Tag Archive | "Southampton Town"

Sag Harbor CAC Hosts Sustainability Co-Chairman

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Members of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee on Friday were briefed on everything from the Sandy Hollow affordable housing complex to prospects for a townwide ban on plastic shopping bags.

Dieter von Lehsten, the co-chairman of the Southampton Town Sustainability Committee, told the small gathering that opposition to the 28-unit Sandy Hollow affordable housing complex, was “more emotional than factual.”

The Southampton Town Board on Thursday, June 12, approved a Planned Development District allowing the apartments to be built after months of contentious hearings that saw widespread opposition to the development from neighbors.

Mr. von Lehsten said the sustainabilty committee supported the project but added that housing it would provide was a small drop in the bucket considering  the vast shortage of affordable housing in Southampton.

The town board’s unanimous decision in support “was not a political decision, but an essential one,” he said.

“You can never ever have a project where everyone is happy,” said Mr. von Lehsten. “The town council, I can say without reservation, put a lot of work into making sure everything was covered.”

CAC members said they were interested in learning about the Sandy Hollow project because of the need for affordable housing Sag Harbor.

“This is something that could be placed in Sag Harbor,” said John Lindner, the CAC’s co-chairman. “We have $2 million from Bulova. If we had a direction for that, we could say here is a builder, here’s something that worked. We can do the same thing.”

Committee members also queried Mr. von Lehsten on the status of Sand Land, a sand mine and mulching operation on Millstone Road in Noyac, which has come into the crosshairs of the Noyac Civic Council because of concerns that its operations could be polluting the groundwater.

Mr. von Lehsten said a court decision ordering the company to curtail much of its operations had been overturned and it is now operating legally. He said at this point, it is up to the state Department of Environmental Conservation to make sure that the operation does not violate the terms of its permits.

Mr. von Lehsten also explained that the sustainability committee is working on a climate action plan for the town that would recognize the threat of global warming and offer ideas for combating it and working on ways to lessen groundwater pollution from septic systems.

He praised East Hampton Town’s recently enacted goal to provide 100 percent of the community’s electricity need with renewable sources by 2020, even if he did think it ambitious.
“If they could get 50 percent by 2020, it would be a fantastic success,” he said.

Mr. von Lehsten also said the sustainability committee was working on getting the town to ban the use of plastic shopping bags, as East Hampton and Southampton villages have already done.

An estimated 23 million plastic bags are used in town each year, he said, with only a fraction being recycled. The committee agreed it would throw its support behind a plastic bag ban. “It’s a foregone conclusion,” Mr. von Lehsten said. “Why can’t we be on the forefront and not behind?”

 

Southampton Town Trustees State Their Case at Public Forum

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The Southampton Town Trustees at a public forum at Hampton Bays High School on Tuesday.

By Stephen J. Kotz

The Southampton Town Trustees, who are sometimes confused with either the town board or any number of village boards, held a well-attended forum at Hampton Bays High School on Tuesday night to explain their role as the longest standing elective body in town government and outline some of the critical challenges facing them.

First and foremost among those challenges are a series of lawsuits that have been filed by property owners seeking to challenge the Trustees’ authority to regulate construction of things like revetments and retaining walls along the shoreline, maintain regulatory control over public beaches, protect the health of bays and streams, and even control their own purse strings.

As if to drive the point home that the Trustees are under siege, President Eric Shultz, who presided over the meeting, pointed out that a court reporter, seated at the front of the auditorium, was transcribing the event for plaintiffs in one of those suits.

The suits include one filed by residents of West Hampton Dunes over whether sand that has built up on the beach belongs to the homeowners or the town; a related suit by the homeowners that is seeking to take away the Trustees’ rights to control their own finances; a suit by the Trustees challenging the state Department of Environmental Conservation over revetments in Southampton Village; a suit over a Quogue resident’s placement of geotubes in front of their home without a permit; and a suit brought by Brookhaven Town baymen over fishing rights in town waters.

“Every suit is completely paid for out of Trustee money,” said Mr. Shultz. “The sale of sand out of Mecox Bay has allowed us to pursue them.”

Tuesday’s meeting was also attended by members of the town board, who sat in the front, but did not participate until pressed to do so by Bill Stubelek of Hampton Bays, who questioned whether town board members supported the Trustees in their mission.

After both Councilman Brad Bender and Councilwoman Brigid Fleming made brief comments, Supervisor Anna Throne Holst closed the meeting by reassuring the public the town board was in fact in Trustees’ corner.

“There is a recognition of a staggering amount of issues facing us with a staggering dollar amount attached to them,” said Ms. Throne-Holst. “We support the Trustees. We support the important work that needs to happen. We support the fact that one of the most important things we need to do is work together at every level of government.”

In an interview on Wednesday morning, Mr. Shultz said he was pleased by the show of support from the town board, but he added, “We’ll see it in deeds” and said the Trustees especially need the board’s support in getting the State Legislature to reaffirm their status.

Mr. Shultz said the Trustees typically send their members out in the community discuss their work with various civic groups but had decided the time was ripe to hold a more formal forum.

“The Trustees control the economic engine of this town,” he said of their authority to protect the public easement over the beaches. “There are more and more people out here who don’t know who the Trustees are. We want to educate them so when we need them to come out and support us they are up to speed.”

The crowd was largely sympathetic. “You guys are understaffed and terribly, terribly, terribly underfunded,” said Tom White, an 11th generation Southampton resident. He offered a litany of problems affecting the health of the groundwater and the bays, from leaching septic systems, to town highway department catch basins that drain harmful road runoff back into the aquifer. He added that a sharp increase in irrigation was further affecting the quality of the groundwater.

“You are doing a great job,” he concluded. “Ask us for our help and we’ll try to get you more money.”

George Lynch of Quiogue said the Trustees were in a “situation akin to war” and called for residents who were concerned about everything from beach access to preventing pollution need “to give not just our cooperation but the kind of loyalty you’d give in a war situation.”

He urged the Trustees to hold more such forums to promote their causes. “If you need the help of citizens, I believe it will be there,” he said.

Another speaker, Scott Lewis, said the town should hire a “water superintendent,” whose duties, he suggested, would be to keep the waters clean, similar to how the highway superintendent is responsible for keeping the roads clear in the winter.

On Wednesday, Mr. Shultz who had spent his morning at a meeting to discuss dredging projects with county officials and planned to spend his evening at a meeting on duck hunting regulations, said the Trustees were a decidedly grassroots form of government. “We have a lot of responsibility,” he said, “and we don’t have any staff. We do it all ourselves.”

Early in Tuesday’s forum, Mr. Schultz reviewed some of the major legal decisions that have affected the Trustees’ authority. An 1818 decision gave the proprietors, who were literally the original owners of the town, authority over common lands, and the Trustees authority over the waters. The proprietors were eventually able to claim the beaches as common land, but when they disbanded in 890 after selling off all of their assets, court ruled that the Trustees still controlled an easement over thee beaches below the high water mark, a situation that largely remains in place today.

“We’re not gunslingers. We are going after cases that are really important,” Mr. Shultz said of the Trustees’ legal battles. “But were under increased pressure and with these lawsuits, we feel we haven’t been getting coverage and people don’t know the importance of what’s at stake with their beach rights.”

Sagg Bridge Stalemate Continues

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Sagg Bridge

 

By Stephen J. Kotz

The Village of Sagaponack and Southampton Town remain at a stalemate over Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor’s plan to forge ahead with a controversial plan to replace the Sagg Bridge.

The village has objected to a plan to install modified guardrails offered by Mr. Gregor, and he says he has no intention of allowing the village to annex the bridge, which village officials have raised as a possible solution.

The dispute over the tiny span, from which Bridgehampton derives its name, erupted in December when Mr. Gregor unveiled plans for a new bridge that included larger guardrails that meet the state highway safety code, but which Sagaponack residents say would cut off the view of the pond.

As an alternative, in February, the village offered to reimburse the town $500,000 for the federal grant money Mr. Gregor was planning to use for the project and help pay for future upkeep if the highway superintendent would cancel plans for installing the new guardrails.

But Mr. Gregor has refused. “I’m simply trying to make the bridge safe right now,” Mr. Gregor said on Tuesday.

As a compromise, Mr. Gregor said he offered to use a more historic-looking type of guardrail that he saw on numerous bridges on the Pacific Coast Highway during a recent vacation in California. The new railings would add about $22,000 to the coat of the project, but village officials have rejected his suggestion, he said.

Sagaponack Mayor Donald Louchheim said on Wednesday the village was stumped by the town’s refusal to accept its offer to pay for the bridge work or annex the structure.

“We thought we were giving the town a gift,” he said of the offer to pay for the work. That would free the town to use the grant money on another deserving road project, he added.

He suggested the board was unwilling to move forward with the village’s offer because it did not want to ruffle Mr. Gregor’s feathers.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gregor said he was growing tired of the delays. The highway superintendent said he had informed Sagaponack officials that was going to replace the bridge shortly after he took office in 2010 and delivered a complete set of plans for the new span last summer.

“I didn’t hear boo from them until I had my public information session late last year,” he said.

Mr. Gregor said he was hoping to go out to bid on the project this month, but he cannot do so until the town board votes on a resolution to accept the $500,000 construction grant that was procured by U.S. Representative Tim Bishop but is administered by the state Department of Transportation.

Mr. Gregor added that he had the authority to stop the village from annexing the bridge, which lies partly in the village and partly in town.

“According to the New York State Department of Transportation I own and am responsible to maintain the bridge and approaches to it,” Mr. Gregor said, referring to the town Highway Department.

But Mr. Louchheim rejected that notion. “Mr. Gregor has no authority over it,” he said. “The town owns the bridge. The town board can do it if it wants to do it.”

Even if the village were able to gain control of the bridge, Mr. Gregor said it was unlikely they would be able to get what they wanted.

“They must think they are going to be able to go to the DOT and have them tell them they can put in something that is less than standard,” he said.

Not true, again, said Mr. Louchheim who insisted the state could not force the village to bring the bridge up to code if it was not paying for the work.

East Hampton Plans Airport Noise Study

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By Stephen J. Kotz

East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez announced on Tuesday that the town would undertake a noise study this summer with an eye toward developing use restrictions at East Hampton Airport.

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said the town would take a somewhat novel approach that would seek to use both “noise averaging” data, which is typically required by the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as try to determine whether aircraft operations violate town law, which limits noise to 65 decibels during the daytime and 50 at night.

The town wants to have a consultant hired by early June, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said.

The dual-pronged approach represents a compromise between two separate noise subcommittees the town board established earlier this year to advise it on airport issues. One of those subcommittees is made up exclusively of members of the aviation community and the other is made up of people who want the town to reduce noise coming from the airport.

Noise subcommittee members did not want the traditional noise averaging study done, which was recommended by DY Consultants, the town’s aviation engineering consultants, because it would take too long, cost too much, and not provide completely accurate information, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said.

The town has a number of software programs that track not only the number of flights but the type of aircraft, whether it be a Sikorsky helicopter, a Gulfstream corporate jet or a Cessna single-engine plane, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said. In addition, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said, whoever conducts the study will be able to obtain detailed operating decibel information from aircraft manufacturers to help them generate an accurate computer modeling to map noise as an aircraft leaves or approaches the airport.

Ms. Burke-Gonzalez cautioned that the study would be preliminary in nature but stressed that it could be used to help determine what types of restrictions the town could consider imposing once some F.A.A. grant restrictions expire at the end of the year.

Separately, Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera has been appointed to the noise subcommittee. Ms. Scalera announced her appointment at Tuesday night’s Noyac Civic Council meeting just as a helicopter passed overhead, drowning out her words.

CVS Plans Cause Agita for Bridgehampton CAC

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Members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee are up in arms over a proposal to build a CVS pharmacy at the busy intersection of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike.  Stephen J. Kotz photo

By Stephen J. Kotz

The recent disclosure that the pharmacy giant CVS wants to open a store at a busy corner in Bridgehampton had members of the hamlet’s Citizens Advisory Committee reaching for their heartburn medication on Monday and threatening to hire their own lawyer to fight the proposal.

“It’s a shocking development,” said the CAC’s chairwoman, Nancy Walter-Yvertes, after explaining how she and other committee members had stumbled upon the knowledge that CVS, as has been rumored for several months, does indeed want to open a store at the bustling intersection of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike.

The committee chairwoman said CAC should take the unprecedented step of hiring its own attorney “to do something artful and legally slow down” the process.

Committee members have opposed the prospect of a CVS because, they say, it would snarl traffic at an already clogged intersection, there is insufficient parking at the site, and its operations, including deliveries and lighting, would have a negative effect on the community.

Ms. Walter-Yvertes said CVS had faced fierce opposition in Wainscott and Sag Harbor.

While CVS confirmed interest and the potential for a lease of the Long Island Avenue building that houses 7-Eleven and Sing City in 2007, no formal plans were ever filed with the Village of Sag Harbor. The village board did enact a new zoning code in 2009 that restricted the size of stores, effectively preventing any business from combining several spaces into one large store without significant review by the village’s planning board.

According to Ms. Walter-Yvertes, CAC members had recently inquired of Southampton Town officials about the possibility of CVS trying to build on that site and had been told the town had no specific knowledge of any such plans.

But when CAC members called the phone numbers listed on a sign at the property, which identifies the owner as BNB Ventures IV, they eventually received a return phone call from David J. Berman, CVS’s Director of Real Estate for Metro New York, who said the company would like to meet with CAC members to discuss the company’s plans. Mr. Berman could not be reached for comment this week.

“For close to two months we’ve been doing a lot of work on this,” said Norman Lowe, the CAC’s vice chairman. “I think we were stonewalled at Town Hall very effectively. For someone to say there was no identifiable action at Town Hall is poppycock in my mind.”

That accusation was news to Janice Scherer, a town planner who attended the meeting with Councilwoman Christine Scalera to answer the committee’s questions about the project.

“I can assure you nobody knew anything about CVS,” Ms. Scherer said, adding, “maybe someone knew somewhere, but it certainly wasn’t in the planning division. They are very quiet about these things.”

According to committee member Dick Bruce, who was one of those who sat in on the meeting with Mr. Berman, the company wants to develop a two-story building planned for the site into an 8,340-square-foot store that would have a pharmacy on the second floor and use the 4,400-square-foot basement for storage.

Mr. Bruce said the CAC had been originally told the building would house three 1,500-square foot businesses or offices on each of its two floors.

CAC members said the town has already issued a building permit for the exterior shell of a 9,000-square-foot, two-story building at the site. An additional permit would be required for interior work.

The property is zoned for village business, which limits individual uses to 5,000 square feet. A property owner can have a larger business, but must first obtain a special exception permit from the planning board.

Ms. Scherer said the special exception permit requirement was the town’s way of regulating what can be developed at the site. Residents, she added, could argue before the planning board that they wanted to restrict a “formula business” that would have negative impacts on the community, but “you can’t say we want this or that, or we want mom and pops to succeed.”

“The only place that we have a legal footing, any chance of stopping this thing is if we kill it in the planning board,” said Mr. Lowe.

Ms. Scalera said she did not want to weigh in on the application, but she agreed the CAC had legitimate reasons to voice its objections.

“The nature of what is being proposed there has been changed” since the building was approved, she said. “It is legitimate question for someone to say what is stop someone from taking over three places on Main Street and trying to do the same thing.”

There has been talk that CVS might try to set up two different corporate entities to try to get around the size limit, and Ms. Scalera said that determination would be in the hands of the town’s chief building inspector, Michael Benincasa, although she said she thought the building inspector “would be able to see through” any attempt to skirt the law.

Of Ms. Walter-Yvertes’ vow to hire an attorney, Ms. Scalera, who is an attorney herself, expressed doubts. “My cut is if a group of residents want to get together and hire an attorney, they would be well within their purview,” she said. “But I’ve never heard of a CAC hiring one. That would be unprecedented.”

A handful of residents who turned out for the meeting said they were totally opposed to a CVS at that corner. “I’m seeing an ‘Occupy Wall Street,’” said Theresa Quinn.

After offering a litany of concerns about the site, Tony Lambert said he was tired of the town not listening to the concerns of the CAC. “They have been doing this for years. They have been approving things for years without coming down to the CAC,” he said. “And when we try to intervene, we get nothing.”

Route 27 Repaving Starts This Week in Southampton

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Portable work lights have been placed along Route 27 in Bridgehampton in preparation for a major repaving project, much of which will take place at night. Stephen J. Kotz photo

By Stephen J. Kotz

The New York State Department of Transportation will try a somewhat novel approach for the East End when it starts a major repaving project on Route 27 between Southampton and East Hampton towns this week.

According to Eileen Peters, a DOT spokeswoman, contractors working on the project will work on a single lane, detouring traffic to one of the shoulders, over short stretches of ¼-to½ mile and also do much of the work at night in an effort to reduce the inconvenience to motorists who rely on the highway as the main thoroughfare between the two towns.

“We are not closing any lanes. We are shifting lanes,” said Ms. Peters. “They will not be working on the length of road, only on smaller sections.”

She added, though, that motorists should still expect to encounter some temporary lane closures, particularly when operations are being set up along a given section of road.

Daytime work will take place between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., to avoid causing tie-ups during the morning and afternoon trade parades. Aided by generator powered work lights that passersby may have already noticed springing up along the roadside, workers will return at night, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., to work in downtown areas and at busy intersections to further reduce disruptions during peak travel times.

In addition, the DOT will work up until the Memorial Day weekend before suspending the project, if it is not completed by then, until after Labor Day.

The DOT listened to “businesses who don’t want any construction after Memorial Day,” Ms. Peters said.

The project, she said, is weather-dependent, although the DOT is confident it will be completely finished by the end of the year.

A total of 8.2 miles will be repaved during the $7.6-million project, starting at the intersection of Route 27 and County Road 39, on the edge of Southampton Village and continuing east to Stephen Hands Path in East Hampton.

“We have been monitoring the condition of the pavement,” said Ms. Peters. “The last time it was repaved was 10 to 12 years ago, which is about average.”

She said short sections of the road already have been repaved as part of other construction projects more recently and that the DOT has tried to patch potholes along the heavily traveled road as often as possible.

Last year, the DOT repaved Route 27 from Stephen Hands Path to the Cove Hollow Road in East Hampton Village.

During the project, workers will use large milling machines to grind off the existing layer of worn asphalt, which will be hauled back to asphalt plants to be melted down and recycled for other uses, before adding a fresh layer of asphalt.

When the project is completed, along with the typical lane markings, the DOT will mark the shoulders to indicate they are bicycle lanes “to make it sure that motorists are sharing the road,” Ms. Peters said. More visible pedestrian-crosswalks will also be part of the project.

Motorists will be warned in advance of any lane closures via portable electronic road signs. The DOT has asked drivers who cannot use alternate routes to drive carefully through the work zone.

“It will be rough. There will be some inconveniences,” said Ms. Peters, who asked that motorist remain patient during the construction project. “We are rebuilding the road.”

Up-to-date traffic information can be obtained by calling 511 or visiting www.511NY.org.  In addition, travel information can be obtained from the INFORM Transportation Management Center cameras at www.INFORMNY.com or on handheld devices at www.INFORMNY.mobi.

 

The Cost of the Bridge

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Everybody, it seems, is against Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor’s plan to use federal grant money to replace the aging bridge that crosses Sagg Pond between Sagaponack and Bridgehampton. It’s not that people object to accepting the federal largesse, but they don’t like the heavy duty design being proposed.

Recently, the Sagaponack Village Board offered a solution: It will foot the $500,000 cost of repairing the bridge and split future maintenance costs with the town if Mr. Gregor foregoes his plans.

What’s not to like? On the face of it, nothing. But the town should enter any agreement with Sagaponack with its eyes wide open.

Ever since the village was incorporated in 2005, Sagaponack officials, despite having such a wealthy tax base, have made something of a parlor game out of using their leverage to effectively reduce the share of taxes village residents pay into the town’s coffers. Witness the agreement made last year whereby Sagaponack abandoned its threat to form its own police department in exchange for more regular town police patrols, which, given an equal sized police budget, come at the expense of other communities with more crime.

Sagaponack already has an intermunicipal agreement for highway services with the town. The smart money says if Sagaponack pays out big money now for the bridge repairs, its officials will be looking to recoup that payment—at the expense of road repairs elsewhere in town—the next time they sit down at the bargaining table to extend that agreement.

Southampton Board Members Offer Dueling Proposals to Rein in Political Influence

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Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, left, discusses a proposed ban on political committee members serving on land-use boards as Superivisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Christine Scalera listen.

By Stephen J. Kotz

Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming’s effort to ban members of political committees from serving on the town’s advisory boards—an effort that had fallen short twice before but seemed close to finding majority support just last month—was derailed again this week.

The latest setback came when the other members of the town board joined on Tuesday in co-sponsoring an alternate resolution that was put forth by Councilwoman Christine Scalera and Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

Instead of calling for an outright ban on committee members, their resolution would limit to three the members of any one political party who would be allowed to serve on the planning board, the zoning board of appeals and the conservation board, all of which have seven members.

The board agreed to hold a February 25 hearing on the Scalera-Throne-Holst alternative, while also agreeing to continue its consideration of Ms. Fleming’s proposal.

After several members of the public came forward to offer their support for her original resolution, Ms. Fleming, a Democrat, said, “I see these two resolutions as apples and oranges,” adding that the second resolution, rather than seeking to remove politics from the process, actually caters “specifically to political parties” and not the needs of the people.

On Wednesday, Ms. Fleming said she had been assured by Councilman Brad Bender, an Independence Party member, that he would continue to support her resolution. Although Supervisor Throne-Holst, also an Independence Party member, is now co-sponsoring a competing resolution, Ms. Fleming said the supervisor had voted for her measure in the past and had recently pledged her support for the resolution and that she hoped she could continue to count on her support.

“I have no interest in seeing this turn into a fight,” she said on Wednesday. “I’m interested in working as a team.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said that she had, indeed, supported Ms. Fleming’s proposal earlier but that her position had evolved after listening to testimony at public hearings.

“I supported it in spirit, but like everyone else I have the right to change my mind if I think there is a better way to achieve what we are looking for,” she said on Wednesday, adding that she too was interested in working across the aisle to achieve consensus.

Both Ms. Throne-Holst and Ms. Scalera said they had floated their ideas for ways to achieve a political balance on land-use boards to different town attorneys without knowing what the other was doing.

On Wednesday, Ms. Scalera, a Republican, reiterated her opposition to Ms. Fleming’s resolution, saying that it raised the Constitutional issue of whether the town board had the authority to limit one’s right to associate with a group of their choosing. She also said that nobody had accused committee members of using their positions on advisory boards for political advantage other than Ms. Fleming.

“It’s a solution in search of a problem,” Ms. Scalera said. “I’ve always said it was politically motivated.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said the resolution she and Ms. Scalera are pushing would follow similar limits imposed on members of the town’s ethics board. At the end of the day, she said, the board “is trying to reassure the public that there is a level playing field.”

Ms. Scalera said it would not prohibit people from joining a political party or group, but would “leave it to us to make sure there is balance.”

But Ms. Fleming said Ms. Scalera and Ms. Throne-Holst’s legislation would punish rank-and-file party members. “You’d be disqualified from serving if the quota was already met,” she said.

“In the bill I propose,” she added, “if you are a party official, if you have special responsibilities and authority connected to that specific position in the party, then you’d be required to set aside that authority while serving. You can’t answer to two masters.”

Both East Hampton and Southold Towns currently ban members of political committees from serving on advisory boards.

Ms. Fleming said she was moved to propose a ban on committee members last year after learning that 10 of the 21 members of the planning, zoning, and conservation boards were members of either the Republican or Conservative committees.

When she brought her amendment to the town’s ethics code to the board last spring, the Republican-Conservative majority blocked it, refusing to allow a public hearing.  She introduced it again this fall, and although the board agreed to hold a hearing on the resolution, it was voted down.

This year, the board did not reappoint two Republican Committee members, Ann Nowak and David Reilly, to the ZBA. Larry Toler, a Republican committee member on the planning board, retired. John Bouvier, a Democratic committee member, was appointed to the conservation board.

Meeting with members of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee last Friday, Ms. Fleming held out hope that her resolution would pass, despite Ms. Throne-Holst’s decision to work with Ms. Scalera. The handful of committee members who met at Pierson High School, agreed to write a letter to the town supporting Ms. Fleming’s legislation.

“It makes sense to us as community minded folk that politics should not cloud in any way our very important land use boards,” the CAC wrote. “We long to join the communities of Southold and East Hampton who have already enacted this common sense legislation and we are grateful for your efforts this same end.”

“A lot of people, not just us, feel that politics has interfered too much in the way of progress for the citizens here,” said Mike Piliero of Southampton at Tuesday’s meeting.

“It seems to me it’s talking about divvying up positions between political parties,” said Anne Hastings of Hampton Bays, referring to Ms. Scalera and Ms. Throne-Holst’s measure. “I think that it is a tacit admission that there is a conflict of interest.”

Joyce Roper of East Quogue said, “I don’t think Ms. Fleming’s resolution needs to be sacrificed in order for the other resolution to pass.”

But Elaine Kahl of Southampton objected to Ms. Fleming’s proposed committee ban.

“This is America,” she said. “You have a right to choose what group you are going to belong to and what group you aren’t going to belong to. It’s very political in nature. The whole thing is political.”

Southampton Town Proposes Political Party Ban for Committee Members

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By Tessa Raebeck

Hoping to stem what she sees as unbalanced Republican influence, Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming has again sponsored legislation to bar members of a political committee from also serving on the town’s land use boards.

After discovering last year that 10 out of the 21 members on the three influential boards, the planning board, the zoning board of appeals (ZBA) and the conservation board, were members of either the Republican or the Conservative Party committees, Fleming sponsored a resolution to ban members of such a committee from also serving on a board.

“I think,” Fleming said Monday, “it’s a really important measure to advance fairness in land use decisions and to make sure that people in the community feel that all voices are being heard and that land use decisions are being made in a fair and even handed way.”

Both East Hampton and Southold have similar legislation in effect. The resolution would require a political committee member who also wished to serve on a town board to resign from their political post for the time they serve as a board member.

Fleming believes the law would limit the “lopsided representation” of the current boards, noting out of seven members on the ZBA in 2013, five were Republican committee members and one was a Conservative committee member.

There are no members of the Democratic Committee on the town boards, Fleming said Monday

The law, she said, is “in order to open up public participation, so people feel that it’s not an insider’s game, that they can serve, that they can have their voices heard.”

“And,” she added, “in order to remove any conflict of interest that’s created when people are responsible both to the community and to their political parties.”

Fleming first introduced the bill last spring, but it was blocked from having a public hearing. She introduced it again this fall and although it was granted a public hearing, the bill was defeated September 24 by the then Republican-Conservative majority on the board.

At the public portion of the board’s meeting October 8, Mike Anthony of Westhampton, a member of the Democratic activist organization Organizing for America, spoke in support of the resolution, stating that many see government as an insider game and that people in Southampton cannot be part of local government without feeling they have to also be part of a political party.

Also at that meeting, George Lynch of Quogue said the Republican majority on public boards is trampling on proper procedures and stifling public discussion. Residents Dianne Rulnick, Mike Axelrad, Sally Pope and several others called on the board to have a public hearing on the ethics of removing political committee members from land use boards.

On Tuesday, the board hosted a public hearing on the proposal. While supporters voiced their concerns over lopsided legislation and perceived unfairness, opponents said the bill would discourage residents from participating in government and inhibit free speech.

Republican Party committee member Bill Hughes voiced his opposition to the bill at Tuesday’s hearing, saying it limited “freedom of association” and that being elected to a political party committee is a form of free speech.

Republican Councilwoman Christine Scalera has been vocal in her opposition to the bill since it was first introduced. Scalera has called the legislative intent offensive and questioned Fleming’s political motives behind introducing such a bill on Tuesday.

Despite Scalera’s opposition, Fleming is hopeful the bill will move forward and that it will be passed at the next town board meeting February 11.

Oh Deer! East End Wildlife Groups Plan “No Cull” Rally for Saturday

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deer

By Tessa Raebeck

Plans to unleash federal sharpshooters on the East End deer population have been met with bureaucratic setbacks and vocal opposition, but are moving forward nonetheless.

In coordination with the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Long Island Farm Bureau (LIFB) plans to hire USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) sharpshooters to kill deer with high-powered rifles to cull the local herds.

In addition to carrying tick-borne illnesses, causing car accidents and adversely affecting other animal habitats, deer destroy an estimated $3 to $5 million worth of crops annually on the East End, according to Joe Gergela, LIFB executive director.

Gergela said the cull, which will be largely funded by a $200,000 state grant, aims to kill 1,500 to 2,000 deer. All processed meat will go to Island Harvest to feed the hungry on Long Island.

“We felt whatever we did with the grant should be for community as well as farming benefit,” Gergela said Wednesday, adding a cull is crucial to having a successful agricultural industry.

LIFB has asked that villages and towns who want the sharpshooters sign onto the program by committing $15,000 or $25,000, respectively.

The DEC has yet to reveal whether it will require a single permit for the program or make each municipality signing onto the program file individually. Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said Tuesday although many municipalities have expressed interest in joining the program, they don’t want the legal liability of having the permit in their name.

So far, East Hampton Village, Southold Town and the eastern part of Brookhaven Town have signed on.

North Haven Village opted out, but is pursuing its own organized cull.

Sagaponack Village’s participation is contingent on the participation of both East Hampton and Southampton towns.

Southampton Town has thus far stayed mute on the subject — which has been under public discussion since September. Calls to Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst were not returned as of press time.

The East Hampton Town Board, under the previous administration, adopted a deer management plan that included plans for a cull. On Tuesday, however, newly elected Supervisor Larry Cantwell said he was unsure if the town would, in fact, join the LIFB in this initiative.

“At the moment, it’s up in the air,” Cantwell said, adding he would like to see culling on a limited basis and there are advantages to participating, but the town’s decision will be based primarily on the opinions of its residents.

“To some extent,” said Cantwell, “this is happening fairly quickly in terms of building a community consensus moving forward.”

The East Hampton Group for the Wildlife, the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons and 13 individuals have filed suit against East Hampton Town, East Hampton Village and the East Hampton Town Trustees.

The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order against the town’s deer management plan and specifically, any proposal that calls for an organized cull.

“The lawsuit,” Cantwell said, “is certainly a factor in the decision-making process about this.”

Critics contend little information has been provided to show the cull is truly necessary.

“Killing other beings as a way of solving the problem is abhorrent, unethical and monstrous to me,” said East Hampton Group for the Wildlife President Bill Crain. “These are living beings with families and social lives and emotions, so to kill them just seems like a moral outrage.”

“It’s not about animal cruelty and all the nonsense that the Bambi lovers are spouting,” Gergela said. “If they would sit down and listen to people, they would realize there are no practical solutions other than to hunt or to cull.”

A petition on change.org to stop the “stealth plan to brutally slaughter 5,000 East End deer” had garnered over 10,600 signatures as of press time. In addition to local residents, activists from as far away as Belgium have signed the petition, which calls for the “unethical, ‘quick-fix,’ non-science-based plan” to “immediately cease and desist.”

A rally in protest of the cull will be held Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. at the Hook Mill in East Hampton.

Gergela dismissed the opposition as a “vocal minority” of non-locals with “no vested interest other than they enjoy animals and they enjoy their peaceful weekend on Long Island.”

“That’s very nice,” he added, “but for those of us that live here, whether you’re a farmer or a general citizen that’s had an accident, that has Lyme Disease or whatever, everybody says to me, ‘You’re doing a great thing.’”

Local hunters have also expressed their opposition to the cull, arguing if state and local governments lessened hunting restrictions, they themselves could thin the deer population.

Terry Crowley, a lifelong Sagaponack resident whose family has been hunting on the East End for generations, called the cull “a little ridiculous.”

“They should just change a few laws so more deer can be killed,” Crowley said Tuesday.

Thiele is working on legislation that would implement the state deer management plan, which has a number of recommendations to increase hunting opportunities, including expanding the January season to include weekends and allow bow and arrow hunting.

Cantwell voiced his support of such legislation.

“I certainly want to work with the local hunters who want to take deer,” the supervisor said Tuesday, “because I do think that removing some deer from the population on an ongoing basis is necessary to control the population.”