Tag Archive | "Town of Southampton"

Sharp Decline Expected in Bridgehampton School Taxes

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By Tessa Raebeck

Bridgehampton residents can expect to see lower taxes next year, as property assessments in the hamlet are expected to increase significantly, according to preliminary estimates from the Town of Southampton Assessor’s office. Although the number is not finalized, town Assessor Lisa Goree confirmed on Tuesday, April 28, that the Bridgehampton School District’s tax base will see an increase of about $252 million—or nearly $100 million more than in the three years prior.

“It’s not final, but the numbers are staggering,” said Robert Hauser, the district’s business administrator. The expected windfall is welcome news for the district, which had to ask voters to approve a budget that breached the tax cap last year. This year’s $12.8 million budget is below the tax cap, and the school’s impact on taxpayers will likely be minimal, as the tax levy will be more widely dispersed due to the influx of new commercial and residential properties in Bridgehampton.

“It’s almost as if [on] people’s school taxes they won’t see an increase, just because the increase in our budget is being spread among so much more property,” Mr. Hauser said at a school board meeting on April 22, adding, “We’ve got a lot of activity going on here.”

To the chagrin of some and the delight of others, Bridgehampton is abuzz with construction. A drive around town offers a glimpse into the extent of home renovations and new construction, as well as new commercial activity including the proposed CVS on the southeast corner of Ocean Road and Montauk Highway. Across the street, the completion of the Topping Rose House alone accounts for $25 million of the expected increase, Mr. Hauser said.

After hearing the news, school board member Jeff Mansfield joked, “Thank you Joe Farrell,” referring to the developer with signs on the lawns of shingled houses across Bridgehampton.

Even with the influx of new development across the hamlet, some tried and true Bridgehampton locals remain in town. Dr. Lois Favre, Bridgehampton’s superintendent and principal, has started a new tradition to honor those graduates. With help from the spouse of a graduate of the Class of 1965, she is inviting the class to celebrate its 50th reunion this spring by returning to their alma mater for the high school graduation.

Graduates of the class of ’65 who would like to attend graduation should contact Dr. Favre at (631) 537-0271, extension 1310. The graduation ceremony for the Class of 2015 is Sunday, June 28, at 4 p.m. at the Bridgehampton School, located at 2685 Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton. The next meeting of the board of education is Wednesday, May 27, in the school’s café.

Opponents Urge DEC To Require Environmental Study for Sand Land

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Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming show an aerial map of the Sand Land site to DEC Administrative Law Judge Molly McBride. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Sand Land Corporation, owned and operated by Wainscott Sand & Gravel Inc., submitted an application to the DEC to expand its operations by some 20 percent, adding nearly 5 acres and deepening the floor of the mine by an additional 40 feet. The current elevation is 175 feet and the floor is 65 feet below the original grade, as authorized by a New York State Mined Lands Reclamation Act permit that was issued to Sand Land in November 2013 and expires November 2018.

In July, the DEC decided the kind of extensive environmental review typically done in an environmental impact statement was not required for the site, which is located within the Town of Southampton Aquifer Protection Overlay District. Local lawmakers and environmentalists quickly spoke out against the ruling, calling for the DEC to rescind its determination, require a full environmental impact statement on the site and, many argued, to deny the application entirely.

In response to that criticism, the DEC held Wednesday’s public hearing, which was presided over by DEC Administrative Law Judge Molly McBride. Officials from New York State and the Southampton Town voiced their disapproval of the DEC’s actions, as did environmentalists, geologists and representatives from the Group for the East End, Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Defend H20, a group of neighbors of  site who are pursuing legal action against Sand Land, and other local civic groups.

Wainscott Sand & Gravel owner John Tintle and DEC Deputy Permit Administrator Mark Carrara listened to comments.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming spoke on behalf of the town board, which has made protecting water quality on the East End a major concern.

The initial approval of Sand Land’s DEC mining permit in 1981, “was contingent on very specific water testing protocols,” said the supervisor, who urged the DEC to put Sand Land through all the protocols of regular ground and surface water testing “because of the sensitivity of this area and the fact that everyone is dependent on water quality here.”

Ms. Fleming said she does not understand how the DEC’s declaration could be possible and that monitoring water quality “would be required of any expansion on the East End landscape.”

“We require that [at the] golf course,” Ms. Throne-Holst said of the Bridge golf club, which lies adjacent to the mine and is required to adhere to regulations. “We have absolutely no clue why something like this…is not subjected to any kind of testing.”

“We sit directly to the north of Sand Land and we sit over this aquifer that’s so important to all of us,” said Greg Stanley, superintendent of grounds at the Bridge. “We work closely with the Town of Southampton and all of our application records are available at any moment to any citizen of the Town of Southampton.”

Mr. Stanley said the golf course embraces the town’s requirements, adding “it seems only reasonable that a property that sits on the same aquifer that we do be required” to undergo the same water quality monitoring process.

Group for the East End President Bob DeLuca told Justice McBride that the DEC “simply doesn’t want to take on the challenges associated with comprehensive review.” Forty years ago, he said, the state passed the State Environmental Quality Review Act to ensure complex environmental decisions at any size site were based on “comprehensive and transparent assessment” of all reasonable factors.

“Our concern is that we don’t believe that the DEC resisted to putting test wells in because they believe the groundwater is clean,” Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito said. “We believe the DEC’s concerned they will find the groundwater is contaminated and that unfortunately, they feel, opens up a can of worms. But, we’re saying open it up, deal with it—we need to assess the truth here. And if the site is clean, great, we put in a couple testers, but if it isn’t then we know we need to change the way we’re operating.”

“The concern is growing that the partnership between the DEC and sand mining is based on allowing sand mining at the risk of not living up to the mandate of protecting public health and our natural resources. That is the DEC’s primary mandate, and yet we feel it is becoming the second priority and not the first when it comes to sand mines,” added Ms. Esposito.

Citing legislation passed in the state assembly this year to address degrading water quality on Long Island and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent proclamation of water quality as a priority issue in New York State, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said the application arrived at a time when the “single issue of the degradation of water quality across Long Island—be it the surface water quality or our groundwater—is at huge crisis proportions.”

Calling the threshold that mandates an environmental impact statement “very low,” Assemblyman Thiele said the DEC needs to reverse its determination, undergo a comprehensive environmental review, and require groundwater monitoring of Sand Land.

Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council, pointed to other environmental issues at the site, such as pollution, dust and traffic, saying there are “350 trucks that sail in and out of those roads” on a daily basis, and asked the DEC to partner with the town and require a full environmental impact statement.

Written comments about Sand Land’s permit application must be received by November 21, and should be sent to: NYSDEC Region 1, Att. Mark Carrara, Deputy Permit Administrator, SUNY Stony Brook, 50 Circle Road, Stony Brook, NY 11790.

At Sag Harbor CAC Meeting, Four in Attendance Focus on Recruitment

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By Tessa Raebeck

With just four people in attendance, the discussion at Friday’s meeting of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) centered on recruitment.

CAC Chairman John Linder was joined by members Susan Baran, Eric Cohen and Bob Malafronte in expressing the need for better visibility and outreach in efforts to enlist new members for the all-volunteer group.

During the 1980s, the Town of Southampton organized ten CACs, volunteer branches of government designed for the town’s hamlet areas, in order to more effectively address localized issues and concerns.

In Bridgehampton, the CAC is a driving force on local policy that has dozens of members. With no elected government in Bridgehampton, the CAC largely operates as the hamlet’s vocal leadership.

Sag Harbor’s CAC, however, has enacted few legislative actions over the past several years and has seen its numbers dwindle. The town’s website lists eight active members of the CAC, but meetings this year have seen only four or five in attendance.

In cards designed by Malafronte to solicit new members, the CAC asks for those who are concerned, caring and committed to the Sag Harbor community to join. The cards outline the CAC’s primary areas of focus as the East Hampton Airport, water quality, pollution of the bays, over development and traffic.

“I would say our history – at least in terms of intention – is legislative,” Linder said at the meeting Friday evening. “We do want to see legislative changes.”

The group discussed bringing town board members Brad Bender and Bridget Fleming to future meetings as guests, in order to both let them know of the group’s goals and to draw in interested attendees.

A goal for the New Year is developing a community email list that would include the members of similar local groups, such as Save Sag Harbor, to expedite communication with like-minded individuals.

The CAC also contemplated visiting Pierson Middle/High School to educate students on the different avenues of government and how such grassroots organizations work.

“I’m always amazed at what people don’t know about that affects their property values,” said Linder. “If people know what outlets they have to participate in their community, they don’t have to participate, but maybe one day they will. Or they’ll tell their friends and neighbors – or somebody.”

“If we could just get two or three [members],” he added, “that would be fine, we don’t need a landslide here.”

The next meeting of the Sag Harbor CAC will be held January 10 at 5:30 p.m. in the Pierson Middle/High School library. For information, call 725-6067.

YARD Beach Program Goes On

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By David McCabe

The Youth Advocacy and Resource Development (YARD) summer beach program is on this summer. That news came from the Sag Harbor Board of Education Monday, after the Town of Southampton told the district they would help fund the program and provide key administrative assistance.

The board agreed to help with the program this summer on the condition that Friends of YARD, the non-profit that was established to help raise funds for the program, prepare to take over its operation next summer.

Sandi Kruel, who serves on both the school board and on the Friends of YARD board, indicated the non-profit group would do all it could to make that a reality.

In addition to the $10,500 in funding provided by the school district, and $10,000 which the Friends of YARD is providing, Southampton Town will provide $15,000 to the district to go towards the operation of both the beach program and the drop-in after school program which YARD runs during the academic year. East Hampton Town, the county, the Village of Sag Harbor and the Village of North Haven are also contributing funds to the program.

While many board members had worried it would take too long for lawyers to draw up the intermunicipal agreements (IMA) required to secure the funding for the program this summer, Southampton Town’s Director of General Services Russel Kratoville said that the town had an IMA already prepared.

After it was decided the district would administer the program this summer, the school board directed the district’s superintendent, Dr. John Gratto, to have the district’s lawyer draft a generic IMA that could be used for all the municipalities involved.

At the school board meeting on Monday, Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming was in attendance with three town employees: Kratoville, Nancy Lynott, director of the town’s youth bureau, and Virginia Bennett, who works in the human services department at town hall and was present as a resident of Sag Harbor.

“I understood that there were some differing opinions on the school board as to whether the program should continue or how it should continue,” said Fleming, “and so I wanted to do what I could to help clear some of those obstacles, if possible, so that the program could be run in a responsible way.”

Kratoville said he would assist the district in clearing several administrative hurdles that need to be dealt with before the program can operate legally. Foremost amongst these is that the district must obtain a proper civil service title for the director of YARD.

Southampton Town employees will visit the site of the YARD program — something they have done in the past, since they have acted as a funder of the program — to insure it is being well administered.

Board members also raised the possibility that Southampton Town could fully assume operational responsibility of the summer program. Fleming said that would be next to impossible, since such a plan would not have the support of enough of her fellow town board members.

“I don’t think there is the political will on the town council to assume the program,” she said at the meeting.

In recent weeks, the summer program had appeared to be in jeopardy as some members of the school board made it known they could not support the program unless a variety of legal and funding issues were worked out. Those legal issues originally came to light when an auditor found that YARD had been using funds processed through the district, but had been operating without oversight from the school board.

One year ago, the school board decided it would not continue to administer the summer beach program and suggested that YARD supporters form a tax-exempt 501c3 organization to raise funds for the program’s operation. That organization, Friends of YARD, was formed and has been raising funds since last year. However, the Department of Homeland Security has yet to give final approval on the group’s tax-exempt status.

Monday’s decision by the school board essentially gives the Friends of YARD one more year to get their paperwork in order. The greatest challenge, Kruel said, will be to raise the funds necessary to cover the program’s insurance. Currently, the district pays a fairly low fee for insurance. Kruel maintains it will cost Friends of Yard more.

“The problem is having to now fund the insurance policy that could cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 dollars. That’s going to be a challenge,” she said — still, she’s optimistic it can be done.

YARD’s supporters hope the beach program will start after the July 4th weekend, though Kruel acknowledged that logistical delays could cause it to start one week later.

GOP Picks Nuzzi To Lead its Ticket

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By Claire Walla

Sending shock waves through the Town of Southampton, the town’s GOP Party announced last Wednesday, May 18 that headlining its Republican roster for town board elections this coming November will be current councilman Chris Nuzzi who the party has tapped as its candidate for supervisor.

Nuzzi, who as of press time had not responded to several phone calls, had allegedly stated the week prior to the GOP announcement that he had no plans to run against incumbent supervisor Anna Throne-Holst (an Independent backed by the Democratic Party). However, a week ago, Southampton Town GOP Chair Ernie Wruck publicly announced Nuzzi had received his party’s nomination.

Nuzzi is reportedly still deciding whether or not he wants to run.

However, as far as Wruck is concerned, “He’s the candidate.”

“The acceptance process seems to be somewhat of a misnomer,” Wruck said. The Republican Party completed a petition to add Nuzzi’s name to the ballot, Wruck explained.

“He has not declined,” Wruck continued. “We are moving forward with Chris [Nuzzi] as our candidate.”

As to what the party might be up against should Nuzzi back out of the race, Wruck said there’s a legal process involved with replacing a candidate, “but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

Firmly joining the Republican Party ticket are two newcomers seeking two open council seats: retired Southampton Town Police Lieutenant Bill Hughes and former Southampton Town Assistant Attorney Christine Preston Scalera.

Bill Hughes

Though he would be a newcomer to the board, Bill Hughes is not a stranger to Southampton Town politics — he ran and lost in a special election last year against current Town Board Member Bridget Fleming (Dem.).

Hughes said he’s running again this year because “I know I can make a difference.”

Hughes lives in Hampton Bays, where he’s been for over 30 years, but he said working for the Southampton Town Police force for 29 years has given him a extensive knowledge of the entire town.

Though he retired back in 2000, Hughes has remained active in the community, volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America, Knights of Columbus and Friends of the 106th Rescue Group.

“Sometimes it is the unlikely politician that might work the best in public service,” he concluded. “I’m 60 years old, I’m not looking to advance my own political career. I like to listen, work for others and form a consensus. I’m a candidate who can do that full-time.”

Christine Preston Scalera

Now a resident of Water Mill, Preston Scalera has spent nearly 20 years as a municipal attorney on Long Island, serving as a deputy attorney for Nassau County and Oyster Bay, and then (from 2003 to 2006) as assistant town attorney in Southampton.

“I’m excited about having been nominated,” she said, adding that she looks forward to the opportunity to serve in the town in which she lives.

“I like to think I would bring a new perspective to the board, with a balanced approach and a respect for others’ opinions,” she added.

Though Preston Scalera said the Republican Party will reveal more about its campaign “as it evolves,” she added that after watching the way some of this year’s town board meetings have progressed, one of her goals would be to keep the board’s attention focused on the pressing issues.

“What compelled me to get involved is, it just seems as though sometimes more time is being spent on other issues, and not what affects residents more directly,” she explained. “I look forward to a good debate on the issues that matter.”

Cops and Town Debate Retirement

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Southampton Town Board, PBA, and attorneys

Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, along with the rest of the town board, sat opposite Southampton town’s finest men in blue backed by men in black — their attorneys — at town hall on Tuesday. Each of the lawyers presented their clients’ side of issues surrounding the retirement, social security laws and criteria for why six longtime officers were left off a continuation of service list earlier this year.

The meeting was called for after a protest on August 26 at town hall where officers brought attention to a proposal that could have given Southampton Town Police Chief, James Overton, authority to force policemen to retire after 20 years of service. The resolution that was proposed listed 20 officers whose contracts will be renewed, but it left six others off this list. That resolution was tabled immediately at that August meeting, but the public along with officers and members of the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) were still able to voice their concerns that night.

On Tuesday, attorney for the PBA Seth Greenberg, presented to the board the four options police can opt into for retirement. He argues that a 1990 collective bargaining agreement between the town and the PBA allows policemen to put in more than 20 years of service.

“This is to encourage the veteran and not to deprive the employer,” he commented, “A police officer’s pension is based on two things; years of service and his final salary.” He then quoted the State Constitution, “membership in any pension or retirement system of the state or of a civil division thereof shall be a contractual relationship the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”

Vince Toomey, labor counsel for the Town of Southampton, said  “The union has been very consistent, Mr. Greenberg laid out these points and I understand the union’s position – and I don’t agree with hardly any of it.”

Toomey handed out a letter which was sent to the state in 1971, stating that, “If the town of Southampton elects to adopt the optional 20 year retirement plan for its town police department, each member of such department shall be separated from service at the end of 20 years unless service is extended by the town board on an annual basis.” The letter was drafted by the Town of Southampton and the PBA. Toomey added that it was important to “honor your agreements.”

 “The New York State comptroller seems to agree with our interpretation,” Greenberg said. “It outlines who the employer is and it would suggest that there are four separate plans that this is in fact accurate — the concern is those individuals that have been excluded from this.”

The lawyers continued to argue over their interpretation of the retirement laws. Toomey said the statutes are supposed to be read together.

“If you have two statutes you can harmonize. You are not supposed to read these as one nullifies the other,” he said.

But Greenberg stated that there is an “inability to harmonize retirement plans – we can continue to disagree because harmonizing of statutes will not work in this instance.”

Greenberg also suggested that the town used an unfair criteria in determining which individuals would be left off the list for continuation of service.

Kabot explained that former supervisor Patrick “Skip” Heaney asked Chief Overton to produce a list at the end of last year of officers he would keep on the list for continued service. Chief Overton says he relied on a five-year review of attendance and evaluated officers with 20 years of service or more, and then proposed a list to give to the board this past year excluding the six who had missed more days.

“Sick time wasn’t taken into consideration. It was actual days worked,” said Overton in explaining how he made his decision.

Harry Greenberg, another attorney for the PBA, commented, “This is the first time I’m reading Patrick Heaney’s statement and nowhere in here does it say what criteria the chief should use. What’s interesting is — having never met Chief Overton, but working with chiefs across the county — I know that he knows there is more to look at than the number of times an officer comes to work.”


Preserving A Front Yard: Town to Purchase Land Around Customs House

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The Town of Southampton is poised to preserve two acres of woodlands and wetlands behind the Custom House on Main and Garden Street in Sag Harbor, as well as obtain a conservation easement for the large expanse of lawn in front of the historic structure.

According to Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris, the conservation easement on the front lawn is of particular importance as the lawn is large enough to be subdivided from the rest of the parcel as a conforming lot, and therefore could be a residential lot ripe for development should a subdivision occur. It was that very realization, he said on Monday, that prompted village officials to contact the Town of Southampton two years ago in the hopes the town would consider a purchase of the land through the Community Preservation Fund.

And now, it appears the town is just a public hearing away from solidifying a $750,000 purchase for the easement and over two-acres of woodland and wetlands behind the Custom House after negotiating with the land’s owner, the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA). The Village of Sag Harbor will be a third party beneficiary of the easement and will enter into a stewardship agreement with the Town of Southampton for the preserved acreage.

On Tuesday, August 12 the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees discussed the purchase at its regular board meeting with attorney Lauren Stiles of Twomey, Latham & Shea, the firm representing SPLIA in the purchase.

Stiles noted the way the conservation easement is written, both the village and the town will share rights to the lawn and will be able to host special events there.

According to the pending easement agreement, the village and the town will be able to host five events per calendar year on the front lawn, although only one event is allowed per month.

On Tuesday, Ferraris said the front lawn would be used for passive, public activities. Events like the children’s fair during HarborFest, which has traditionally taken place on the lawn, will continue at the space.

“It’s certainly my opinion this parcel not be farmed out for any commercial use other than it currently is at this time,” he said on Monday.

SPLIA will be sent a list of proposed event by the town and village for approval at the beginning of the summer season, according to the proposed easement.

SPLIA is not limited to the number of events they may host on the site, but Stiles noted the reason the easement is so specific is because SPLIA is contacted by a number of groups hoping for events on the lawn, and they try and limit allowances only for public events, historic events and those for children in the area.

The Sag Harbor Planning Board will have to hear a subdivision application by SPLIA to officially split the three-acre property into one parcel over two-acres for preservation and another parcel under one acre, which will house the Custom House and the front lawn. That parcel will continue to be owned by SPLIA.

On Tuesday, Ferraris added part of the agreement includes a provision where proceeds from the sale of the easement are held in a fund for maintenance and programming at the Custom House specifically.

The Custom House was originally the home of Henry Packer Dering, Sag Harbor’s first custom’s master in 1789. His son, Henry Thomas Dering, continued the family tradition, becoming customs master after his father.

“It really is a win-win situation,” said Ferraris of the impending purchase, noting it aids the village by protecting an important vista and space, and the town and SPLIA, which will be able to use the proceeds to continue their work, and maintain the Custom House.

“We have seen the difficulties organizations run into stewarding these properties,” said Ferraris on Monday. “It is important that the Custom House remain in its present condition.”