It was then able to put in these additional restrictions, which “reduced the value of that farmland so non-famers weren’t interested,” he said.

Under the deal, the parties agreed to eliminate equestrian use and drastically limited the right of Mr. Pike to use the property for nursery stock. The trust has retained the right to lease the land to a farmer if it is taken out of production for two years. The trust also put on a restriction to ensure that it has the right to review the future sales of the farmland and that it must be sold to a qualified farmer. It sold the property to the Pikes for $167,200.

“Our goal has been to model these restrictions and try to get the town to consider incorporating them into the town purchasing policy,” Mr. Halsey told the CAC.

Three months ago, these additional restrictions were used by the trust to purchase 33 acres on Head of Pond Road in Water Mill. “We’re very pleased that the town board agreed unanimously to purchase the additional restrictions,” he said.

“We’re the first municipality in the State of New York to include these new restrictions and [the members of the board] deserve a lot of credit for that,” he said.”

The Peconic Land Trust will celebrate the latest acquisition on Tuesday, August 5, at 10 a.m. at the newly acquired land.