07/21/12 3:00pm
07/21/2012 3:00 PM

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Central Islip attorney Jonathan Sinnreich told members of Southold Voice Saturday morning that Southold Trustees are exercising powers not legally granted to them.

A Central Islip attorney who has represented a number of Southold residents in court battles over their beachfront property rights told members of Southold Voice Saturday morning that the town trustees have no legitimate right to be rendering decisions on what can or can’t be done with their land.

Jonathan Sinnreich, managing partner of Sinnreich, Kosakoff & Messina LLP, speaking at the town recreation center on Peconic Lane, said Southold’s Town Board had no right to delegate to the trustees control over lands under harbors, bays and creeks.

The trustees contend their authority stems from the Andros Patent, a 1676 Colonial-era document that dealt with water rights. But Mr. Sinnreich said it’s his legal opinion that the Town Board was wrong in thinking it could delegate rights to a separate Board of Trustees, and that even if it could, it failed to hold a public referendum that would have been necessary to creating a separate board with such authority.

While three trustees were in the audience, none argued with him except for Trustee John Bredemeyer. He asked if Mr. Sinnreich thought the Andros Patent had authorized the Town Board to have rights over control over the waterways, but not the trustees. Mr. Sinnreich confirmed that was his stance.

Later, Supervisor Scott Russell, who had arrived after the discussion of the Board of Trustees, said the trustees are better qualified than the Town Board to make decisions that protect the waterways and the rights of both waterfront property owners and other residents.

Southold Voice was launched in July 2007 as a volunteer group of waterfront property owners and others interested in the use and preservation of the town’s water resources.

Not all its annual meeting was consumed with discussions of water rights.

There was just as much discussion with Mr. Russell about the need to curb the deer population, which the supervisor described as “pests,” not “wildlife.” He encouraged members to lobby for efforts to get state, county and/or federal money to pay for a four-poster program in Southold similar to one that operates on Shelter Island. The four-poster stations provide feed to the deer, but while they’re eating, the system deposits poisons on their necks designed to kill ticks.

But Mr. Russell warned, that while Shelter Island is relatively small, Southold has more than 53-square miles and four-posters wouldn’t be the complete solution to the burgeoning problem. He also said as long as New York State identifies deer as wildlife, not pests, there are limited efforts that can be undertaken to eradicate them. With other “pests,” homeowners can shoot them and cart them off in yellow garbage bags, he said. That’s not the case with deer, he said.

“It’s an epidemic,” Mr. Russell said about tick-borne diseases. “It’s the public health crisis that Southold Town faces.”

There were also discussions of dredging, a federal Army Corps of Engineers project to rehabilitate Hashamomuck Cove to end the threat of flooding that threatens beach homes and Route 48 by Town Beach. A contract for that project is expected to be awarded in September, according to Bill Faulk from County Legislator Ed Romaine’s office.

Mr. Faulk also spoke about ongoing efforts to curb helicopter flights that plague many North Fork residents. Although the helicopters are bound for the South Fork, they traditionally fly a northern root and then cut across the North Fork to land in East Hampton. He said the Federal Aviation Administration has agreed to some regulations, but none have yet been implemented.

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10/18/11 12:00pm
10/18/2011 12:00 PM

An ambitious goal to reduce the percentage of hardened shoreline in Southold has been stricken from the town’s comprehensive plan.

The goal, to reduce by 20 percent the amount of shoreline hardening structures, was originally listed in a chapter of the plan on community character under a section that focused on preserving scenic vistas.

It was removed during revisions to that chapter after Southold Voice, an organization of waterfront property owners, protested the proposal in August.

In an August 15 letter to Southold Planning Director Heather Lanza, Southold Voice chairman John Betsch said the words of the proposal “are much more than a seemingly innocuous goal, and have the potential for significant effect on the well-being, property rights, and property value of many.”

Mr. Betsch added that many regulatory agencies, which often have conflicting rules, already govern what can be done with shoreline hardening structures and said that “another nebulous mandate of this type is neither appropriate nor warranted.”

“Shoreline structures are approved on a case-by-case basis by numerous agencies according to regulation and function,” he wrote. “The comprehensive plan should not and cannot mandate a goal as this.”

Planning Director Heather Lanza said this week that her office heard Mr. Betsch’s concerns, and plans to address shoreline hardening instead in the natural resources chapter of the plan, which is due to be drafted in June 2012.

She said planners will base their recommendation in the natural resources chapter on a more thorough analysis of shoreline hardening structures, in conjunction with the Southold Town Trustees.

“We thought it was more of an issue to be brought up in the natural resources chapter. It would have more background and context there,” she said.

Mr. Betsch said his group decided to push against the restriction after several members of Southold Voice aired concerns about the recommendation at their annual meeting in late July.

“Why they even considered it, I have no idea,” he said of the planning department. “Some of the trustees didn’t think it would be a good idea either. It would probably be in conflict with some other New York State rules.”

Mr. Betsch said he is troubled by the planners’ focus on protecting scenic vistas, when those vistas often cross private property.

“We can see it coming eventually where somebody who lives on the other side of the street from a waterfront property says ‘you’re preventing my viewshed,’” he said.

He added that the planners’ decision to word the recommendation in terms of setting a percentage by which to reduce shoreline hardening was also troubling, adding that it would seem to imply that the town would need to deny 20 percent of applications to rebuild shoreline hardening structures.

“That’s like saying to the police department ‘You’ve gotta give out so many tickets.’” he said. “Do they have to give out 20 percent more tickets?”

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07/30/11 12:59pm
07/30/2011 12:59 PM

JULIE LANE PHOTO | County Legislator Ed Romaine pointed a finger at federal legislators Tim Bishop and Charles Schumer for a lack of oversight on helicopter routes along the North Fork.

Southold Voice members were more consumed with helicopter noise plaguing the North Fork than with water quality at a Saturday morning public forum at the Peconic recreation center.

Southold Voice was launched in July 2007 as a volunteer group of waterfront property owners and others interested in the use and preservation of the town’s water resources.

While County Legislator Ed Romaine spoke about erosion concerns, particularly in the Hashamomuck area surrounding Town Beach that was heavily damaged by storms last winter, it was his comments about helicopter noise that drew the most comments and questions.

He accused federal legislators Tim Bishop and Charles Schumer of listening to constituents on the South Fork of Long Island, rather than those who live on the North Fork. And he encouraged the crowd of some 75 audience members to call regional offices for Mr. Schumer and Mr. Bishop to pressure them into more action to reroute the helicopters by a southern ocean route.

Joe Fischetti, who was appointed by Suffolk County to chair its noise abatement committee, estimated that there are approximately 6,000 helicopter flights between New York City and the Hamptons each year and that they’re concentrated during summer weekends on Friday and Sunday nights.

About 60 percent of those flights are headed for East Hampton Airport with 20 percent going to a heliport in Southampton and the other 20 percent headed to Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach, he said.

Prior to 2007, the North Fork didn’t have problems with the helicopters, but pilots switched to a northern route affecting the North Shore of Long Island and cutting through Riverhead and various points in Southold and Shelter Island towns since the summer of 2008. He estimated that flights cross the North Fork about every three minutes, saying it wouldn’t be such a problem if it were one per hour.

“I knew the solution three years ago,” Mr. Fischetti said, recommending that people write to Mr. Schumer and Mr. Bishop asking them to pressure the Federal Aviation Administration to require the pilots to fly via an ocean route, south of Long Island.

Turning his attention to water pollution, Mr. Romaine said the county needs to offer incentives to East End residents to upgrade their septic systems.

“At some point, we’re going to be dealing with nitrogen pollution,” the county legislator warned. Rather than require residents to upgrade their systems, he urged “a carrot, not a stick approach” to encourage people to upgrade their systems.

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