06/16/11 8:03am
06/16/2011 8:03 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The Blue Inn.

For the first time ever, the town has enlisted the help of the State Liquor Authority in addressing code enforcement issues, such as amplified music neighbors find objectionable, at several local businesses, including a winery.

The town routinely receives notices of local applications for new and renewal liquor licenses — and routinely offers no comment. But that changed when the town filed objections against the The Blue Inn in East Marion (formerly the Blue Dolphin), the Orient Inn bed and breakfast and Croteaux Vineyards in Southold.

The Blue Inn, the source of many noise complaints over several years, has changed hands and the new owners have yet to reopen it.

“The town wants to ensure that the new owner operates the facility within the scope of what is allowed under zoning,” said Supervisor Scott Russell. “Once bitten twice shy, as they say.”

In a March 15 letter to the SLA, Town Attorney Martin Finnegan said that under state law, the inn’s bar could remain open until 4 a.m.

“A commercial/retail establishment that is open seven days a week until 4 a.m. is inappropriate in this area and greatly concerns the town,” the attorney wrote.

Accompanying the letter was an analysis of calls to the police concerning the inn from May 2006 to November 2009. Most are “complaint of loud music.”

In one case, a complaint came in at 1:22 a.m. regarding noise from a wedding, with a notation that the then-owner had turned the volume down. Shortly after that, according to the report, “complaint that when officer left, band turned music louder at 1:50.”

The inn has a new owner, Sam Glass, who also owns the Ocean Resort Inn in Montauk. He paid just over $2 million for the property, now undergoing renovation, over the winter. Mr. Finnegan said he’s spoken with Mr. Glass, who has expressed a willingness to avoid the inn’s previous run-ins with police and neighbors.

“He’s trying to work it all out,” the town attorney said.

Mr. Glass said he was surprised to learn of the inn’s recent history.

“We didn’t know we had a problem until we purchased it,” he said. “We’re not going to operate that way.”

He said there will be no amplified music after 9 p.m. “I’m looking to attract middle-aged people who want to go to sleep at 11 or 12.”

Southold is currently the only township in Suffolk County without a noise ordinance, although the Town Board is working on one.

Mr. Glass said he has no objection to a noise code, except “if they make it too onerous people won’t go out there. Either you want to attract tourists or you don’t.”

The inn could reopen in a couple of weeks, initially without a liquor license.

“The sooner we get it the better,” said Mr. Glass. “It’s a necessity.”

The town’s objections in April to Croteaux Vineyard’s farm winery license failed and the renewal was issued in May, said co-owner Michael Croteaux.

“If there’s an objection letter, I’ve never seen one,” he said. “As far as I know, we’re in compliance and the town hasn’t notified us differently.”

In a letter to the SLA regarding Croteaux Vineyards, Mr. Finnegan says the winery is operating without the required site plan approval, does not have the necessary certificate of occupancy and that the only approved use for the property is as a single-family home.

Mr. Croteaux counters that he has COs for his agricultural buildings, which state law says can be used in wine production. He adds that he previously filed a site plan application with the Planning Board “and have heard nothing from them.”

With regard to the Orient Inn, the town told the SLA that its B&B code prohibits the sale of alcohol.

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06/16/11 4:39am

A pair of major projects received extensions from the Southold Town Planning Board this week.

A proposed seven lot subdivision on the 21.6-acre estate of Antone Grigonis on Young’s Avenue in Southold received a six-month extension. The subdivision would have included four house lots of about one acre each, two lots totalling more than 16 acres of land preserved through a sale of development rights to Suffolk County and one 30,000-square-foot lot to be dedicated to the town for drainage.

The Matt-A-Mar Marina, which plans to build a 28,480-square-foot boat storage building and a 6,778-square-foot office building on its Wickham Avenue, Mattituck property, received a one-year extension for the project Monday night.

They just have to decide at what point they’re undertaking investing the money they want to invest,” said attorney Patricia Moore, who represented the marina at Monday’s meeting.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” she added.

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06/15/11 5:45am
06/15/2011 5:45 AM

There could be more wine tasting opportunities on Oregon Road this year, as two vineyards on the bucolic country road are asking for more public space to showcase their wines.

Lieb Family Cellars and Sherwood House Vineyards, both on Oregon Road, currently have applications before the Southold Town Planning Board.

Lieb Cellars, which currently has its tasting room at the Premium Wine Group office on Cox Neck Road in Mattituck, is planning to convert a 5,569-square-foot storage building on its vineyard to a wine tasting room, and add a brick patio and parking lot to their Oregon Road, Cutchogue property.

Sherwood House Vineyards on Oregon Road in Mattituck has also proposed a 706-square-foot outdoor wine tasting area on a new brick patio, as well as a new parking lot with paved footpaths connecting the parking lot to the new tasting areas.

Public hearings on both applications will be held at 6 p.m. July 11, during an evening jam-packed with applications that are up for public comment.

Also on July 11, a public hearing will be held on Pindar Vineyards’ proposal to relocate a 3,259-square-foot metal agricultural building that had been taken down when Pindar built a patio to an adjacent lot about 1,100 feet west of Peconic Lane on Route 25. The building would be set back from Route 25 by 600 feet.

The public will also have a chance that night to weigh in on a conservation subdivision that includes one of the long-anticipated parcels to be included in the Pipes Cove preservation effort. Southold Town and Suffolk County are in contract to buy 28.74 acres of a 29.8-acre property owned by Manor Grove Corp. once the subdivision is complete. The property is on the northeast corner of Albertson Lane and Route 25.

Rounding out a night full of public comment on July 11 will be a request for a lot-line modification for the property on which the North Fork Community Theater stands on Old Sound Avenue, in anticipation of the sale of that property from the Mattituck Presbyterian Church to the theater company.

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06/15/11 5:37am

The Indian Neck Farm on Indian Neck Lane in Peconic received permission from the Southold Town Planning Board to convert three horse barns on the property from residential accessory structures to primary agricultural structures, allowing the farm’s owners to put in a 1,243-square-foot apartment on the second floor of one of the barns in order to provide housing for horse grooms.

The farm received a special exception approval for a “Farm Labor Camp” for the project from the Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals in February.

The Planning Board unanimously approved the project, but included in their approval a recommendation from the fire department that a fire hydrant with a six-inch diameter water line be installed on the property in case of an emergency.

“I felt we had a responsibility to pass that on to them. I don’t think we should leave it out,” said Town Planning Director Heather Lanza, after Planning Board member Ken Edwards asked why the recommendation was made.

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06/09/11 9:17am
06/09/2011 9:17 AM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Southold Democrats say Town Board candidate Steve Brautigam was honest and up-front about his drunk driving arrest in Mattituck two years ago when screened for his candidacy.

When interviewing with Southold Democrats earlier this year, town trustee candidate Steve Brautigam was honest and up-front about his drunk driving arrest in Mattituck two years ago, and in nominating the Laurel resident to run in November the party does not see the arrest as a political liability or a negative reflection on his ability to serve, town Democratic chairman Art Tillman said this week.

“Somebody screws up and gets a DWI once what are we going to do, punish him for the rest of his life?” the chairman said. “The question is how does his résumé compare to his opponents. With his qualifications, I’m happy to have him as a candidate.”

The party asked Mr. Brautigam to join this year’s ticket.

During a 20-year career with the Village of Greenport, Mr. Brautigam held several administrative positions, including clerk/treasurer and head of utilities, He now works on Fire Island as administrator of the Village of Ocean Beach.

He was the Southampton Town comptroller at the time he was pulled over by Southold Police on a Saturday night in March 2009 for failing to stay in his lane on Sound Avenue in Mattituck. Police said his blood alcohol level was 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal limit in New York.

He was charged with aggravated DWI, a misdemeanor, held overnight and released following his arrangement the next morning.
“I’m not going to hide from this,” he told The Southampton Press. “I have no excuse. I made a huge mistake and it’s an embarrassment to my wife and children. And I assure you, this will never happen again.”

In August 2010 Mr. Brautigam pleased guilty to aggravated DWI in Southold Justice Court. Judge Rudolph Bruer revoked his license for six months, ordered him to enter a substance abuse rehabilitation program and fined him $1,000. He faced a potential sentence of up to a year in jail and a one-year license revocation.

Mr. Brautigam said he switched voter enrollment from Republican to Democrat six months ago, prior to his discussions on running for office.

“The first thing they asked was have I done anything to embarrass the party,” he said. He said he mentioned the DWI and how he was ashamed of it.

“They were taken aback by it,” Mr. Brautigam said. “But they continued to question me and look at my career.”

He said given the press accounts at the time of his arrest, it was unrealistic to think the party wouldn’t be aware.

“I went through the court system,” he said. “It was a mistake and I paid the price. I learned my lesson and it will never happen again. I don’t think it takes away from 25 years of municipal knowledge and experience, and it’s behind me.”

Town Republican leader Denis Noncarrow declined to comment.

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06/08/11 4:03pm
06/08/2011 4:03 PM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | The old Southold Town Hall could be on the move soon.

For nearly half a century, Southold’s old Town Hall has sat quietly nestled between the Southold Free Library’s back entrance and the UPS store on Traveler Street. But it may be on the move soon.

The little yellow building originally occupied the site where Town Hall sits now. In its current location, it was owned by someone who claimed ties to an Alaskan Native American tribe who hoped to use it as a casino before the library purchased it in 2006 as part of a long-range expansion plan.

Since last year’s expansion bond vote failed, the library has considered its options for the property’s use. Among them is giving the house to the Southold Historical Society.

“The library board is trying to address some of its immediate parking needs,” said library director Caroline MacArthur. “Step one is coming up with a really good plan for that building that would be best for the community and the library.”

The historical society asked the Town Board this week if the town would consider selling a piece of land between the Town Hall’s rear parking lot and Academy Printing “for a reasonable price” to relocate the yellow house there. But board members appeared skeptical.

“If we were to sell it, we would have to sell it for fair market value,” Supervisor Scott Russell said at Tuesday morning’s work session. “To be candid, I don’t think the historical society would be able to purchase it for fair market value.”

Town Attorney Martin Finnegan added that the town is not only legally obligated to sell only at fair market value, but the sale would also be subject to a permissive referendum if voters put together enough petition signatures to force a vote.

“I don’t think it would be prudent to sell infrastructure,” agreed Councilman Bill Ruland. “But I would be willing to consider a long-term lease.

The board agreed to discuss the matter further with the historical society.

TIRE STORE WAS OVER LINE

Southold Town is considering a zoning change for Eastern Tire, an auto repair shop at the corner of Eugenes Road and Route 25 in Cutchogue. Town Board members said the shop was apparently built decades ago on top of the property line that divides two properties, one zoned commercial and one residential.

“This is someone who came in and got a building permit and approval for a structure that overlapped into a residential zone,” said Mr. Russell Tuesday. “We need to see if we need to take corrective action to conform the building to zoning.”

Mr. Russell said that while the town does not often consider zoning change requests, in this case it could require more buffering between Eastern Tire and the neighboring residential properties as a condition of the change.

“Usually, when we get a change of zone request, we dismiss it out of hand,” the supervisor said. “I have a situation where we have to get someone in compliance with the town code. I get a lot of complaints. I think there’s going to be a change of ownership soon, and I think the new owner will provide a buffer for the rest of the neighborhood. I’m willing to look at the history here.”

HELICOPTER NOISE

After Southold declined to participate in East Hampton’s helicopter advisory committee earlier this year, Southold’s helicopter expert, pilot Joe Fischetti, went looking for friends along Long Island’s North Shore, who have long endured noise from helicopters en route to airports on the South Fork.

He found support from Glen Cove to North Hempstead to Brookhaven and Riverhead for a proposal that would divert some helicopter traffic to the South Shore.

Mr. Fischetti asked Town Board members Tuesday to sign on to a letter to the FAA on behalf of the North Shore towns asking for technical information about the possibility of routing traffic from the downtown Manhattan heliport along the South Shore.

Helicopter traffic from midtown Manhattan heliports and Teterboro and Westchester airports would still travel the northern route.

“The South Shore route needs to be recommended as a primary route. That will significantly reduce the number and frequency of helicopter noise events,” Mr. Fischetti told the Town Board.

Board members wholeheartedly agreed to sign the letter, and urged North Fork residents to continue calling in complaints about helicopter noise to 1-800-319-7410.

HELP FOR FARMERS

In his annual report to the Town Board Tuesday morning, agricultural advisory committee chairman Chris Baiz urged the town to re-examine sections of its code that limit farming.

“You’re looking at the last generation of farmers that didn’t have to pay $100,000 an acre for farmland,” he said.

He estimated that, at that price, farmers are paying $2.50 per square foot of farmland and earning just 10 cents per square foot each growing season.

He urged the town to reconsider restrictions on greenhouses, clean up code sections that contain conflicting definitions of what a farm stand is, do more to encourage wind power and consider allowing farm stands on properties where the development rights have been sold.

Mr. Baiz added that he has been informed by an attorney that the town has the power to change the deeds of properties that have already excluded farm stands in a covenant at the time the development rights were sold.

“Today’s future farmers are going to come in with college degrees and MBAs in order to run the farm,” he said. “They’re not going to look at a situation where they pay $2.50 a square foot and possibly get pennies per square foot of pretax earnings.”

The Town Board enthusiastically supported many of his proposals and agreed to discuss the matter further.

TERRY FARM PRESERVED

The Town Board unanimously and enthusiastically agreed Tuesday evening to buy the development rights of 33 acres of the Terry Farm on Route 25 in Orient for $86,000 per buildable acre.

The property is owned by the Frederick and Ethel Terry Revocable Trust.

“Thank you to the Terry family,” said Mr. Russell, adding that the town has had its eye on the property for preservation for quite some time.

“It’s nice to know the Terry Farm is going to stay the Terry Farm,” he said.

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06/08/11 9:24am

A plan to allow limited retail uses in light industrial areas moved forward this week with Planning Board feedback on the proposal pending before the Town Board.

Acknowledging the large number of vacant warehouses near the Long Island Rail Road tracks in downtown Mattituck, the town’s Mattituck Corridor Study, unveiled early this spring, suggested that the sale of products made on-site in that area be allowed.

Town planning director Heather Lanza told the Town Board Tuesday that the Planning Board would like to limit retail uses in light industrial areas to 15 percent of the gross floor area, up to a maximum of 750 square feet.

Although planners want limits on retail use, Supervisor Scott Russell said “a bakery that wants to hire 50 people and sell baked goods and Poland Spring Water” should have flexibility in what it offers.

The Planning Board also suggested geographic restrictions on where retail sales would be allowed, perhaps limiting them to within a certain proximity of hamlet centers.

The matter has been referred to the Town Board’s code committee.

At Monday’s Planning Board work session, two projects that have raised neighbors’ eyebrows moved one step closer to a vote.

Joe Battaglia may receive approval for his controversial subdivision on Hobart Road in Southold as early as this coming Monday, depending on whether he can plant enough trees this weekend to screen out a large house under construction on a portion of the 2.3-acre lot.

“I talked to him Friday, and we left off that he may plant this weekend,” said town planner Mark Terry. “Conditional final approval has been scheduled for June 13, if he plants the trees between now and then.”

Board members said they’ll inspect the site before voting.

JAMES CREEK VOTE SCHEDULED

A second controversial subdivision, for five lots on James Creek in Mattituck, is set to go before the Planning Board for a vote June 13.

The plan, proposed by Alan Cardinale, came under fire from neighbors worried about flooding on their properties and the impact more boat traffic would have on the creek.

According to Mr. Terry, one proposed lot is just six feet above sea level, two feet below the required eight-foot elevation. But if the property were regraded to eight feet, it would likely funnel water onto neighboring parcels.

He suggested that the board require the house on that lot to be built on pilings.

Mr. Terry plans to run that idea by the town engineer before the vote.

The Planning Board has also not received a plan for a horse corral proposed for another lot on the subdivision.

“I’m not sure if they will be ready with the corral by Monday,” said Ms. Lanza. Planners will wait until Friday to receive that document before deciding whether to go forward with Monday’s vote.

Also at Monday’s work session, the owners of North Fork Hardware in Southold requested adding an already built patio to their site plan.

Board members agreed to permit the patio on the condition that merchandise isn’t left there overnight.

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06/07/11 11:33am
06/07/2011 11:33 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The view down Soundview Avenue.

Life at the end of Soundview Avenue used to be a day at the beach.

Trips down spindly stairs to the Soundfront beach were a daily ritual for longtime homeowners along a short stretch of Goldin Lane leading down to Soundview Avenue and the water and for condominium owners in town for summer weekends. They climbed down to the beach for the sunset, for barbecues, for endless summer days of sunning and swimming.

But just after Christmas, driving winds and snow battered the coastline along Soundview on the western side of Hashamomuck Cove. The wind and water gouged away great swaths of cliff, swallowing up the edge of the roadway’s asphalt, the stairs and years of sand and vegetation reinforcements designed to keep the cliffs intact and the water at bay.

The eastern end of Soundview Avenue, between Goldin Lane and the traffic racing by on Route 48, has been closed ever since. So, too, is neighboring Town Beach, where the asphalt was also torn up by the vicious storm. Southold Town workers began putting the beach back together in earnest two weeks ago, after the rebuilding project got the OK from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

But with swimming season drawing near, the state of Soundview Avenue’s closed section remains mired in red tape. As a result, all traffic that formerly made the straight run down the length of Soundview Avenue, which roughly parallels the Sound shore, has been diverted to Goldin Lane, a bucolic neighborhood of half a dozen houses with trim lawns and peaceful backyards.

Above the door to resident Theresa Czech’s house is an oar that simply says “Heaven” on it. This had been her paradise.

“I just can’t go on the beach anymore,” said Ms. Czech, who has lived on the quiet street since 1974. “The storm took our staircase away. The town has to dump dirt to fix the shoulder on the road. They need to drop tons of sand. I tell people not to stand close to the edge of the cliff because there’s a big dugout under the ledge. You’re standing on grass, but there’s nothing under it.”

This isn’t the first time erosion has washed away the stairs or eaten away at the cliff. But it is the first time in Ms. Czech’s memory that the road needed to be closed.

She remembers several times when workers shored up the edge of the road with sand that was no match for the force of the sea.

“But this time, it came so big and horrible,” she said. “We’re in a bad mess. We can’t go to the beach. It used to be, you come home from work and go to the beach. When you have company, you go to the beach. You watch the sunset. Now I walk to Town Beach, which is closed, but I walk down there and walk back to my area.”

Ms. Czech’s neighbor, Anne Kempner, is equally upset about the way the road closure has changed her neighborhood.

“I hope the street opens up. The traffic on Goldin Lane is unbearable,” she said. “It’s a little street that’s taking all the brunt from Soundview being closed. There’s speeding, heavy traffic, big heavy stuff going through here. We have no limit on tonnage, no speed limit on this street.”

Ms. Kempner said she’d heard that Southold Town was going to fix the road after the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved the area for disaster funding due to the storm, but was having trouble getting easements from people who live on the cliff.

Town engineer James Richter has been working on the effort to reopen the road and fix Town Beach since the storm. He said that the town is awaiting easements from seven people who own bluff-front property along Soundview Avenue, and there is a 30-day wait before it can finalize those easements.

“It’s just the legalities of making it happen,” Mr. Richter said. “But they all seem to be moving forward.”

The town has not yet received DEC permits to fix the bluff, a project that will involve placing rows of four-ton armor stone rip-rap at the base and backfilling that with sand. Mr. Richter hopes to have those permits within weeks.

“We’re hopeful that’s going to be a permanent fix,” he said. “The past two times, it was basically sand that was put there. The water just took that material and it kept eroding further back.”

The town plans to have the armor stones delivered to Town Beach and taken to the site with heavy equipment. Mr. Richter estimated that the work would take about two weeks once the permits and easements are in place.

Real estate agent Paul Heffernan, a has had an office on the corner of Goldin Lane for 40 years, said the beach ownership situation is complicated.

He and Ms. Kempner and Ms. Czech together access one 50-foot-long private beach through the stairs that have washed out over the cliff. Residents of the other side of Goldin Lane own another 50-foot stretch of beach, while the owner of a complex of cottages farther down Soundview Avenue owns another 50 feet of beach. The North Fork Beach Condominiums owns another 100 feet.

The owners of the 42 units at North Fork Beach Condominiums, many of whom are seasonal or weekend residents, have lost the back entrance to their parking lot and all of their beach access. They’re taking their time coming back this spring.

Mr. Heffernan said that “a load of people there are upset about it.”

Despite the balmy weather and the unofficial opening of the summer season on the Memorial Day weekend, not a single resident was at home at the North Fork Beach Condominiums on a recent Monday. Construction workers who were sprucing up the building’s facade said they expected a crowd to arrive Friday afternoon.

On Friday afternoon, the condo complex was also vacant. Several barbecue grills lined up overlooking the closed road were unattended. There were no family cookouts, no children’s laughter and no doubt that the beach closure had put a damper on the residents’ summer plans.

But just east of Soundview Avenue on Route 48 is a bustle of activity, as Town Beach is being repaired. Mr. Richter hopes that beach will be open by this weekend.

A woman who answered the phone at the Sound Beach Motel, across Route 48 from Town Beach, said she believed the beach would be open in time to keep her busy season from being washed out.

“Beach season didn’t start yet. We open May 1 but it’s slow until July,” said the woman, who declined to give her name.
“Our guests want to make sure the beach is open,” she added. “I hope it will be done for beach season. Most of our guests are coming for the beach. If it’s not open, I’ll be in big trouble.”

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05/31/11 6:10am
05/31/2011 6:10 AM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | A pair of seniors share a meal at Peconic Recreation Center.

By this fall, Southold Town seniors will have one more place to enjoy the camaraderie and hot food provided by the town’s senior nutrition program.

Thanks to a state grant, the senior center plans to begin a pilot program offering hot lunch at the Peconic Recreation Center. The town will expand the program there if demand is high.

Launched in 1974 at a rented space in Greenport’s St. Agnes R.C. Church, the senior nutrition program moved to Mattituck in 1996. That gave the program its own home base, but made it more difficult for seniors from Greenport and farther east to take advantage of the service, said town human services director Karen McLaughlin.

In 2009, Ms. McLaughlin applied for a $26,000 grant from the state Office for the Aging to buy a new stove and refrigerator plus chairs and a canopy for the Mattituck center. She learned last summer that Southold was one of about 25 towns in the state that would receive the money.

Last week, the Southold Town Board authorized the purchase of the new equipment.

Ms. McLaughlin said her staff plans to move several of the existing appliances from Mattituck to Peconic to provide lunch during two town-sponsored senior meetings, which take place every other Wednesday and Thursday. Many seniors who attend those meetings would normally have lunch at the Mattituck center and go to Peconic to meet with their groups. There they could buy coffee, but had to bring their own lunch.

“They say, ‘Oh, no, you’re having beef and gravy? That’s at the same time as my senior meeting,’ ” said Ms. McLaughlin.

Lillian Wagner-Dykhuis, 93, of Mattituck packs her own bag lunch every time she goes to her Southold senior meeting. But she wouldn’t miss joining her longtime friends in Peconic for the world.

“I tell everyone in Florida that if it weren’t for the senior center and my neighbor, I wouldn’t come north anymore,” said Ms. Wagner-Dykhuis, who returned to her Mattituck home from Florida on Wednesday and was at the senior center for lunch the very next day. “You have to get out,” she said.

She added that food at the center in Mattituck was far better than what the senior centers in Florida had served for the past six months.

Themis Fieros of Mattituck, who was eating lunch with Ms. Wagner-Dykhuis at the center on Friday, agreed.

“A nutritionist comes and makes up the menu with the cook,” she said. “It’s good food.”

The only thing either woman said they could complain about was that the portions at the Mattituck luncheons are too large.

Ms. McLaughlin said that if the program takes off in Peconic, the senior center may consider making transportation available to the Peconic center. Currently, seniors are taken from all over town to Mattituck for lunch, but they could be taken to Peconic as well, she said.

She hopes that offering food at the Peconic senior meetings will help boost the ranks of this active group of adults, who take great pride in their social organizations.

In addition to the benefit of offering nutritious meals, the town has another incentive to provide more food for seniors.

“The more meals we provide, the more funding we secure,” said Ms. McLaughlin. “That’s a win-win for everyone.”

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05/24/11 9:29am
05/24/2011 9:29 AM

After the first North Fork Soldier Ride last fall, a ride intended to raise funds to help wounded soldiers regain mobility, organizers decided their energy might be better spent on another charity event called Ride2Recovery.

But this week, the group abruptly canceled that ride, after learning that regional Soldier Ride organizers based in Amagansett had already received permission from Southold Town to hold their own event next month.

Laurel resident Dennis O’Donnell, the father of a soldier and one of the key organizers of last year’s North Fork event, said this week that representatives from the Wounded Warrior Project, which sponsors Soldier Ride, did not return his phone calls all winter. That prompted the decision to have this year’s ride benefit Ride2Recovery, which he said has a better track record of providing services directly to veterans.

Mr. O’Donnell also said that North Fork volunteers did all the work for last year’s Soldier Ride without any backup support from the parent organization.

He applied to the town earlier this spring to organize a bike ride for Ride2Recovery on Oct. 2. But when Amagansett Soldier Ride organizers learned of Mr. O’Donnell’s plans this spring, they quickly filed a request with Southold and Greenport authorities to hold their own event on June 25. That event was approved unanimously by the Southold Town Board on May 10.

Mr. O’Donnell, whose event was to come before the Town Board during its Tuesday meeting, pulled the plug on the Ride2Recovery ride Thursday morning, citing the confusion among North Fork residents over the different charity rides.

“What we’ve learned, as we reach out to the community, is that there’s a lot of confusion and tension over what’s happening because of the two rides,” said Mr. O’Donnell. “We were told what happened is the Wounded Warrior Project, upon learning that we were not doing the ride for them, rushed to the board directly, got a special hearing at the town and got their permits. Everyone at the town is kind of confused. People are saying, ‘We thought we just approved you.’ I understand how it could be confusing. They got a jump on it, and it’s leaving people confused and conflicted. That’s not what we got in this for. We don’t want any conflict. It’s supposed to be a joyous event.”

Soldier Ride organizer Nick Kraus said two rides would only help the cause of generating awareness and support for wounded veterans. He added that many wounded veterans participate in events for both Soldier Ride and Ride2Recovery.

“It’s all about them getting better,” he said. “The more activities and rehabilitation programs they can participate in, the better.”

The June 25 Soldier Ride will begin with an opening ceremony at 9 a.m. at Mitchell Park in Greenport, followed by a 30-mile bicycle ride to Mattituck and back, a five-kilometer walk and a barbecue for participants at the Greenport fairgrounds.

“We’re excited to be back on the North Fork. We have a great weekend planned,” said Mr. Kraus.

On Friday, after Mr. O’Donnell called off his event, Mr. Kraus reiterated his support for two rides.

“We were going to do our ride in the fall, and we purposely did it with some space in between because we were trying to avoid confusion by doing it in June,” he said.

But Mr. O’Donnell wasn’t feeling the love.

“I’m the parent of a soldier and this bothers me,” he said. “They walked in through the side door and pulled strings. I really don’t appreciate it. That’s demonstrated by the idea that they would undercut a fundraising event in a neighborhood that they never set foot in.”

He said that the North Fork organizers may consider taking their event to Riverhead or Brookhaven after the dust settles.
For more information and to register for the June 25 Soldier Ride, go to www.soldierride.org/northfork.

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