Tag Archive | "Supervisor Larry Cantwell"

East Hampton, Southampton Town Budgets Due

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The weeks of discussions and negotiations over annual budgets are coming to an end on Thursday, November 20, when the town boards of East Hampton and Southampton will be required by state late to adopt their 2015 operating budgets.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell has proposed a $71.5 million budget, which will require a 3.2-percent tax rate increase for those who live within East Hampton Village and a 2-percent tax rate increase for those residing outside of it.

This translates to a $14.32 increase for a house valued at $550,000 outside the village and $23.08 for one within the village boundaries.

Still, East Hampton’s preliminary budget is more than $300,000 below the state-mandated tax levy cap. Although some have criticized the high revenue estimates in the budget, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli reviewed the preliminary budget earlier this month and deemed the revenue and expenditure projections in the tentative budget as reasonable.

In Southampton Town, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst has presented yet another budget with a zero percent tax levy increase. Her $88.5 million budget includes money to hire six new police officers over two years.

The board has been under pressure from the Southampton Town Trustees and the Highway Department to include more money in their budget lines.

Each town included $100,000 in their budgets for their wastewater management plans and $25,000 each for the South Fork Behavioral Health Care Initiative.

The Southampton Town Board will adopt its budget when it meets at 11 a.m. today, Thursday, November 20. The East Hampton Town Board is scheduled to adopt its budget at its regular meeting tonight at 6:30.

East Hampton Town Budget Stays Below Tax Cap

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By Mara Certic

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell’s $71.5 million budget has seen some changes to both its revenue and expenditure sides since it was first presented in September, but will remain well below the state-mandated 2-percent tax cap.

East Hampton Town Budget Officer Len Bernard presented some of those changes at a board meeting on Thursday, November 6.

Mr. Bernard explained certain adjustments had been made since the tentative budget was released in September. In the budget, the town had anticipated $50,000 in  revenue from a proposed rental registry law, Mr. Bernard said, which was removed after residents came out in opposition to the law at a public hearing last month.

In its place, Mr. Bernard added $80,900 for lease options the town is entering into with a solar company, he said. “This revenue source may become a recurring revenue source depending on what is discovered during that lease option period, in terms of whether or not the solar energy production is feasible on the sites they’re going to be testing,” Mr. Bernard said.

Mr. Bernard added he had $104,900 for additional public safety into the revenue side of the budget. Mr. Bernard said Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman told him he was “99 percent sure” the town would end up receiving a greater share of sales tax revenue to be used for public safety. This agreement, Mr. Bernard explained, was established as a way to reimburse East End communities that have their own police forces and do not use the Suffolk County Police.

On the expense side, approximately $70,000 was added for police funding, $10,000 for the fisheries committee, $2,500 for the cemeteries fund and $20,000 for a part-time youth coordinator, he  said.

The town has budgeted to close its scavenger waste facility, which will save the town $450,000 between 2014 and 2015.

“It really doesn’t affect revenues, other than the fact that there will be no revenue other than tax revenue for that district. There are going to be no fees because the place is going to be closed,” Mr. Bernard said.

“We’re not realizing any kind of increase in fees, we’re actually realizing a substantial drop is costs that will be going down over time until eventually the place is fully shut down and all of the old debt is paid off,” he said. Mr. Bernard added that the current budget will be $315,000 below the state tax cap, which can be applied to next year’s budget.

Tom Knobel, chairman of the East Hampton Town Republican Committee, spoke up during Thursday’s public hearing and said he found some flaws on the revenue side of the budget.

“I believe there are a couple of flaws. I believe you are aiming to a more fee-based budgeting for the town and fees can be punitive,” he said.

Mr. Knobel also expressed concern that the town had anticipated a revenue increase of 18.3 percent, when there has been talk in the town of possibly limiting flights in and out of East Hampton Airport. Mr. Knobel said reducing the number of flights would “would limit the profitability of the airport.”

Other than a $10,000 line item for fisheries, Mr. Knobel said there was nothing in the budget to suggest the town was trying to attract new jobs or strive toward economic development.

Amos Goodman, of Springs, also commented about the town relying on future revenues with “where we are year to date in 2014, really being significantly less than what the previous year’s budget indicated,” he said.

“At $71.5 million, the budget’s less than it was six years ago,” Mr. Cantwell said on Thursday.

Mr. Cantwell added that the New York State comptroller announced on November 4 that after significant review, he had found East Hampton Town’s budget to have both reasonable revenue and expenditure projections.

“The state comptroller’s findings reflect the town’s goal of conservatively projecting non-tax revenue and restraining spending in order to produce a balanced budget,” Supervisor Cantwell said in a release.

 

 

 

East End Elected Officials Agree on Local Issues at LTV’s Second Village Green Meeting

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By Mara Certic

East End elected officials offered a strong, united front, seemingly agreeing on each and every local and national issue that cropped up during a “village green” discussion hosted by LTV Studios in Wainscott on Friday, October 17.

LTV hosted its second village green meeting of the year in an effort to give the public an opportunity to ask the five major East End elected officials about issues of concern.

Representative Tim Bishop, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst spent an hour and a half answering questions about various subjects including the potential of “Peconic County,” offshore wind farms, planning issues, heroin and Ebola. Robert Strada, the board president of LTV, moderated the discussion, and questions were submitted by the public through the website phlive.at.

The oft-examined notion of a new “Peconic County” was the first question to crop up during Friday’s forum, which Mr. Thiele and Mr. Schneiderman answered.

The discussion of Peconic County first began many years ago, when Suffolk County offices were moved from Riverhead to Hauppauge. Peconic County would be made up of the five East End towns, which officials have often complained that the county ignores their needs.

“We will never get our fair share from Suffolk County,” Mr. Thiele said, adding the East End represents 8 percent of the county’s population and yet pays in excess of 15 percent of the sales tax and over a third of the county’s property tax. He said Suffolk’s population of almost 1.5 million people is much larger than what a county’s should be.

“The East End is simply going to be the tail on the dog,” he said, “and it is only occasionally that the tail gets to wag the dog.”

Mr. Schneiderman said he had always been a supporter of local control but that starting a new county would be “an awful lot to take on,” and that now might not be the time. Mr. Thiele added there was currently a big push from the governor to consolidate and “we would be swimming against the tide.”

“The politics of creating new local governments is something that’s extremely hard to do,” he said. “The issue is whether or not you can get the political stars to line up to create the county.”

Supervisors Cantwell and Throne-Holst described some of the measures they have employed to protect local beaches, including the Army Corp of Engineers program in downtown Montauk and a $10 million grant East Hampton Town was awarded to protect the low-lying Lazy Point area of Napeague.

“Clearly we’re dealing with the issue of climate change,” Mr. Cantwell said. The elected officials all sprung at the opportunity to answer a question about Deepwater ONE, a proposed 200-megawatt offshore wind farm that would, if all goes according to plan, create enough electricity to power 120,000 homes.

“Wind has to be part of our energy portfolio going forward,” Mr. Bishop said, but emphasized the importance of siting the project appropriately so as not to disrupt aesthetics, fishing grounds or shipping lanes. “My own view is that it’s a pretty big ocean out there, and we should be able to figure this out,” he added. Legislator Schneiderman agreed it was important for the offshore wind developers to continue to work in conjunction with commercial fishermen but added, “This is too important for us to put up too many obstacles.” Mr. Schneiderman said the farm has “great potential to get our region off the grid”

“The reality is we’re woefully behind,” said Supervisor Throne-Holst about the use of renewable energy on the East End compared to the rest of the world.

Next week, the board of LIPA and Governor Cuomo are slated to have their last meeting about Deepwater ONE on Thursday, October 30. Environmental organizations have organized a “Rally for Renewables” to show the governor how much support an East End wind farm would have.

Governor Cuomo came under some fire when the assembled elected officials were asked how they allowed the 60-foot PSEG utility poles to be installed in East Hampton Village and Town. “That’s got a sorry tale, really,” said Mr. Cantwell.

“Public outreach and public notice isn’t opening up the window at the corporate headquarters at Hicksville at 3 o’clock in the morning and whispering ‘we’re going to build utility poles out in East Hampton,’” Mr. Thiele said. “They simply did not do what you would expect a public utility to do.” He went on to describe PSEG as “an unmitigated disaster.”

“The governor has been absent. I don’t know if he’s on his book tour, or what he’s doing but he’s not helping with this particular problem,” Mr. Thiele added.

At the end of the forum, each member of the panel was invited to make a closing comment. “We’re very, very fortunate to have this great and responsive group of people,” Ms. Throne-Holst said of her fellow elected officials. Representative Bishop said the good, professional relationships among the group of legislators “represents government at our best.”

“Really, I feel like we have an incredible team,” said Mr. Schneiderman, who is serving his last term as county legislator. Assemblyman Thiele said he knew he had said some “nasty” things about Governor Cuomo and added, “I just want to let you know, I’m not taking any of them back.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Proposes $71.5 Million Budget

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Larry Cantwell photo for web

By Mara Certic

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell presented his proposed  $71.5 million budget for the town in 2015 last week.

On Thursday, September 25, Mr. Cantwell released his tentative budget, which calls for a $1,490,349 increase in spending over this year. The proposed budget is $204,051 below the state-mandated 2-percent tax levy cap.

The tax rate, for those who live outside either East Hampton or Sag Harbor village, will increase by just over 2 percent, Mr. Cantwell said. The increase will amount to  $23.08 for those who own property assessed at $4,000 (a full value of $550,000) and $40.39 for those who own property with a full value of $960,000.

Those living in the villages will see a 3.12-percent increase in their property taxes, which will amount to $14.32 for those in homes worth $550,000 and $25.06 per year for a house assessed at $960,000.

By staying under the 2-percent tax cap, residents will receive rebate checks from the state for the amount their taxes increased between this year and last, he explained.

The total budgeted spending increase, Mr. Cantwell explained, is 2.95 percent, bringing the budget up to a total of $71,481,765.

“My goal in formulating this budget has been to integrate prudent budgeting and financial planning while improving code enforcement, protecting and improving environmental quality and assisting those who depend on certain town services,” Mr. Cantwell said.

“Improvements in services—delivered in a financially responsible manner—are what I was striving for in developing my tentative budget,” he said.

Mr. Cantwell has proposed three new full-time positions and converting one from part-time to full-time.

The first of these “recognizes and funds the position of public safety coordinator as a separate and distinct title,” the supervisor said in a release accompanying the budget. Previously, that position was a split title with an assistant town attorney handling those duties.

The new public safety coordinator will oversee building, fire prevention, animal control and code enforcement activities on a full-time basis. Mr. Cantwell added it will also allow one of the existing full-time assistant town attorneys to spend all of their time as a legal professional.

Mr. Cantwell also including funding in his tentative budget for a new ordinance inspector and promotion of inspector to code enforcement officer. The new ordinance inspector, he explained, will be able to ticket and write summons just as code enforcement officers do.  According to Mr. Cantwell, the budget specified that some part-time funding go toward a part-time town investigator in the Ordinance Enforcement Department.

In his first budget as supervisor, Mr. Cantwell revealed his intent to increase the town Police Department and Marine Patrol’s seasonal staff. He added $50,000 in funding for the police department and $25,000 for marine patrol. “This additional funding will add more coverage in the busy summer months, boost compliance with parking regulations, traffic control and local ordinances,” said Mr. Cantwell.

Mr. Cantwell also announced an additional $12,000 will go toward seasonal help to “combat litter and keep our beaches clean.”

In that vein, Mr. Cantwell also proposed to convert the part-time environmental technician position to a full-time job. The new position will be funded by the Town’s general fund and the Community Preservation Fund. The duties of the job will be split between general land management and tasks particular to CPF-acquired properties.

The last new job introduced in this year’s tentative budget is for an executive assistant to the supervisor in order to “make the supervisor’s office more responsive to the public.”

An additional $10,000 for the Natural Resources Department will set aside a total of $20,000 solely for water quality research in the town. “Water testing is one of the ways we can monitor what’s going on,” Mr. Cantwell said.

Another $100,000 will be set aside to develop a town-wide wastewater management plan, which, the supervisor said, would go toward funding the necessary groundwork before any such plan could be put in place.

Mr. Cantwell expanded services for the Senior Nutrition Program, extending the program’s cook’s hours and increasing the budget for the Montauk program by $5,000. The town will also increase some of its youth services, he said.

Mr. Cantwell included $25,000 for the South Fork Behavioral Health Initiative to help improve mental health care on the East End through clinics operated by the Family Service League. “Regionally, the goal is to get immediate mental health services available at Southampton Hospital,” Mr. Cantwell said.

The supervisor attributed much of the increase in the budget to escalating health insurance rates, which are expected to go up by 6 percent. A total of $17.3 million of the entire budget goes to pay benefits, he explained.

“The largest spending cut in my tentative budget comes from closing the Scavenger Waste Treatment Plant, which was servicing only a small number of vendors, with a budget of $800,000 and a net cost of well over $500,000 to taxpayers,” Mr. Cantwell said.

The CPF continues to perform strongly, Mr. Cantwell said, and the projected revenue for 2014 is $25.2 million. A “conservative” projection for next year is $18.3 million. As of last week, the CPF had a cash balance of over $52 million—$30 million of which is dedicated to pending acquisitions.

The supervisor has suggested the town add $1.7 million of surplus fund balance to an existing debt reserve, in order to pay off approximately 25 percent of the remaining deficit bond principal. By 2018, the town anticipates to have enough money in its dedicated debt reserves to pay off enough debt to ensure the principal payments drop by $1.25 million.

“I believe improvements in services—delivered in a financially responsible manner—are achieved in my tentative budget,” he said.

The East Hampton Town Board will discuss the tentative budget during the first two work sessions in October, and expects to have a public hearing on Thursday, November 6. The current plan is to adopt the final budget on Thursday, November 20, as mandated by the state.

PSEG Gets an Earful in East Hampton

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach, Jr., and East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell listened to a presentation by Mike Voltz of PSEG and a public hearing at the East Hampton Emergency Services Building on Tuesday, August 26. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Mara Certic

There was hardly a spare seat in the house on Tuesday, August 26, for an informational session and public hearing hosted by the State Department of Public Services on PSEG Long Island’s Utility 2.0 Long-Range Plan.

PSEG Long Island, a subsidiary of New Jersey-based PSEG, submitted the plan to the DPS on July 1, and almost immediately came under fire for failing to provide specifics about it as well as its decision to install 50-to-65-foot utility poles through portions of East Hampton Village last winter.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. wrote a joint letter to PSEG, asking that it hold a public meeting in East Hampton because the utility targeted the East End for major upgrades in the plan.

“We believe the Utility 2.0 Long Range Plan needs clarification, detail and public discussion, and we urge a public dialogue for this plan for the Town and Village of East Hampton,” they wrote.

“This is a time my office can hear you, your concerns and take it all into account,” said Julia Bovey, director the New York State Department of Public Services, who hosted the meeting.

And hear from people she did, with many people lining up to once again voice their objections to the installation of the poles.

“They’re an assault on our very core,” said town resident Elena Prohaska Glynn.  “We cannot afford to despoil the landscape. Remove them; bury those lines,” she said to much applause from the audience on Tuesday night.

The new poles have resulted in the creation of two organizations—Save East Hampton and Long Island Businesses For Renewable Energy, a stop-work order issued by the town and even a lawsuit.

Some wore bright orange Save East Hampton t-shirts with “Bury The Lines” written on the back. Many of the orange shirt wearers spoke not about the new plan, but about what they feel to be a more pressing issue: the danger and unsightliness of the new, taller poles in the village.

“It’s not only a matter of aesthetics, it’s a matter of life and death,” said Helen Mendez. “Be the company that you say you are, help us have green solutions. Do what’s safe, do what’s right and bury the lines.”

All three elected officials who spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting also called for the new lines to be buried, including State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

“They have been willing over and over again to tax themselves to protect the quality of life here,” he said of his constituents.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell also called for the lines to be buried, to thunderous applause.

Jeremy Samuelson, president of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, gave DPS and PSEG Long Island some “history.” He explained that the public meeting process prior to the installation of the taller poles left much to be desired. The process lacked any transparency or community engagement from the utility company, he said.

“You come back a year later, and you have to eat some crow,” he said to the representatives from the DPS and PSEG. “You guys got it wrong, so that’s the history.”

“The question is,” he continued, “are you going to be our partners in fixing this mess? This thing is an atrocity; I won’t sugarcoat it for you. So the question is: LIPA isn’t in charge anymore. Are you going to help us find the somewhere between $20 million and $30 million to fix this mess?” he asked.

Elected officials and environmentalists also seemed unsatisfied by the lack of consideration for the town’s existing policy. “With regard to the presentation: that is something we would like to see more of, alternatives to fossil fuels,” Mr. Thiele said.

“The town has adopted a very important and ambitious goal,” Mr. Cantwell said of East Hampton’s decision to power all of its community-wide electricity needs with renewable energy by the year 2020. “I would urge that the power sources on the South Fork be met with renewable energy sources,” he said.

Gordian Raacke, president of Renewable Energy Long Island (RELI) criticized the shortsightedness of the plan. “I know you will make sure that while PSEG may not be in the room anymore, they will hear our comments,” he said to Ms. Bovey—about 20 minutes prior to that, it had become apparent that Mike Voltz, the director of energy efficiency and renewables for PSEG Long Island, who gave an overview of the plan, had left the meeting in the middle of the hearing.

“The plan is not a 2.0 plan. At best it’s a utility 1.1. It’s more business as usual and fails to provide a vision for utility or the future,” he said. “Work with the Town of East Hampton, work with us to build a sustainable energy future and we’ll work with you.”

PSEG needs “to be a collaborator, not an opponent,” he added. “You need to propose a better plan.

The meeting kicked off with a presentation by Mr. Voltz, who tried to shed some light on the plan and presented a series of slides and bullet points.

Mr. Voltz discussed items on the five-year plan, including a call to spend approximately $60 million on energy saving steps over the next five years, including providing programmable thermostats to upward of 60,000 residential customers.

The plan also includes a four-year-long educational campaign, at a cost of $8 million, an energy efficiency expansion in the Rockaways, which was explained in great detail as well and a $15 million initiative that would aim to install 6,000 new advanced meters in hard-to-reach locations.

The information on South Fork improvements left much to be desired, according to some of those who spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting. In that section of Mr. Voltz’s presentation, he discussed plans to use solar energy, battery storage and programmable thermostats, and also discussed the need for new generators to boost electricity output during periods of peak usage in Montauk, and other places. “They’re very old,” Mr. Voltz said of the generators, “they’re getting worn out.”

Flights, Complaints Up at East Hampton Airport

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By Mara Certic

Over half of the flights into and out of East Hampton Airport over the Memorial Day Weekend—a weekend that saw a 20 percent increase in traffic over last year—were the subject of noise complaints, airport manager Jim Brundige told the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday.

About 25 percent of all complaints came from eastern Sag Harbor Village, although senior airport attendant Peter Boody reported that “somewhere around 80 percent” of those complaints were from one particular resident of the village who “has a problem with aircraft noise” and makes numerous calls a day.

From May 22 through May 26, there were a total of 872 flights. The airport tracks flights through a combination of aircraft tracking, cameras and logs filled out by airport personnel. According to Mr. Brundige, there are limitations to the accuracy of the process, but that the best estimate shows that 40 percent of the activity over the holiday weekend was by helicopters.

The airport manager said there was a 20 percent increase in operations over Memorial Day 2013, and that increase resulted in airport managers and Eastern Regional Helicopter Council executive director Jeff Smith agreeing at a May 30 meeting to alter the southern helicopter approach to the airport because the existing rules “were not working.”

Prior to the Memorial Day weekend, helicopters would begin their descent over Georgica Pond and would do a “circling, descending route” over the airport before landing, Mr. Brundige said. The route has now been tweaked to make it safer by having helicopters continue eastbound, past Georgica Pond, before they start their descent from a height of 2,000 feet as all other air traffic does.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell expressed concern about the route shift. “The downside to this is more complaints,” he said. “I look at the [area] you suggested and I see more houses.”

That was a consideration of last week’s meeting, Mr. Brundige said, but those participating decided it was the best route for safety.

Mr. Cantwell reiterated his worries and said that “No matter how you look at it, there’s substantially more traffic over this period of time [than last year.] Substantially more complaints lead me to the conclusion that we need limits—we really need limits here.”

The airport manager attributed the increase in air traffic this year to better weather, and added, “we have the same helicopters coming and going as we have the past few years. We haven’t changed our clientele.”

Mr. Brundige also presented two resolutions for the town board to consider when it meets on Thursday, June 5.

The first is a proposal to increase landing fees by 10 percent in order to provide adequate revenue to maintain the airport, Mr. Brundige said. This would be effective immediately and would result in a $100,000 increase in revenue for the town for the remainder of this year. According to Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, landing fees provided approximately $1.3 million for the town last year, and are the airport’s “biggest source of revenue,” she said.

The second proposal is to increase the fuel charge from 15 to 30 cents a gallon. Cindy Herbst of Sound Aircraft Services, which operates at East Hampton Town Airport, expressed concern over the potential change. “There has to be some kind of justification for not raising it 5 cents but doubling it,” she said. “We have to pass that along to our customers and I’m not sure that we can do that.”

Some airports charge as much as 32 cents a gallon, she said, but that they provide operators better access.

The town’s budget and finance committee proposed the changes, said Mr. Brundige. “They did their homework; it’s really what the going rate is among other airports. This is their recommendation as a stop-gap for 2014.”

In 2002, when the 15-cent per gallon fee was adopted, the retail price for fuel was $2.52 per gallon. It now costs about $7, he said.

“I know it’s been a long time since the fee was raised,” Ms. Herbst told the board.  “I just don’t think that a 100-percent raise is justifiable. Please take that into consideration.”

The board suggested a sit-down with Ms. Herbst and Mr. Brundige before the resolution is considered during Thursday’s meeting.

East Hampton Town Revises Formula Business Legislation

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By Mara Certic

Members of the East Hampton Town Board agreed to bring a new draft of legislation restricting formula businesses in historic districts to public hearing during a Tuesday morning work session.

In response to a public hearing in April and letters received by the town board, changes have been made to the proposed legislation which simplifies the structure of the law, according to town Planning Director Marguerite Wolffsohn.

The law would aim to prohibit any establishment that falls under the definition of “formula business” in historic districts or within half a mile of any historic building.

In the previously proposed legislation, a formula business was described as any store or restaurant that was part of a chain of 10 or more, under common ownership or a franchise. In Tuesday’s work session, however, Ms. Wolffsohn explained that the law now will define a formula business as “one of 15 or more other businesses or establishments within the United States” meaning a corporation would have to have over a dozen other stores or restaurants of the same name to fall under the formula business definition.

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who is sponsoring the law, explained Tuesday afternoon that the change was made at the request of several people who believe that 10 stores worldwide was too restrictive and that it was too small a number.

The law also calls for new standards and safeguards before a special permit can be issued for a formula store in the neighborhood business and central business zones.

One of these standards insists that formula businesses be compatible with the existing and surrounding uses and be designed and operated in an unobtrusive manner to preserve the community’s unique historic character.

“It means it should blend in with the character of the community rather than a standard formula for all of the stores throughout the country. Except for of course what they’re selling. The business and its attributes should be those of East Hampton, rather than what’s around the country,” Ms. Wolffsohn explained.

Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc suggested that the board consider allowing special permits for formula businesses in waterfront zones, where the law previously prohibited them. “I wonder if the board might consider that that would also be allowed by special permit seeing as those types of uses already occur within a waterfront zone.” The other members of the town board agreed with the concept.

“Where we stand today, if you’re building a new building or if you’re making site improvements, there’s a site-plan review process but there’s no special permit requirement for formula businesses in today’s law,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said.

He added that he was unsure how much support the law would have when presented for a public hearing, but added that the standards would raise the bar of review and would employ a higher level of scrutiny, which he said “is the right thing to do.”

“I’m fairly comfortable with what’s been outlined here, and I think we should proceed to public hearing,” said Supervisor Cantwell.

Mr. Van Scoyoc said that the most important part of this legislation is that “it would require a special permit, which requires a public hearing, and the public has the right to weigh in on any proposal.”

A public hearing was suggested for Thursday, July 3, but may be postponed after Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez expressed concern that business owners might be too busy before the holiday weekend to voice their opinions on the newly amended law.

Bill Would Ease Burial of Utility Lines

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle have sponsored legislation that would permit New York State towns to create “underground utility improvement districts” by which they could enter into agreements with public utility companies to bury electric transmission and distribution lines, cable television lines, and telephone lines. Towns would also be able to negotiate with utilities to have as much as 50 percent of the additional cost of burying the lines absorbed by the utility.

“The current dispute in East Hampton over electric transmission lines is only the tip of the iceberg in a nationwide debate that relates to climate change and public utility infrastructure,” said Mr. Thiele in a release. “On Long Island, which is particularly susceptible to nor’easters, tropical storms, and hurricanes, the selective undergrounding of utility infrastructure must be part of that debate. Other states … have been at the forefront of new policies to underground utility infrastructure. In New York, the only thing we are burying is our heads in the sand.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the legislation was welcome. ”The Town of East Hampton and its residents have invested millions of dollars to preserve open space and residential neighborhoods,” he said. “The economic future of our community depends on its natural and manmade beauty. Large overhead transmission line projects threaten this balance and private utility companies and New York State must support burying as the first alternative, not the last.”

“It is important that not just for the current situation we are going through with the utility, but that a comprehensive approach is developed and adhered to concerning any future projects,” said East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach, Jr.

Under the new legislation, any town in New York State would have the authority to create an “underground utility improvement district,” using the same process and procedures that currently exist for the creation of other special districts such as water or sewer districts. The creation of a district would be subject to a permissive referendum.

Town Hopes Agreement Leads to Fewer Helicopter Noise Complaints

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By Stephen J. Kotz

A voluntary agreement to regulate helicopter traffic at East Hampton Airport that is hoped will reduce noise complaints was unveiled before the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday.

“Do we have to talk about helicopters? Do we have to do this?” quipped Supervisor Larry Cantwell, referring to the controversy increased helicopter traffic has caused in recent years, before Peter Boody, the recently appointed assistant to airport manager Jim Brundige, began his presentation.

Mr. Boody was accompanied by Jeff Smith, chairman of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, an industry group that, he said, counts among its members all of the pilots who typically use the airport.

The agreement, which largely focuses on asking helicopter pilots to maintain minimum altitudes and set routes into and out of the airport, was struck between the council, the airport manager’s office, the control tower, and a pair of town airport subcommittees—one that is made up of airport users and another that is made up of anti-noise activists.

“Most of these routes were in effect last year” when noise complaints declined from about 11,000 to approximately 6,700, Mr. Boody said.

The difference, he said, is that the airport will now monitor flight data from its air traffic control tower. When a complaint is received or a monitor notices that a pilot has not followed the recommended flight path, the information will be forwarded to Mr. Smith of the helicopter council, who will address the concerns with the offending pilot.

“I’ve already had this conversation with every one of my members,” Mr. Smith said. “They have all agreed this is doable.”

“That’s what Jeff and I will be doing all summer long, talking about these problems,” said Mr. Boody after reviewing a few examples on a PowerPoint presentation that showed the paths of helicopters that did not follow the designated routes.

“It’s remarkable how much eagerness there is to comply,” said Mr. Boody. He added, though, that in the summer, as traffic picks up, pilots tend to not follow the routes as precisely as they can. There is also some confusion, he said, among those who don’t understand the new routes.

Mr. Boody said a key element to the new approach is convincing pilots of the need to maintain reasonable altitudes as they approach or leave the airport.

“There have been ups and downs,” Mr. Boody said of efforts to control helicopter traffic. “Generally that the trend is up in terms of altitude is true.”

He conceded, though, that while getting pilots to fly at higher altitudes “affects the intensity of the noise, it doesn’t make it go away.”

Helicopters using a northeasterly route are asked to attain an altitude of at least 2,000 feet before leaving the airport boundary and climb to 3,000 feet by the time they pass over Barcelona Neck and fly over the bay, over the South Ferry channel and on toward the North Fork.

About 30 percent of helicopters use a southerly route that passes over Georgica Pond. They too are asked to climb to 2,000 feet before leaving the airport boundary and over the center of Georgica Pond before turning at the cut at a preferred height of 3,000 feet.

Mr. Smith said that fewer helicopters use the southern route because airplane and jet traffic is already concentrated at that end of the airport, often making the skies too crowded.

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby asked whether air traffic controllers could direct helicopter pilots to follow a set route, but Mr. Boody said since the routes are voluntary, the air traffic controllers would have no authority to direct them.

Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc expressed reservations about the whole idea of sending most flights northward over land that the town, county, and state had spent millions of dollars to protect as open space.

“We have now created a helicopter superhighway to the Hamptons over an area we preserved,” he said. “I find that a troubling contradiction.”

Mr. Van Scoyoc was also perturbed Mr. Smith told him that larger, larger twin-engine helicopters will be sent north over Northwest Harbor and Cedar Point along the eastern edge of Shelter Island before heading out over Orient Point.

“So, the heavies which are 50 percent of the traffic will now be going the length of Northwest Harbor,” he said, adding quietly, “terrific.”

 

Solar Farm Pitched for East Hampton Airport

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The East Hampton Airport could be going green in a big way.

Tonight, the town board plans to accept the recommendation of its energy sustainability committee and seek proposals for a solar farm at the airport that could produce up to 38 megawatts as part of an initiative sponsored by the Long Island Power Authority and PSEG Long Island, the company that manages the island’s electrical grid.

The solar farm would sell the power it generates to PSEG Long Island, and share the proceeds with the town through a 20-year lease.

According to Frank Dalene, the chairman of the committee, the solar farm, which he said would be one of the largest town-owned facilities in the country, could generate up to $3.5 million a year for the life of the lease.

“It’s at step one,” said Supervisor Larry Cantwell, “but it’s exciting. Besides providing a source of sustainable energy, it has the potential to bring in revenue.”

Although Mr. Cantwell said Mr. Dalene’s revenue estimate may be on the optimistic side, he was quick to point out, “Even at $1 million a year that would go a long way toward funding airport improvements.”

Because the airport revenues and expenses are segregated into a separate fund, all revenue generated from a solar farm at the airport would have to be used on site.

Mr. Dalene said the proposal is still in the early stages. “There are a lot of variables,” he said. PSEG Long Island “has to approve the contractors, the site and how it connects to the grid.”

Still, he said, in this latest phase, the company has committed to sponsoring larger renewable energy projects that could generate a total of 280 megawatts islandwide.

“They are looking for the East End to fulfill a certain amount of the need,” he said. “The transmission lines are beyond their peak, the local power stations on Buell Lane and Southampton are at capacity, so they are really going to focus on the East End.”

According to the Long Island Power Authority, the typical Long Island house uses 9,548 kilowatts of energy a year. Mr. Dalene said a 38-megwatt solar farm could generate nearly 46 million kilowatts a year, enough to provide power to approximately 4,600 houses, although he added, “It’s safe to say the typical East Hampton house consumes more electricity than a typical Long Island house.”

Last month, the town board agreed to ask three contractors to provide smaller solar arrays of no more than 2 megawatts apiece at 10 town-owned sites.

The board will also seek proposals for the energy committee’s recommendation to solicit proposals for peak power energy storage centers that would use new fuel cell battery technology to store electricity that is generated during low-volume use periods for release during peak periods. The battery plants would play a similar role to the small diesel operated power plants that are scattered across Long Island.

The town must renew the proposals it receives and make its recommendations to PSEG and LIPA by March 31.