Editorial: A sign of changing times in Southold

In a town where contentious issues can be the exception rather than the rule, Southold Town Board meetings can be ho-hum affairs. That certainly wasn’t the case this week, when the board hit the trifecta on thorny issues.

This week’s agenda included a vote on the long-pending special events code, a continuation of the often heated dogs-on-the-beach debate and choosing a date for a hearing on banning parking along Route 48 in the vicinity of Vineyard 48. Obviously, two of those agenda items come as part of the town’s ongoing battle with Vineyard 48, which has absolutely nothing to do with dogs on the beach. What they have in common, however, is all offer evidence that Southold isn’t what Southold was.

That is, unfortunately, not breaking news, but it’s both the upshot and the downside of being “discovered.”

Anyone who owns a dog knows how much enjoyment their pet can get cutting loose on the beach. It’s one of the simple joys and benefits of living out here. But so is the ability to sit and enjoy the beach in peace. More people can mean more pets and a greater chance of animal-human conflict. As anyone who’s followed this story knows, animal issues are often emotional issues in Southold, as they are elsewhere. We think the board did well in crafting a fair and workable solution that accommodates both sides.

The events law is a whole ’nother animal. The warring sides in this case are vineyards and other farmers, who say they’re trying new and innovative ways to remain financially viable, and residents who say the peaceful enjoyment of their properties is compromised by events not tied to traditional agriculture. In this case, the presence of more people, both on and off open fields, is at the root of the conflict.

Some ag industry representatives aren’t happy with the events law as adopted but, as with the leash law, the Town Board straddled a political picket fence and there was no way to satisfy everyone. It won’t take long, though, to learn if it works or if it chokes off ag economic opportunities.

As for the Route 48 parking ban, Vineyard 48 may not be pleased, but it’s clear something must be done; public safety always trumps parking convenience.

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