Trustee candidates discuss shellfishing, bulkheads at forum in Orient

Shellfishing and adding new bulkheads were among several issues discussed by this year’s Southold Town Trustee candidates Saturday at a community forum in Orient.

Republican incumbents John Bredemeyer and Mike Domino are seeking re-election and are facing newcomers Greg Williams, a first-time Republican committee nominee and Democratic candidates Liz Smith and Derek Bossen.

The East Marion Community Association and Orient Association hosted Saturday’s forum at Poquatuck Hall in Orient.

Read below for the candidates’ shortened responses to some of the questions asked during the debate. The candidates were each asked specific questions.

Q: Should new docks be allowed, and if so, why?

Derek Bossen: That’s a tough question. Each property that comes before the board of trustees is a unique property. There’s no cookie cutter solution for any property that’s out there. When you purchase a property and you say ‘look I bought this house, I have this property, can I build a dock,’ you may or may not be able to build a dock depending on what everyone else has done in your neighborhood … I can’t say I support or don’t support that as a blanket statement because, again, each individual property is unique.

Q: Should new bulkheads be allowed, and if so, why?

John Bredemeyer: Complex issue, complex question. Just a bit of advertisement for conservation advisory council and process … they help write opinions for the town trustees under our wetland code, which we take into consideration in determinations we make … As well as there are other involved agencies, being the New York State Department of State, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Army Corps. There are numerous issues. Presently, town code prohibits new bulkheads on the bay. It works, it’s functionally good. You have to understand what we’re losing in property, and in some cases you’re losing natural resource features, such as a beach or a bluff, a bulkhead, while not desirable, is the last useful means to protect those natural resource features.

Q: Should new jetties or other breakwater be allowed and why?

Liz Smith: It’s a complicated process. There’s lots of things at play. There’s lots of agencies involved. I don’t want to say it depends because that’s such an unsatisfying answer, but it depends. The one thing that strikes me that I think is important, and what we’re talking about on Greenport’s conservation advisory council, which I sit on, is trying to make sure we’re being proactive versus reactive … Southold Town and all of our waterways, you want to think of them as a big unit rather than individual dock, individual bulkhead and individual jetty.

Q: Why shouldn’t new property owners be allowed to do what they want on their own property?

Greg Williams: In Southold Town we have code to manage what people can and cannot do on their property. When you talk about waterfront property owners want to do things … we have to make sure what they want to do doesn’t adversely affect the environment, doesn’t adversely affect their neighbor’s property or their neighbor’s neighbor’s property or impede navigation … It’s not black or white, there’s a lot of gray area. Everybody’s property is unique in itself. Just because your neighbor has it doesn’t mean you can do it.

Q: What role should the trustees play in promoting the use of advanced wastewater systems?

Mike Domino: Obviously nitrates are a big problem and a big question in this town regarding water quality. John Bredemeyer and myself, we’ve been advocating to the Town Board for increased use of alternate systems. We’ve attended forums to promote that and I see that as a very important role for the town moving forward. I don’t want to see systems that increase density and impact our quality of life.

Q: What role should trustees play in controlling the use of fertilizers in farming and landscaping?

DB: The way that fertilizer is used by homeowners is really an unregulated industry. Any homeowner can go down to Home Depot and buy a couple bags of high nitrogen fertilizer, throw it on their lawn and let it go down to the aquifer … the state monitors what agriculture does for nitrogen and fertilizer. There’s not much the town can do locally to reduce other than educate the citizenry on what you can do on your property to reduce the nitrogen that goes into our aquifers and goes into our bays and pollute and creates the algae blooms that are suffocating the creeks and the bays and the waterways right now.

Q: What can we do differently to help the fishing and shellfishing industry in the town?

JB: Formerly with the Suffolk County Department of Health I was involved with shellfishing initiatives there … as soon as I returned to the office of a trustee in 2010, we recreated the town shellfish advisory committee and we immediately started to do additional water testing in the creeks, including DNA testing … I chair the shellfish advisory committee, which is largely of retired professionals … Unlike most any other town, we have acquired through a cooperative arrangement with the DEC access to their laboratory. As a result of that we are slowly turning the tide of getting the waters open.

Q: Are there any regulations or policies the town should enact to better protect our water and shoreline resources?

LS: I’m not sure that it’s about more codes, as it is about more enforcement and better working together. I think it’s incumbent on the trustees and the Town Board to work more together in educating and understanding how our issues are overlapping. I can tell that happens sometimes, maybe not all the time, maybe not as much as we should … The Peconic Bay is a shared resource with the other towns on the East End. I would love to see the trustees work together across the East End towns for shared management of the resource.

Q: When nonconforming buildings structured by shorelines or wetlands are destroyed by storms, fires or natural disaster, should they be allowed to be rebuilt?

GW: If I’m not mistaken there was something just put forth in the town code regarding that. If something was nonconforming and it was lost by fire they could replace it up to that but not exceed that. With regard to the wetland, it’s a very difficult question. My opinion on that is if it’s a structure that was built in the early 1900s, or pre-1950, and it was purchased that way we should make accommodations ensuring they use best practices, but if it was something that was built illegally last week, last month, that would be more of a building property thing to make sure it does get built properly going forward.

Q: What can be done to bring about better coordination among the trustees and the DEC and the Army Corps of Engineers?

MD: We’ve reached out to the DEC many times and ask that they participate in discussions. We have a town code where we had cross contamination in Southold and we reached out to the DEC for enforcement. We’re not registered in reaching out to the Army Corps of Engineers or the DEC.

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Photo credit: Nicole Smith