05/11/11 1:51pm
05/11/2011 1:51 PM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Supervisor Scott Russell addresses the town GOP committee during its nominating convention last month.

In a letter to his fellow Town Board members, Supervisor Scott Russell said he will return to work Monday following a brief sabbatical.

The following is the letter in its entirety.

Dear Friends:

We want to thank everyone for such an outpouring of support during my recent sabbatical from Town Hall.  Special thanks to my staff and the members of the Town Board for their support and efforts during these past several days. I look forward to returning to the work I love and am excited about returning on Monday, May 16.

I would also like to express my gratitude and deep devotion to my wife Nuria and my children Lily and Carson. It is very important to me to clarify the misconceptions and reports that resulted from my absence. We want to assure everyone that our relationship is strong and that recent incidents were a result of my poor health. The fact is that for some time now I have allowed myself to become physically and mentally fatigued. The warning signs were there; my wife certainly noticed them. Despite her concerns I ignored the signs. I got progressively worse and that one day it was clear to my wife that I need medical attention so she called 911 for help.

I regret that I allowed my health to deteriorate to the point it did, however my wife and I look on this as a wake up call and a blessing. These past two weeks have allowed us to focus on each other and our family and has reminded us of the blessings we have.

So I return to work Monday stronger with a new sense of vigor and an equally important renewed sense of balance in all aspects of my life.



05/11/11 7:02am

Neighbors of a proposed five-lot subdivision known as James Creek Landing, south of Johns Road in Mattituck, are worried that the new homes could cause flooding and lead to increased boat congestion in James Creek.

The property, nearly 10 acres adjacent to the creek, is split between two-acre residential and business zoning.

During the Southold Town Planning Board’s public hearing on the subdivision Monday night, Johns Road resident Tina Roache questioned the applicants’ plan to raise the elevation of the houses in the new subdivision, citing the already frequent flooding in the area.

After town planner Mark Terry said the developers are required to raise the grade of the properties in order to build so close to sea level, Ms. Roache responded that she feared the construction would cause more water to be funneled onto her property.

Planning Board members said they would look into her concerns.

Resident Robert Finora, who lives on East Legion Avenue across the creek from the proposed subdivision, said he is afraid a proposed dock on the site plan would be a detriment to the community.

“Every home on that creek with a dock has two boats,” Mr. Finora said. “With five lots and two boats per lot, I think it’s going to create congestion.”

Board members said the dock must win approval from Town Trustees.

Another neighbor, Marcus Mercurio, expressed concerned that while part of the property lies in a two-acre zoning district, four of the five proposed lots are less than one acre and one is under two acres.

The project includes 5.59 acres of preserved open space, which is 60 percent of the upland area, said board members. The houses are to be clustered.

The board closed the hearing but did not vote on the application.

Another public hearing planned for Monday evening, concerning a proposed 27-unit senior condominium complex in Southold, was canceled after the applicant, Garden City law firm Amato & Associates, failed to notify neighbors.

“We had no choice but to cancel,” said Planning Board chairman Martin Sidor. “Any future plans with the property would be subject to a public hearing.”

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05/03/11 12:03pm
05/03/2011 12:03 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Iron Skillet co-owner Bob Hartz on the porch of the restaurant.

This may well be the end of the Iron Skillet’s Sunday antique flea markets on Love Lane.

Last week, Iron Skillet restaurant co-owner Bob Hartz received a decision from the Southold Zoning Board of Appeals that granted him and co-owner Mary Ann Price the right to continue their warm weather fair, but with restrictions they feel are so onerous they might not be able to hold the flea markets.

Instead of every weekend, the decision requires they hold the sales no more than one day per month, and on a Saturday instead of a Sunday. Mr. Hartz said this week that antique vendors usually procure their goods on Saturdays and reserve Sundays to participate in fairs.

“Sunday is the lynch-pin day,” Mr. Hartz said. “I was expecting vendors this Sunday, and I had to cancel the whole thing.”

“It’s like the Monty Python skit where they’re in a cheese shop and everything is cheap, but they’re out of all the cheese,” he said of the decision.

The Zoning Board decision states that “this board expresses an intent to preserve the relative tranquility typical of a residential neighborhood during Sundays” by requiring that the sales be held on Saturdays.

Mr. Hartz and Ms. Price have been holding flea markets on Sundays during the warm weather months for nine years, since before they opened their small restaurant at the site in 2005. The first year, they went to the Zoning Board looking for a special exception use permit for the flea market. While they were given permission to run the sales for one year, they never reapplied and the market was never questioned by the town until last fall, when the town’s code enforcement officer, following up on anonymous complaints, ordered them to stop the sales until they received the permit.

The Iron Skillet is zoned for business, but flea markets are not listed among the uses allowed in the town code and business owners must receive special exemption permits to hold them.

The Zoning Board decision also requires that the restaurant not be open during the flea market. Previously, Mr. Hartz and Ms. Price hadn’t provided sit-down service during the flea market, but had cooked take-out food, primarily for the vendors.

“I can live with that,” Mr. Hartz said. “I don’t open the restaurant until 4:30 in the afternoon anyway.”

The decision also limits them to 10 vendors per day. They had asked to be allowed to have 28 vendors on the site, though at the height of the event’s popularity there were less than 20 vendors there each day.

At two public hearings on the application held earlier this year, other business owners on Love Lane expressed support for the sales, while some neighbors complained about the pedestrian traffic and the noise of vendors setting up at the weekly sales.
Neither the neighbors nor vendors who were contacted for this story returned calls for comment.

Mr. Hartz, a bass player who had been a musician on cruise ships before settling in Mattituck to run the restaurant, said the decision reminded him of the cruise ship company’s insistence that musicians could only use the swimming pools on board when the ship was docked, which just happened to be when the swimming pools were emptied and refilled.

“We basically got nothing from it,” he said of the decision.

The Zoning Board approval is also conditional on the submission of a site plan application to the Planning Board and is limited to one year from the date of signing.

“The real kick in the keister is that it would have cost us $400 to start the [site plan application] process, but the new fee is $1,200,” he said. “They frankly don’t want us to do it. It discourages people.”

Mr. Hartz said he’s looking into an appeal and is considering suing the Zoning Board.

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04/29/11 1:10pm
04/29/2011 1:10 PM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Supervisor Scott Russell addresses the town GOP committee during its nominating convention last month.

Following a domestic disturbance with police intervention at his Cutchogue home last Thursday, Supervisor Scott Russell has temporarily turned over his town responsibilities to deputy supervisor Phillip Beltz.

“Town government will continue to function as usual,” Mr. Beltz said on Friday. Regarding Mr. Russell, he added, “We hope that everyone respects the family’s privacy.”

A separate statement attributed in a release to the other five Town Board members said, “Supervisor Russell will be taking some time off to address personal and private matters.”

Police were called to the Russell home Thursday morning, but no charges were filed, according to Captain Martin Flatley. Mr. Russell is married and has two children.

The department has released no additional details on what occurred, which is routine in the case of domestic calls, the captain added.

Town Board members are offering no comment beyond the prepared statement.

Ruthanne Woodhull, Mr. Russell’s confidential secretary, said only that the supervisor “is home and taking care of himself.”
No word has been given as to when Mr. Russell might return. Also unknown is how, or if, his absence might affect his re-election campaign.

A former town assessor, Mr. Russell has served in Southold’s top elected post since 2005. In 2007 he became the town’s first supervisor to win the just-expanded four-year term, taking 83 percent of the vote.

Southold’s Republicans, who during last month’s party convention nominated the supervisor to run for a third term, still expect Mr. Russell to be on the ballot in the fall, said town GOP chairman Denis Noncarrow.

“We have no reason to believe that Scott won’t be at the top of the ticket,” Mr. Noncarrow said. He added that he has not spoken with the supervisor since last week.

“I feel for the guy,” Mr. Noncarrow said. “It’s a stressful job and it gets to you. We’ve all had problems in our lives and we’re all there to support him.”

As to what took place at the Russell home last week, the chairman added, “There are all sorts of rumors out there. But people should not jump to conclusions. We have to give him time to regroup.”

Southold Democratic leader Art Tillman said his party is still screening potential candidates. He also declined to comment on Mr. Russell’s situation.

When the Town Board next meets on Tuesday, Mr. Beltz will run the meeting. However, because the position is appointed, not elected, the deputy supervisor  cannot vote on board resolutions.

Councilman Al Krupski, the board’s lone Democrat, said there’s no reason to fear having a non-elected staffer running Town Hall.

Mr. Beltz, the councilman said, “has been part of town government for years. He’s very familiar with the workings of Town Hall and that makes him very valuable.”

Mr. Krupski met Wednesday with councilmen Vinny Orlando and Bill Ruland to set the board’s meeting agenda, a job usually completed by the supervisor. The councilmen also sat down with Town Hall department heads.

“We asked that everyone just keep doing their job,” said Mr. Krupski. “We have a competent and capable workforce here so nobody’s worried about the functioning of town government. We’re going to plod along.”

Mr. Beltz, who has served as deputy supervisor since 2009, became a town employee in June 2003. He was hired as a part-time senior citizen aide at the town Human Resources Center in Mattituck, assigned to visiting homebound elderly residents to evaluate their need for services.

The Town Board appointed him full-time special projects coordinator in January 2004. His duties in that job were varied, including coordinating he town’s affordable housing program, particularly the development of the The Cottages at Mattituck, a 22-unit project built by the Long Island Housing Partnership.

Mr. Beltz was also heavily involved in youth activities and was responsible for guiding the nine separate hamlet stakeholder groups established by the town to provide input on local long-range planning goals.

Prior to working for the town, Mr. Beltz was development director of a nonprofit agency assisting homeless, runaway and at-risk youths. He was also employed by Horizon House in Philadelphia as director of its homeless services division.
A Peconic resident, Mr. Beltz was named The Suffolk Times’s public servant of the year in 2007.

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04/28/11 11:56am
04/28/2011 11:56 AM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Ron Fisher, brother of Go-Green Sanitation owner frank Fisher, questions the need for a new town carter's permit during Tuesday's Town Board hearing.

Comments were scarce Tuesday night at a Town Board hearing on whether Southold should require garbage haulers to obtain a town permit.

The board closed the public hearing but tabled the resolution that would have given the town the authority to issue permits.
Ron Fisher, brother and business partner of Frank Fisher, who owns Go-Green Sanitation in Flanders, asked several pointed questions about the details of the new permits.

The permits would cost $5 and be issued by the Southold Town Clerk’s office. Go-Green was recently ticketed by the town for picking up trash that had not been separated. The company has since announced it will comply with state and local recycling requirements.

Mr. Fisher’s primary complaint was that the town is maintaining the requirement that refuse collected by private carters must be placed in Southold Town’s yellow garbage bags, even if the carter is taking the garbage out of town, as Go-Green does.

Town officials have long maintained that state law requires garbage to be separated at the source, and the town is required to enforce that regulation. That’s one reason the town plans ultimately to institute carter permits, which would also require garbage haulers to adhere to the state and local rules. Many Long Island towns require carters to obtain a local permit.

Go-Green sent a flier to its customers this week notifying them that they will now have to sort out recyclables, which will be picked up by a separate truck.

Supervisor Scott Russell said at Tuesday’s hearing that the town still plans to examine whether it can change the yellow bag regulations. He added that this question is separate from the carter permits issue. He said he is currently discussing changing the yellow bag program with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Mr. Russell said the town is also reexamining every aspect of its approach to solid waste disposal, including potential gasification of garbage to create electricity, which could make the yellow bag issue moot.

“I think this is a work in progress,” he said.

Mr. Fisher, however, said the yellow bag law is selectively enforced by the town.

He also said that very few towns on Long Island require carter permits for residential garbage collection. In response, Town Board members and solid waste district coordinator Jim Bunchuck said Southold is one of the very few on Long Island that doesn’t already have a residential carter permit requirement.

Mr. Fisher was also concerned that carters will now be required to give the town a list of the number and type of their customers. The proposed law initially required that the carters submit customers’ names to the town, but that provision has since been removed.

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04/27/11 5:27pm
04/27/2011 5:27 PM

The Southold recycling war is over and the town has prevailed.

After a months-long battle between the town and Go-Green Sanitation, the Riverhead-based trash hauling company has conceded that its customers need to separate recyclable materials from their trash prior to pickup, and that the company must make separate runs to collect garbage and recyclables such as cans, glass and paper.

When the company began marketing its services in Southold last year, it told residents they no longer needed to place their trash in yellow town bags, or to recycle. It supplied customers with 96-gallon containers to hold all their trash together.

Go-Green claimed that because it trucked the trash to up-island disposal centers, where recyclables materials would be separated out, instead of to the town collection center in Cutchogue, Southold residents no longer needed to follow town disposal rules.

The town quickly objected, arguing that state and local law requires recycling and that by ignoring those codes Go-Green enjoyed an unfair and illegal economic advantage over local carting companies. With trash bypassing the Cutchogue facility, the town stood to lose a considerable amount in disposal fee revenues. Town officials have long said such fees fall short of covering the debt service on the $4 million transfer station constructed during the Horton administration.

In a letter to its customers, Go-Green conceded that “ … it is a state law that recyclables be picked up separately at the curb.” In addition to hauling away trash, the company plans to make two regular recycling runs, one for paper and one for glass and plastic.

Supervisor Scott Russell downplayed the outcome.

“The Town was on the right side of the issue,” he said. “I am glad to see that Go-Green has decided to comply with the laws we have all been honoring for several years now. The benefits of recycling are long settled. I am glad to see the compliance and maybe, someday, that company can actually live up to the term ‘go green.’ ”

Since Go-Green still does not use the town collection center, its customers need not put their trash in town yellow bags.

Over the past several months, Go-Green owner Frank Fisher has argued that the trash he collects is recycled at the out-of-town facilities he employs. The town disputed that, and this week the state Department of Environmental Conservation agreed with that position.

The DEC told the Winters Brothers company and others used by Go-Green that no trash collection firm on Long Island is licensed to separate trash, said department spokesman Bill Fonda.

Although enforcing the recycling law is the town’s responsibility, the DEC frowned upon Go-Green’s initial offer to pick up recyclables just once each month.

“If people had to hold on to this material for a whole month, some of it would likely go out with the regular trash,” Mr. Fonda said.

In an Equal Time column printed in The Suffolk Times in January, Mr. Fisher claimed he was guilty of nothing more than creating competition and offering customers a choice.

“American was built on free enterprise and hard work,” the Flanders resident wrote. “Now it’s in trouble because of greed and too much government. Maybe the town should leave the garbage business to private industry.”

On March 1, Mr. Fisher was ticketed for one violation of the town’s recycling code, according to zoning inspector Damon Rallis. When the carter did not appear for the Town Justice Court hearing on March 19, Town Justice William Price ordered the preparation of a criminal summons to compel Mr. Fisher’s court attendance.

Mr. Fisher’s attorney, Anthony Conforti of Southampton, entered a not-guilty plea on Mr. Fisher’s behalf in court on April 18 and the case was adjourned to May.

Mr. Conforti did not respond to requests for comment.

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04/25/11 12:52pm
04/25/2011 12:52 PM

SUFFOLK TIMES FILE PHOTO | Southold officials are planning to introduce zoning on Plum Island.

As the federal government’s plan to sell Plum Island continues along slowly, Southold Town is hoping to propose zoning for the island by this fall.

There is currently no zoning on the 840-acre island, which is within the town’s jurisdiction. Southold is hoping to prevent subdivisions and residential development on the island by zoning it for a variety of uses similar to ones that are currently there: research facilities, open space, government uses, mariculture, educational institutions, and perhaps alternative energy production.

The federal General Services Administration is the agency responsible for selling the island, but the GSA has not yet completed an Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed sale that was expected last fall.

In the meantime, federal funding is in place this year to begin construction of a new bio and agro-defense laboratory in Manhattan, Kan. to replace the aging lab on Plum Island.

Southold Planning Director Heather Lanza said at Thursday’s code committee meeting that the town has been planning to use the GSA’s inventory of existing buildings on the island, which is part of the agency’s environmental impact statement, when drafting the zoning plan, but is unable to yet because the environmental document is not complete.

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04/25/11 9:14am

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Concert goers entertain themselves with hula hooping between musical sets at the NoFo Rock and Folk Festival last July.

The NOFO Rock and Folk Fest will return to the North Fork with a new lineup July 30-31, according to event organizer Josh Horton.

Mr. Horton announced this weekend in an e-mail to the Suffolk Times that Foghat, Commander Cody, Elvin Bishop, and John Sebastian will be among this year’s performers.

Southold Town was considering earlier this year an informal request to hold the event at Strawberry Fields in Mattituck, although it might still be held at Peconic Bay Winery, the site of last year’s festival.

Mr. Horton was at odds with the town for weeks leading up to last year’s festival, which took place without incident in July. The problem had been a discrepancy between the low number of attendees and vendors predicted on the permit application for the festival — 800 people a day — and the much larger throng predicted in public relations material sent by organizers to potential vendors. It put the expected crowd at “well over 15,000.”

The lower prediction turned out to be accurate. Mr. Horton maintained last year that the figure in the letter to vendors was a clerical error.

Last year’s event, which featured performances from Mountain and Richie Havens, led to a $5,000 donation to the East End Arts Council.

04/25/11 5:47am

Southold is ready for public comment on its proposal to increase the allowable energy output of wind turbines in town.

Currently, the town allows owners of agricultural land to build windmills with a maximum power output of 25 kilowatts, but, after an informal request earlier this month from Pindar Vineyards to build a 100 kilowatt turbine, the town is now drafting an amendment to the code that would increase the maximum output to 125 kilowatts.

Neighboring Riverhead town already allows turbines up to 125 kilowatts. The most powerful windmill there, at 100 kilowatts, is visible from Route 25 at the Half Hollow Nursery on the Riverhead side of Laurel.

At a Southold Town code committee meeting Thursday afternoon, Town Supervisor Scott Russell said most wind turbine manufacturers do not make a 125 kilowatt model, and that even if the town’s code allows 125 kilowatt turbines, applicants would likely not ask for a turbine that generates more than 100 kilowatts of electricity.

The height of the turbines would still be capped at the current level of 120 feet.

The Long Island Power Authority currently does not allow wind turbines to tie into the electric grid, meaning that people who own wind turbines must use all the power they generate on-site.

Town Board member Al Krupski pushed the board Thursday to change the language in the code to allow property owners to use the electricity at other properties they own. The code currently requires that the power be used on-site. But until LIPA allows the grid tie-in, other board members believed the changes to the code would do little to help property owners.

“We can revisit the code as the industry evolves,” said Mr. Russell.

The proposed changes are slated to be scheduled for public hearing at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting.

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04/21/11 10:00am
04/21/2011 10:00 AM
Southold Town solid waste coordinator Jim Bunchuck at the new free e-waste disposal area at the Cutchogue transfer station. Over the weekend the container had to be emptied twice each day as residents filled it with their old electronic equipment.

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Southold Town solid waste coordinator Jim Bunchuck at the new free e-waste disposal area at the Cutchogue transfer station. Over the weekend the container had to be emptied twice each day as residents filled it with their old electronic equipment.

The Cutchogue landfill has been inundated with old televisions, computers, DVD players and monitors since the town began accepting e-waste free of charge on April 1, and town solid waste coordinator Jim Bunchuck is hoping that the new policy will bring in even more.

Beginning April 1, electronics companies doing business in New York State were required to pay for disposal of their old products. That means manufacturers must now pay a recycling company to buy e-waste from Southold, and residents can now dump it for free instead of paying by the pound.

Last year, Mr. Bunchuck estimated that the town collected 75,000 pounds of electronic waste. This year, he said that contractor WeRecycle!, which is paying the town 3 cents a pound for e-waste, estimates the town will bring in more than 100,000 pounds. Mr. Bunchuck said that his staff had emptied the e-waste recycling bin into a shipping container twice a day over the past weekend.

So far, large-screen television sets sold before flat-screen televisions became the norm, make up the bulk of the e-waste, said Mr. Bunchuck. Each television weighs more than 100 pounds.

Though many electronic products still work when they are brought to the landfill, the state law that makes electronics companies pay for disposal also forbids municipalities from allowing residents to scavenge.

Mr. Bunchuck said that his staff had been busy for the past two weeks explaining to the public why the e-waste area can’t be operated as a reuse center.

“Forty percent of equipment has recoverable data on it,” said Mr. Bunchuck. “We’re not trying to be mean to anybody, but WeRecycle! has a responsibility for making sure people’s information doesn’t get out, and we accept part of that responsibility.”
In addition, many discarded products contain hazardous materials, from leaded glass in television sets to heavy metals used in circuitry.

WeRecycle! of Mt. Vernon is planning in the near future to replace the open container Southold now uses for e-waste with a secure kiosk. Mr. Bunchuck said that WeRecycle! may also provide kiosks for use at other town properties, including at the Peconic Lane Rec Center and the Human Resources Center in Mattituck.

The new state law is part of a wave of regulations being proposed throughout the country to make manufacturers responsible for cradle-to-grave stewardship of their products.

Mr. Bunchuck said he expected that manufacturers of products from paint to pharmaceuticals to light bulbs to batteries would be required to pay for disposal in the near future.

“Manufacturers should share the responsibility for disposal. That way they’re more likely to come up with products that don’t contain hazards,” he said.

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