Attorney: Town trustees have no rights over beachfront property

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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