Letters to the Editor

09/29/2011 4:58 AM |


Question of fairness

We are writing to clarify what we believe to be a misunderstanding by Mr. Meguin set forth in his letter to the editor last week regarding Sherwood House Vineyards.

In 1996, the owners of Sherwood House sold to the town their development rights, including the right to conduct retail sales of agricultural products on the property where they have been operating a wine tasting facility for the past several years. The town was granted an easement over the property — for which Sherwood’s owners were fairly compensated — which requires the land to remain in agricultural production.

The owners were officially put on notice last year that they had to discontinue retail sales of wine, which is not an allowable use on land after the development rights are sold and is likewise not allowed without site plan approval.

The actions the Planning Board has taken are consistent with the town code and were intended to ensure fairness to the many other landowners who have sold their development rights and are abiding by the similar easement restrictions, and to the residents of Southold whose tax dollars were paid to Sherwood’s owners to preserve the land.

Donald Wilcenski
vice chairman, Planning Board, James Rich III, William Cremers and Kenneth Edwards
Planning Board members

Editor’s note: Planning Board chairman Martin Sidor, who owns farmland adjacent to Sherwood House Vineyards, has recused himself from this issue.


More on Sherwood

In last week’s letter to the editor “The wrong message,” Bob Meguin notes that “… the Planning Board is seeking injunctive court action to prevent a vineyard from continuing to operate its business because of a wine tasting ‘shed’ located on preserved property.” Some clarification is needed here.

In 1996 the town paid $290,488 to the owners of Sherwood Vineyards for a 36-acre development rights easement on the farm. The recorded easement, which was signed by the landowners, clearly prohibits the land within the easement area from being used for retail purposes.

Although Sherwood was reminded of these restrictions last year and asked to refrain from conducting their retail operations on the preserved land, they have continued to conduct retail operations within the easement area in violation of the town’s easement rights.

Since the easement is clearly being violated, the land preservation committee requested that the Town Board direct the town attorney’s office to take the appropriate steps to protect and enforce the recorded easement restrictions.

The requested action is in no way intended as an affront to business, but is vital to preserve the integrity of the town’s land preservation program through which the town has preserved nearly 3,000 acres of farmland and open space.

John Sepenoski
chairman, town land preservation committee


It’s not ‘us vs. them’

On the issue of noise, I’ve lived here all my life. I married into one of the oldest Orient families and lived on property surrounded by farm fields since 1978, long before cannons and speakers of screeching hawks came into play. It’s not the way it has always been.

I’m not anti-agriculture. Working on combines, planters and picking produce helped pay for my college. I do know how hard the work is. I don’t know whether there are more deer or birds, but the noise is a relatively new addition.

It’s been quiet by our house, but quite a while ago it seemed like we were living in a “Twilight Zone” version of a perpetual Civil War re-enactment, or that a ravenous pteranodon from Jurassic Park was tirelessly circling the back searching for prey. Seriously, though, when you’re exhausted the cannon is torture and the hawk sounds like it’s being torn limb from limb.

Visitors were shocked by the loudness. People calling the house asked me if I raised parrots. When I got migraines it brought me to tears, no exaggeration. I can’t repeat what I called the hawk.

The argument is true that wherever people are there’s noise. We all mow and play music, but none of us do it repetitively 10 hours a day, every week for over a month. Sometimes it was forgotten and carried on into the evening or overnight. My husband leaves for work at 4:45 a.m. and I’m pretty sure his job is important, too.

My kid’s friends all suggested I call the farmer every time the cannon went off, but that’s harassment. Adult friends said they’d take a sledgehammer to the speakers, but that’s criminal mischief. This isn’t a name-calling “us vs. them” issue, nor whining. Most people would be distressed by what it sounds like when it’s that up close and personal.

I’ve no quibble with any farmers. They’re not arrogant or rude; they’re decent and hard-working. Our family has enjoyed the rolling green fields and appreciates the peacefulness of country life. I do, however, sympathize on this issue.

I’ve gone out back with dread to check every year since to see if corn was nearby. We lived with the noise, but didn’t like it at all.

No, I don’t want anyone to lose their livelihood. Of course, I don’t want to replace fields with developments. But both sides of this issue have merit and there’s no simple solution.

For the record, I have no intention of going to the Hamptons. Why would I? I like it here.

Laura Baker


A Wagnerian answer

I write in regard to Tim Kelly’s column, “Just another helicopter cop-out,” Sept. 22.

I agree that it’s a good thing that they don’t sell shoulder-mounted Stinger ground-to-air missiles at our local 7-Eleven. Perhaps we could legalize this radical idea and have Scott Russell declare a “no fly zone” over the Town of Southold. It worked in Iraq, why not here? By doing this, it would make it legal for us folks to throw rocks, sticks and anything else we can get our hands on at the low-flying helicopters.

In July, I believe, new suggested helicopter rules supposedly went into effect. Could have fooled me. I didn’t see any changes in the direction or altitude of the helicopters this summer.

A large part of our problem is that none of our representatives live on the North Fork. Chuck “don’t call me Charles” Schumer lives in Manhattan, Kirsten Gillibrand lives waaaaay upstate and Tim Bishop lives in, wait for it, Southampton. Our dedicated congressman used to have an office in Coram. He now has two offices on the south shore, one in Southampton and one in Patchogue.

We are getting the short end of the stick because we don’t have the South Fork’s economical or political clout. As a matter of fact, after Irene hit, Mr. Bishop only toured the South Fork to see the damage for himself.

In regards to Mr. Kelly winning Powerball and buying a noisy, smoke-belching helicopter and flying over the South Fork playing Metallica, etc, I have a better idea.

Ever see the movie “Apocalypse Now”? Remember the scene where Robert Duvall, playing a crazy colonel, leads the 1st Air Cavalry into battle with loudspeakers blaring “Ride of the Valkyries” by Wagner?

If you don’t know the tune, Google it. I think the socialites of the Hamptons would love it, especially during the Hampton Classic. We don’t need to win Powerball, we should just rent the Korean War-era helicopter owned by a Jamesport man. That would be sooooo cool.

Bob Duffin


Is there no answer?

Tim Kelly’s column in the Sept. 22 Suffolk Times was a joy to read. I wish that it meant the beginning of the end of helicopter flights over our houses.

During the past four years or so we have signed petitions, sent Marc Alessi detailed reports of flights overhead and attended neighborhood meetings aimed at ending this awful situation. All for absolutely naught.

At a recent dinner party, I made a comment about deploying SAMs, to be greeted by one foolish diner who warned that I might have to be reported consistent with the provisions of the Patriot Act.

I can’t believe that if all parties understood and cared about a good solution that this could not produce a happy ending.

What can be done? Or is it a hopeless predicament with the use of sound-attenuating ear protection the only solution?

Did your editorial produce any useful reactions?

Sam Constan

Editor’s note: Not yet.


I’ll take two

Just received the paper in the mail and wanted to reply to the column on helicopters.

You forgot to mention what I find to be the most annoying aspect of the helicopter commute: The 6 a.m. Monday morning return trip.

I’ll take two of the missiles.

Jim Underwood


Weak tea brewing

What I find interesting about the burden placed on taxpayers and the communities, as noted in your lead editorial of Sept. 22. (“So this is what it does”), is the hypocrisy not only of state government, but the indifference so-called tea party advocates have for the taxpayer at the local level.

We have seen raging anger against the federal government, but the fact is the property and state taxes that I pay between our home and our business are far greater than that which I pay to the U.S. Treasury for federal income tax.

Interestingly, some of the staunchest tea party supporters do rather handsomely in their government jobs — at taxpayer expense.

A true tea party conservative would rally against the burden local and state governments place on the taxpayer, not only the federal government. Could it be that these people remain silent because they are the very beneficiaries of taxpayer funded salaries and benefits?

The fact is every person does what they think is in his or her own best self-interests, not by principle. In most cases, the strength of ordinary people’s ability to advocate for themselves comes from the power of their affiliations.

Regular non-unionized workers, ordinary business people and the common property owner and taxpayer have very little clout in this society.

Harry Katz


This is a raid, plain and simple

Thanks for standing by your guns in the face of Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s first raiding funds from the voter-approved Drinking Water Protection Program and then lying about it. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.

Mr. Levy says what he did was not a raid. Yet his measure would take tens of millions of dollars from drinking water protection to plug holes in the bloated county budget. Even legislators who approved the move admitted it was a raid.

Mr. Levy says he’s investing in sewers, but that’s just an excuse for taking the money in the first place. This ill-gotten money shows up in his own budget for next year, and besides, a recently-released draft report indicates that Long Island’s sewage treatment plants aren’t protecting our drinking water — the quality is down 40 to 200 percent since the last report.

A state legislative hearing on this problem is scheduled for this week.

Mr. Levy falsely claims that the Pine Barrens Society was alone among environmental groups in opposing the raid.

He has named Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Group for the East End and The Nature Conservancy as supporters. None of these groups supports taking money from the Drinking Water Protection Program to plug holes in the budget and none believes that the program — approved by voters at referendum — can or should be altered without another referendum. They’ve all said this publicly.

Mr. Levy says it was okay for the county to filch the money without the public’s approval in a new referendum, despite the fact that the last referendum explicitly said that the program “may only be amended, modified, repealed or altered by enactment of an appropriate Charter Law subject to mandatory referendum in accordance with prevailing law.”

We’ll let the court be the judge of that.

The main thing is, the county executive seems to be saying that despite the fact that the public voted the money for drinking water protection, it’s perfectly okay for him and the county Legislature to say April Fool in September and rip-off the taxpayers’ money to balance the budget! The truth is that Mr. Levy can’t balance the budget and won’t tell the truth. Mr. Levy is behaving more and more like Richard Nixon did when he was forced from office. The fact is that Mr. Levy and the county Legislature stole money that the people of Suffolk directed to drinking water protection, and we’ve gone to court to get it back.

Richard Amper
Executive director, Long Island
Pine Barrens Society


Real reform needed

I would like to clarify some issues discussed in your article regarding the budget I propose for 2012.

First, I never suggested that any salary set by a state entity should be excluded from the new 2 percent property tax cap legislation. On the contrary, I urge Albany to undertake fundamental reform to all policies, procedures and laws that govern public employee costs in New York. PERB, collective bargaining, binding arbitration and Wicks Law are but some of the laws that tie the hands of municipalities that endeavor to control costs.

Retirements costs are also in dire need of real reform. As I said in my budget message in 2010, the sponge is full and the taxpayers can absorb no more. The days of employees having a defined benefit plan without having to contribute one penny needs to come to an end now, not later.

The budget I propose, excluding the increase in mandated retirement cost, would have raised taxes less than a half-percent. Add in the increase for those retirement costs, which the state conveniently excluded from the cap, and the rate of increase is now 2.79 percent.

Ultimately, Albany has lots of heavy lifting to do if taxes are really going to be brought under control. The new tax cap legislation is simply not enough to get the job done.

Scott Russell
Supervisor, Southold Town


Greed and connections

Southold was settled in 1640 and was all agricultural and marine small business. That was then. Years have passed and times have changed.

Gradually the United States grew and big business and the financial sector took over and became the driver of our economy. These companies developed beneficial relationships with government and worked at influencing policy in order to gain tax relief and other cost reductions and cost transference. Wealth grew rapidly for those in the right places, while our citizens with middle- and lower-class wages fell ever farther behind.

Right now with our economy in tatters and government budgets and spending under attack a dangerous momentum is building. Those with wealth are making war on the unemployed and those on minimum wages by attacking Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. They do this while banning any tax increases on their own sacrosanct wealth. And to ensure their control, they solicit the votes of those who still believe the outdated mantra that “if you work hard, and keep your nose to the grindstone, you will succeed and you will become rich.”

Strike it big today without the benefit of good luck and connections? It can happen, but opportunity is not like it used to be.

It’s past time to put our proud Southold heritage in memory and realize that the current system in play is run by greed and connections. We need to vote our own interests and save those things that save us.

That’s what the wealthy do.

Howard Meinke

Editor’s note: Mr. Meinke is an alternate committeeman for the Southold Democratic Party.


Follow Ashley’s lead

I would like to commend your newspaper for carrying the story on Sept. 22 about Greenport’s Ashley Staron. She has set a great example of how each of us can make a difference, even if it is simply by picking up someone else’s trash.

I have spent many an hour picking up after others at the beaches, playgrounds, ball fields and parking lots and have been amazed at some people’s defense of their littering habits, from “I pay taxes” to “Well, my SUV was full.”

While community character is a major piece of Southold Town’s comprehensive plan, we shouldn’t need legislation to keep our communities clean.

With people like Ms. Staron around to show us the way, I would encourage everyone to try it.

Nicholas Deegan

Editor’s note: Mr. Deegan is a Mattituck parks commissioner and candidate for town councilman on the Democratic line.