Government Briefs 05.12.16

Southampton Town

C.S.E.A. Grievance

 The Civil Service Employees Association has filed a grievance to try to force the town to uphold a contract agreement despite the fact that Alex Gregor, the highway superintendent, has refused to sign it. The matter is headed toward binding arbitration. The question for arbitration is whether the contract needs Mr. Gregor’s approval before it can be made official or whether Supervisor Jay Schneiderman’s signature would suffice. The agreement was the result of a complaint filed by the C.S.E.A. with the Public Employees Relations Board late last year over the current contract’s exclusion from the bargaining unit of certain employees, mainly supervisory or clerical. The new contract added new titles and approved accelerated pay raises, among other provisions, but Mr. Gregor said these provisions should have been dealt with in formal re-negotiations.


County Road 39

The possibility of higher speed limits on County Road 39 is under consideration. The idea is to see fewer brake lights and logjams along a stretch of the road, which has a 35-mile-an-hour limit.

A few weeks ago, the county and town tested whether turning the traffic light at the intersection of Route 39 and Tuckahoe Road into a blinking yellow light during peak morning hours would help cut down on the logjam. Supervisor Schneiderman said he had received anecdotal information that it was a success but hasn’t heard that the data showed a significant difference in traffic flow. One reason may be that people seemed to slow down as they approached the light; the supervisor said he even saw someone stop at the light completely. The county has suggested that making it a steady green light, instead of a blinking yellow, may help.

Traffic also backs up as Sunrise Highway converges onto County Road 39, where the speed limit decreases from 55 to 35 m.p.h. “We need to have a conversation about that,” the supervisor said.

Mr. Schneiderman, a former county legislator who was instrumental in having an extra lane added to County Road 39, said he thinks the speed limit was set at 35 out of concern about the effects of the extra lane. He said he would speak with the town Police Department and traffic safety engineers to see if increasing the limit would have support. “I know some people are going to love it; some people are going to hate it,” he told the town board at a recent meeting.


Development Rights

The Town of Southampton has purchased what are called enhanced development rights on some Water Mill fields that are currently farmed by the Green Thumb, an organic farm and farm stand in that hamlet, for $1.9 million. The 17-acre property on Halsey Lane already had been preserved through the purchase of development rights in 2006, along with 64 acres of contiguous farmland. Enhanced development rights are meant to guarantee that a property will continue to be used for food farming and remain affordable for future farmers.

 The owner of the property is Alice Topping L.L.C. The money for the purchase will come from the community preservation fund. At a public hearing on the purchase Tuesday, Melanie Cirillo, the director of conservation at the Peconic Land Trust, spoke on behalf of the Green Thumb family and called the purchase an “integral piece of their overall operation.”

P.D.D. Moratorium

Despite some concern that the town wouldn’t work swiftly enough to review existing legislation that allows planned development districts, the Suffolk County Planning Commission has agreed with the town’s proposed moratorium on new applications. Councilman John Bouvier, who sponsored the moratorium, and the supervisor attended a county meeting on May 4 at which they committed to providing progress reports every three months. The supervisor said he assured the commission that property owners could continue to develop properties during the moratorium under ordinary zoning or by applying for a zone change.

A committee to review the law and make recommendations to the town board is to be formed. Mr. Schneiderman said it was important the “blue ribbon panel” include people involved in the original writing and revisions of the law, as well as those with environmental, civic, and development interests. “I do think there is a place for them,” he said of P.D.D.s.


Suffolk County

County Begins Vector Control

The vector control division of the Suffolk Department of Public Works has begun its annual aerial spraying to control mosquitoes on the South Fork. In East Hampton, Salt marsh areas at Napeague and Beach Hampton in Amagansett and Accabonac Harbor in Springs were to be treated yesterday and today with Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or Bti, an insecticide. In Southampton, marsh areas at Jagger Lane and in North Sea were also to be treated. Helicopters are to fly at low altitude and apply the insecticide between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. In an email, the vector division said no precautions were recommended prior to the application as the helicopters would be at a low level above marshes and would control drift into inhabited areas. “Human exposure from this operation is unlikely and the products involved have no significant human toxicity,” according to the email. The division is also asking property owners to eliminate standing water and dispose of tires, trash, and anything that can catch and hold water, to drill drainage holes in garbage receptacles, and to ensure that roof gutters drain properly. Water in birdbaths should be changed at least weekly, shrubs and grass should be trimmed, and vegetation and debris should be cleaned from the edges of backyard ponds and the water circulated. Mosquito repellent should be used when outdoors, the email added, and all windows and doors should have screens in good repair.


New York State

Lighthouse Protection Bill Advances

The New York State Senate has approved legislation sponsored by Senator Kenneth P. LaValle to protect national historic landmarks, including the Montauk Lighthouse, from erosion. The legislation has now been transferred to the Assembly for consideration, where Assemblyman Fred Thiele is the bill’s sponsor.

The bill would enable the State Department of Environmental Conservation to take action to protect the sites. “Currently, the D.E.C. cannot enter into financially obligated agreements with nonprofit organizations to halt erosion,” Senator LaValle said. The nonprofit Montauk Historical Society manages the Montauk Lighthouse. The legislation, Mr. LaValle said, “provides a solution to the issue.”