03/11/14 6:30am
03/11/2014 6:30 AM
CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | The Town Board hopes to install a bus shelter in front of Town Hall.

The Town Board hopes to install a bus shelter in front of Town Hall. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

The Southold Town Board is scheduled to discuss the idea of installing a bus shelter in front of Town Hall during work session Tuesday morning. Supervisor Scott Russell first introduced the idea last month in order to better accommodate county bus riders. (more…)

02/25/14 1:00pm
02/25/2014 1:00 PM

FILE PHOTO | Southold Town Hall.

Members of Southold Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals are requesting the Town Board review and possibly amend its code on accessory apartments. (more…)

01/16/14 3:00pm
01/16/2014 3:00 PM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Southold Town is looking to amend its wireless facilities code to permit cell towers on historic sites, such as the parcel behind Town Hall.

A plan to install a cellphone tower behind Southold Town Hall — and amend the town code to permit that — is drawing heat from residents who fear more towers would threaten the area’s small-town charm and present potential health risks.

More than two dozen people rallied Tuesday night for the first public hearing on the proposed code change. Most voiced an overwhelming resistance to the proposed amendment.

“You are simply changing the law to shoehorn these eyesores in the middle of our historic district,” said Robert Harper of the town’s Historic Preservation Commission, who noted that he wasn’t speaking on behalf of the commission. “It’s like painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa.”

As it stands, wireless communication facilities located within a designated historic district must be concealed within or behind an existing building, such as a church steeple, so that the tower is not visible to the public, according to the draft law.

The proposed code change would permit freestanding wireless towers on vacant, commercially zoned land, regardless of the parcel’s landmark status or designation as a historic district.

The move to revise a section of the town code comes after communications giant AT&T submitted an application requesting to construct a freestanding, 100-foot cellphone tower on a vacant lot behind Town Hall on Traveler Street. In addition to the tower, the application also calls for the construction of a small equipment storage shed on the site.

“If this passes I would consider it the tallest monument to short-sightedness,” Mr. Harper said.

Health risks were a repeated concern among residents at the meeting.

“I know that as of yet there is no documented proof that radio waves from cellphone towers cause any kind of public health risk, but I also know that 60 or 70 years ago people thought cigarette smoking was a dynamite thing to do,” said Adrian Lynch, who lives nearby on Youngs Avenue. “Its proximity to our schools in Southold Town concerns me. In 50, 60 years from now when it comes to light that putting these things near growing bodies isn’t [healthy for people], I don’t think you’d want to be on the wrong side of that discovery.”

Supervisor Scott Russell said the town has little wiggle room when it comes to the placement of the tower, due to Federal Communications Commission regulations.

“The proposal is not to introduce a new cellphone tower to Southold, the proposal is to guide the location of a cellphone tower [whose building] is imminent,” Mr. Russell said. “The FCC is removing more and more authority from local jurisdiction. They are making it clear that they want to remove local zoning authority over cell towers. The Town Board’s vision is that if we are going to have to live with it, at the very least we can try to extend the benefit to as many taxpayers as possible, because it is a revenue source.”

The cost to build the proposed AT&T cell tower is approximately $125,000, according to the building permit application.

With the town’s traditional revenue sources — including real estate taxes — drying up, Mr. Russell said the project could create a new source of income that would benefit taxpayers.

The revenue would come primarily from AT&T leasing the land, Mr. Russell said. While there is a signed agreement between the two parties, which are still in leaseholder discussions, Mr. Russell could not immediately provide estimates on the total annual revenue for the town.

Even if the amendment to the local draft law was passed, the town’s Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Historic Preservation Commission would still be responsible for reviewing any wireless tower application before it’s approved, the supervisor said.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the Town Board provided letters from the Planning Board and the Suffolk County Planning Commission in support of the code change.

The Historic Preservation Commission has yet to provide an official opinion on the proposal, Mr. Russell said.

The board left the public hearing open until the Historic Preservation Commission could weigh in on the matter.

Commission chairman Jim Grathwohl could not be reached for comment.

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01/02/14 5:30pm
01/02/2014 5:30 PM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Town Clerk Betty Neville being sworn in to a fifth four-year term Thursday morning in Town Hall.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Town Clerk Betty Neville being sworn in to a fifth four-year term Thursday morning in Southold Town Hall.

Longtime Southold Town Clerk Betty Neville is retiring — well, sort of.

She’s retiring from “the system,” she explained to The Suffolk Times in Town Hall on Thursday, just a few hours after she was sworn in for another four-year term.

That means she’ll start collecting a state pension while continuing to serve as an elected official — as is allowed under state law, she said.

“It’s my option to do that and continue; a lot of people do this,” she said.

Ms. Neville said the move will save the town money, as it will no longer be making pension contributions as part of her salary and benefits moving forward.

“Were voting on accepting the retirement of Elizabeth Neville,” said Southold Superivsor Scott Russell. “At the same time she’s just been elected to a four-year term and she expects to serve that term.”

He also said her pension is now fixed, and she cannot have it raised based on any additional earnings with the town.

Since Ms. Neville first served as a civil servant with the town, from 1968 to 1997, before getting elected and taking over as town clerk in 1998, she’s also entitled to accrued sick and vacation time that amounted to a one-time payout of $27,350.

She said she was only informed by someone about a year ago that she had an option to take her payout and pension while still serving as an elected leader, for which she’ll earn a salary of $97,181 in 2014, town records show.

The Town Board approved a resolution granting her retirement — which she applied for on Dec. 31 — at the Thursday afternoon Town Board meeting.

According to the resolution, her accumulated payout was figured using the collective bargaining agreement that was in place on Dec. 31, 1997, when she last served as civil servant as deputy town clerk. She was elected as town clerk that same year and started the following January.

She said she wanted to assure the public, however, that she is not leaving Town Hall.

“I’m not retiring,” she said. “It’s business as usual.”

Ms. Neville, a Republican, has never faced a political opponent, having been elected five times while running unopposed. She’s held her seat in Town Hall since 1997, when she was nominated to replace Judith Terry, to whom she had served as deputy town clerk.

Southold Democrats have not run a candidate for Town Clerk since 1981.

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