Tag Archive | "Sylvia Overby"

Split East Hampton Town Board Adopts Airport Capital Improvement Plan

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The East Hampton Town Board adopted a capital improvement plan for the East Hampton Airport during a work session Tuesday — a roadmap for $5.26 million in repairs and improvements consultants suggest be made to airport facilities over the course of the next five years.

Originally, the capital improvement plan (CIP) — unveiled just before a November 21 public hearing on the proposals — called for $10.45 million in airport repairs and projects over a five-year period. The adopted CIP was cut to $5.26 million with 15 proposed projects removed from the plan as they were not a part of the town board approved Airport Master Plan or Airport Layout Plan, both of which were vetted through environmental review.

The CIP was approved by the outgoing Republican majority of the town board. Airport liaison Dominick Stanzione, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley voted in support of the plan, with Democrats Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc voting against adopting the CIP.

East Hampton Airport manager Jim Brundige said the CIP is meant to highlight what projects are necessary at the airport. Quigley also noted that approving the CIP does not mean the board is approving any of the projects laid out in plan, or how has made a decision about how they will be funded. Rather she called the approval a “first step” in moving towards improvements at the airport first identified in the town’s airport master plan.

However, both Overby and Van Scoyoc expressed concerns about a footnote in the document that references Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding. The CIP, according to testimony given by town aviation consultant Dennis Yap at the November 21 public hearing on the plan, will be submitted to the FAA. Van Scoyoc said he was concerned submitting the plan to the FAA was the first step towards securing additional grants from that agency for airport projects.

“It’s not a necessary step for us to send it to the FAA unless we are pursuing funding from the FAA,” he said.

For several years now, a number of residents and members of the Quiet Skies Coalition have encouraged the town board not to accept FAA funding as they believe when grant assurances expire in December of 2014 the town has the ability to gain greater control of the airport, including the potential to impose curfews or restrict certain aircraft.

Without a Mandate

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In 2009, East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson won his first election to lead the town with a clear mandate to clean up the financial mess — a $27 million deficit — left by the previous administration.

Wilkinson accomplished that and deserves credit for righting the town’s financial ship. However, with Wilkinson’s recent re-election to office, it is abundantly clear that many residents in East Hampton take issue with the Republican supervisor and some of the other decisions he has made at the helm of the town board during his tenure.

Wilkinson secured his post for a second term by a mere 15 votes. If one resident in each election district in East Hampton turned out in favor of his opponent, Zachary Cohen, not only would Wilkinson have lost the race, but the Republican Party would have ceded political power of the town board to the Democrats after just one term with a majority.

That Cohen, a chairperson of the town’s Nature Preserve Committee, but not a political heavyweight, was able to wrest so much support away from Wilkinson speaks volumes. So too does the fact that Democrats Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc both easily won their seats on the town board, besting candidates Wilkinson hand picked to run by his side.

This reality cannot be lost on the Republican members of the town board. A 15-vote win is not a mandate. It’s a message.

While Wilkinson has taken on fixing the town’s finances with fervor and a businessman’s acumen, when it has come to other issues within the town — and there are many — often it appeared as if the supervisor and his deputy, Theresa Quigley, had made up their minds long before taking their place on the dais.

On numerous occasions, residents have complained they feel they are not being heard, whether it was concerns over beach access, accessory apartment legislation, the airport, leaf pick-up, commercial fishing representation, and so on. We hope the Republican majority is now ready to listen.

There could be no more perfect time for this board to show the electorate has been heard than tonight’s public hearing on whether or not East Hampton Town should take funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to construct a deer fence at the East Hampton Airport.

The simple truth is that this public hearing was scheduled in an effort to push through a resolution that will extend grant assurances with the FAA — a move critics have said will prevent the town from gaining local control of its airport. It was scheduled before the outcome of the supervisor’s race when the Republican majority was aware there was a chance the Democrats, who have promised to hold off on taking FAA monies, may have taken control of the town board come January.

We believe it is this kind of politics that has been the undoing of not just this administration, but the one that came before it.

While it is reasonable to expect residents, and government leaders, to have differing views on a complex issue like the ever expanding East Hampton Airport, to not delay voting on what was one of the most hotly debated issues of the political season until Overby and Van Scoyoc can enter the discussion smacks of stubbornness and hubris.

It would also mean, once again, the residents of East Hampton have not been heard.

Democrats Take Town Board Election in East Hampton While Supervisor’s Race Remains Uncertain

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web EH Election Night_4366

There were no concession speeches offered in the race for East Hampton Town Supervisor on Tuesday night, with a small margin of votes separating the incumbent Republican supervisor and the Democratic Party challenger.

According to the Suffolk County Board of Election’s (BOE) unofficial results, Republican Supervisor Bill Wilkinson has narrowly defeated Democratic Party candidate Zach Cohen by just 177 votes.

However, with at least 700 absentee ballots yet to be counted by the BOE, Cohen has not conceded defeat, on Wednesday saying it would likely be a week, if not two, before a final victor is named in the contest.

As of early Wednesday morning, unofficial results out of the BOE showed Wilkinson earning 3,066 votes, about 51 percent of the vote with Cohen trailing, carrying 48 percent of the vote with 2,889 ballots cast in his favor.

“To tell you the truth, I am a little disappointed because of the amount of work we have accomplished in a short 22 months,” said Wilkinson on Wednesday morning. “To see the race this tight means that the priorities of the community are different than just providing straight tax reductions, cutting the budget, trying to save the middle class and other things.”

Wilkinson said at the same time, he will be “reflective” about how close the race is and what kind of changes he will need to make at the helm if he is re-elected.

“You have to ask yourself why it was so close,” he said. “Improvement has to be made as a result of that.”

“I remain very positive,” said Cohen on Wednesday morning, although he said in every analysis he has completed on how the absentee ballots could fall, it really is anyone’s race for the supervisor’s seat.

According to Cohen, East Hampton Town residents had applied for 1,050 absentee ballots. A total of 766 had been handed in as of Monday, including close to 400 from Democratic Party members, 213 from Republican Party members, and the remainder split between third and unlisted party members.

“It is not so far fetched an idea that I could come out the winner,” said Cohen. “My odds are better than the New York State Lottery.”

What was certain by 10 p.m. on Tuesday night was that Democratic candidates for town board — Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc — comfortably won the two open seats on the East Hampton Town Board. Independence Party candidates Marilyn Behan and Bill Mott offered their concessions on Tuesday night, along with Republican town board hopefuls Steven Gaines and Richard Haeg.

According to the BOE, Van Scoyoc was the top vote getter, earning 2,689 or 23 percent of the vote. He was followed by Overby, who had 21 percent of the vote with 2,475 ballots cast in her favor. Haeg earned 1,738 votes, followed by Gaines who brought in 1,702 votes, with Independence Party candidates Mott and Behan earning 1,610 and 1,331, respectively.

On Wednesday, Van Scoyoc said support for the Democratic candidates, he believed, came from their platform on addressing quality of life issues in the town, and preserving the very reasons so many residents love to call East Hampton home.

“People want us to be careful with planning and proceed in government in a way that preserves all that we have,” said Van Scoyoc.

He added that he hopes to work with Republican members of the town board in a bi-partisan effort to do what is best for East Hampton.

“I will be looking for ways to bring people together and deal with issues in an open and effective manner,” he said.

“I really think our message was about the quality of life people have enjoyed and expected in living out here,” agreed Overby. “And it has really gone off the rails, which is why I think we saw things turn around so quickly.”

Overby said she plans to focus on ensuring the Community Preservation Fund continues to operate, and that she would like to look into chain store legislation in East Hampton that could protect the community character of downtown areas. Aiding farmers and creating legislation to allow that industry to thrive is another top priority, as is pushing the town board to use the professional expertise found within the town’s planning department — a department she feels has been overlooked in the last two years.

Where Republicans did rally was in the town highway superintendent, town justice and town trustee races where Democratic candidates were handily defeated.

In the highway superintendent race, Republican Party candidate Stephen Lynch routed incumbent Democratic Scott King, earning 3,567 votes to King’s 2,387. Lynch was one of the first winners declared on Tuesday night at Indian Wells Tavern in Amagansett — the Republican Party headquarters for the evening.

Similarly, incumbent Republican town justice, and acting Sag Harbor Village Justice, Lisa Rana was re-elected to her seat, earning 3,701 or 63-percent of the vote, over her Democratic challenger Stephen Grossman, who brought in 2,178 votes.

In the town trustee race, Republicans Stephanie Talmage-Forsberg, Timothy Bock, Diane McNally, Sean McCaffery Joseph Bloecker, Lynn Mendelman and Nathaniel Miller were elected to that board, along with Democrats Stephen Lester and Deborah Klughers.

Unopposed in their elections, the town’s assessors — Jeanne Nielsen and Jill Massa also kept their positions within the town.

Conservators Oppose Sag Harbor Cottages Re-Development

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In a letter submitted to the East Hampton Town Planning Board, and sent to various local newspapers, the environmental group The East Hampton Conservators announced it is staunchly opposed to David Reiner’s plans to re-develop the Sag Harbor Cottages, an aging motel on Route 114, that has been in front of the planning board for review for the last three years.

The letter was received a day before the planning board’s scheduled public hearing of the project, Wednesday, September 1, which was just one issue Reiner’s attorney Jon Tarbet took with the submission.

The Sag Harbor Cottages proposal aims to demolish the existing motel, formerly known as the Barcelona Inn, and replace it with 12 individual cottages, an open pavilion, management office, pool with cabana lounge area, pool house and storage sheds. Situated on a six-acre parcel, the property is surrounded by state and county preserves.

Reiner’s application does not require any variances from the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals and the new development, unlike the current motel, will be set back from Route 114 and screened with native trees and shrubs.

The Conservators called the property “a unique and environmentally sensitive parcel,” noting it is located in the South Fork Pine Barrens and is also in the Suffolk County Pine Barrens, the South Fork Special Groundwater Protection Area and Harbor Protection Overlay District.

The organization represents “a committed group of citizens dedicated to protecting the environment and our pure drinking water along with controlling development and preserving open space, and said it was concerned with the amount of clearing proposed on the parcel.

“The East Hampton Conservators feels strongly that a site plan with less clearing is possible and preferable for the health of the environment and extensive wetlands,” reads their letter.

The organization acknowledged Reiner’s proposal to re-vegetate a large section of property that has already been cleared, but said new clearing proposed to accommodate the project is in “the only White Pine Forest on Long Island.”

“The amount of new clearing is unacceptable and can be remedied with careful and thoughtful planning by the applicant and planning department,” stated the Conservators. “The applicant should state how the clearing of pristine sections of the property would affect wildlife and fish habitats as well as the effects on the aquifer, wetlands on this property and the surrounding New York owned properties and Little Northwest Creek.”

They add that “of grave concern” was that the application was allowed to have a two-foot separation for the septic system when properties in the Harbor Protection Overlay District are mandated to have a four-foot separation.

The Conservators went on to attack planning board member Reed Jones, who was quoted in The East Hampton Star as stating the wetlands on the property were “a football field away.”

“Our fear is that this board member is uninformed and does not really understand how water flows or at what rates,” states the Conservators. “Further, we’re concerned that this implies that the board member cannot ask appropriate questions to protect the environment.”

Lastly the question the issue that has been at the forefront of the Sag Harbor Cottages application – whether a pre-existing, non-conforming use like the motel is allowed to expand its activity under that use. They ask the planning board to ask the town board to consider revising the town code, and ask the proposal be subject to environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

The Conservators’ letter was the only submission presented at the public hearing, with no other residents objecting to the project in front of the board.

Tarbet took issue with a number of “clear inaccuracies” presented by the Conservators in their letter, and questioned whether planning board member Sylvia Overby – a fierce critic of the project – had a hand in the letter’s drafting.

Overby, along with planning board chairman Bob Schaeffer, was an officer with the Conservators, but resigned with Schaeffer after Republicans questioned whether they could remain impartial members of the planning board while serving an organization with ties to the Democratic Party.

Tarbet did not receive an answer and was chastised by board members who reminded him a planning board member was not required to answer his question.

“I think a lot of people are well aware of your relationship,” said Tarbet.

Tarbet went on to rip apart the Conservator’s claims about Reiner’s project, first noting that the town’s own natural resources director has already determined the area to be cleared is not in fact a white pine forest.

“The re-vegetation will be an environmental benefit,” said Tarbet.

He added that while the Conservators questioned his two-foot septic separation, it was clear they did not understand that an upgraded septic system did not need to meet the four-foot requirement. Tarbet noted the septic system is 500 horizontal feet from the wetlands, and said the upgrade will be a benefit, not a drawback.

Addressing the expansion of a pre-existing, non-conforming use, Tarbet said that “while it may not be accepted by everyone” two separate town building inspectors, three town attorneys and two planning board attorneys have all agreed that the motel can relocate to another portion of the property.

“We are allowed 17,000 square-feet of coverage and we are proposing just 7,000 square-feet – just three percent of the property,” said Tarbet, adding presently the parcel has been cleared significantly more than it will be once it is re-vegetated.

“The property will be more conforming than it is now,” he said.