On Water and Weather Woes

Kathy Cunningham and Sam Kramer were sworn in as officers of the East Hampton Town Planning Board last Thursday. Christopher Walsh

“Coastal erosion and sea level rise will continue to be a topic of focus for the coming year,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said at the first East Hampton Town Board meeting of 2019 last Thursday, noting the four northeasters last March and resulting erosion and damage to the Army Corps of Engineers’ beach stabilization project in downtown Montauk. “These weather events are predicted to continue to increase in frequency and severity, and will require innovative solutions and funding to minimize future losses,” he said. 

The establishment of an erosion control district for downtown Montauk is being studied. It would fund a sand-only beach replenishment project as an interim step while the town awaits the Fire Island to Montauk Point reformulation project. Later in the meeting, the board named 10 members to the Montauk Beach Preservation Committee, which was established last year to explore the creation of such a district and funding mechanisms. 

“Protecting and improving water quality was and continues to be a top priority,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said, referring to contamination in Wainscott and harmful algal blooms in multiple waterways. The Suffolk County Water Authority is completing installation of 45,000 feet of water main in Wainscott, potentially serving more than 520 residences, he said, and wastewater regulations and installation of low-nitrogen septic systems in 2018 represent initial efforts to address degraded waterways. 

Expanded shellfish production will result from the town’s acquisition of land adjacent to its aquaculture facility on Three Mile Harbor, at which operations will be consolidated, the supervisor said.

Mr. Van Scoyoc recounted the town’s progress toward achieving its energy needs through renewable sources, including the South Fork’s first megawatt-scale solar installation, which came online off Accabonac Road in East Hampton late last year, and ongoing negotiations with Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind for an easement to land the transmission cable for its proposed South Fork Wind Farm, to be situated some 35 miles off Montauk. 

“We are also working with the New York Power Authority to install rooftop solar panels on several municipally owned buildings,” he said, and the town has incentivized rooftop solar by offering reduced prices on purchase and installation.

The Energize East Hampton solar and energy savings program was launched last year, offering one-stop shopping for free or discounted solar and energy efficiency projects, including free smart thermostats, pool pump rebates, and free commercial lighting efficiency upgrades. The town is also adding electric vehicles and charging stations to further reduce the use of fossil fuels. 

The hamlet studies, for which public hearings were held in the fall, will be adopted early this year, Mr. Van Scoyoc said, and will help guide future development and redevelopment. 

Affordable housing remains in critically short supply, he said, but the 12-unit Manor House condominiums will be occupied early this year, and ground is expected to be broken on the 37-unit Gansett Meadows project at 531 Montauk Highway in Amagansett in April. The board will hold a public hearing next Thursday on the purchase of a four-acre parcel off Route 114 for another 20 to 30-unit project. 

“While I am pleased with the progress we have made this year, there is clearly more to do,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. “So let us get on with it. And getting on with it means having David Lys sworn in, in the annual David Lys swearing-in process.” 

It was a joking reference to the councilman, who was appointed to the board to fill the seat Mr. Van Scoyoc vacated upon his election as supervisor last January, won election in November, and will have to stand for re-election this fall, should he seek to continue. 

Mr. Lys, who was elected with 71 percent of the vote, stood before Town Clerk Carole Brennan for the swearing-in. 

Three new members of the planning board were among the others sworn in at the meeting. Sam Kramer, who was vice chairman of the town’s zoning board of appeals, was appointed to the planning board for a seven-year term, and was also appointed its chairman. Louis Cortese was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Patti Leber, who had resigned, and Sharon McCobb was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Job Potter, who had also resigned. 

Mr. Cortese’s term expires on Dec. 31, 2022, and Ms. McCobb’s on Dec. 31, 2020. Kathy Cunningham is the planning board’s vice chairwoman. 

Nancy Keeshan, a Montauk resident who served on the planning board for eight years, was not reappointed. “I enjoyed looking out for Montauk, and wish the new board members a lot of luck,” she said on Monday. “They have someone representing Montauk,” she said of Mr. Cortese, who is a member of the hamlet’s citizens advisory committee, “so that’s good. Montauk being well looked after — that’s the idea.” 

John Whelan and Tim Brenneman were reappointed to the zoning board of appeals. Mr. Whelan is the chairman. Roy Dalene is its vice chairman.