Better Septic, Yea; Marijuana, Nay

Mayor Rickenbach registers ‘strong opposition’ to Cuomo’s legalization plan

A law requiring low-nitrogen wastewater treatment systems for all new residences and for existing ones that expand by 25 percent or have an increase in the number of bedrooms was adopted by the East Hampton Village Board of Trustees at a meeting on Feb. 7. The law will take effect in about two weeks, after it is filed with New York’s secretary of state. The board also discussed a ban on balloons, and Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. declared “strong opposition” to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state.

The vote on the septic system law followed a public hearing at which members of environmental groups encouraged the board to enact the measure quickly to prevent further surface and groundwater pollution caused by nitrogen from traditional septic systems. No one voiced opposition.

Addressing another environmental issue, the board discussed the introduction of a law that would ban the intentional release of balloons. Discarded balloons have proven detrimental to marine life.

East Hampton Town adopted such a law at a meeting held later that day. 

Calling for a village law that would mirror the town’s, Barbara Borsack, a village trustee, called it sensible legislation to outlaw the organized release of balloons. Her colleagues agreed, and Arthur Graham also wanted to make sure that Mylar balloons were included in the prohibition. A proposed law will be drafted and discussed at a future meeting.

Mayor Rickenbach announced his opposition to a proposal from Governor Cuomo in December that would make the recreational use of marijuana legal in New York State. The governor said that legalizing and taxing marijuana could eventually generate annual revenue of $300 million. 

Following the meeting, Mr. Rickenbach distributed a letter he wrote to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, urging him to “opt out” of any program that would make the use of marijuana other than for medicinal purposes legal in the county. 

“We must put the health and safety of our residents first,” the mayor’s letter states. “Recreational use of marijuana has no health benefit, and the potential impacts to society are largely unknown and deserve more study before governments move ahead with any legalization efforts.” 

During the work session, Mr. Rickenbach said, “It’s a bad move should the county decide to move in that direction. There’s got to be better ways to raise money.” 

Taking inspiration from legislation enacted by the Town of North Hempstead, the board discussed drafting a law that would prevent utility companies from excavating roads that the village has recently repaired. “Once our roads are repaved, unless there’s a dire need, by statement of emergency permit, there should be a window of at least five years where they can’t come in and open up the road,” Mayor Rickenbach said. 

Becky Molinaro Hansen, the village administrator, said that the Department of Public Works has a long-term plan for its road repairs, and it routinely informs the utility companies of that plan, but finds that they are frequently unreceptive to coordinating schedules. 

The result is ongoing construction and disruption on the same stretches of road, said Mayor Rickenbach, who cited Egypt Lane, where the Suffolk County Water Authority recently dug up a newly paved road to install a water main. 

“We’re putting the utilities on notice,” said Richard Lawler, a trustee. “We want them to make an effort to adopt a schedule that coordinates with ours.”

Scott Fithian, the superintendent of public works, said such a law was much needed. He reminded the board that more road disruptions would soon be underway: The Suffolk County Water Authority wants to replace the water mains “right away” on Cooper Lane, Race Lane, and Church Street, he said. The latter road, he said, “we just repaved two years ago.”

In other business, the board adopted a resolution to settle an ongoing legal dispute with Molly Zweig, a resident of 11 West End Road who constructed a revetment in front of her house in 2013 after receiving required permitting from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the village’s zoning board of appeals. 

The East Hampton Town Trustees, who own many of the town’s common lands, including beaches, on behalf of the public, objected to the construction, and claimed jurisdiction over the land. Construction of the revetment had already begun when the trustees filed a court challenge to the Z.B.A.’s decision; two days later, the trustees won a temporary restraining order to stop the project.

The restraining order was lifted the following month, and the project was completed, but the legal battle continued. In April 2016, a State Supreme Court justice denied the East Hampton Town Trustees’ petition to annul the Z.B.A.’s determination, but in April 2017 another State Supreme Court justice denied Ms. Zweig’s request for summary judgment.

At a meeting last month, the trustees, none of whom were part of that body when it sued Ms. Zweig, said they were looking forward to putting the lengthy and costly legal battle behind them. The village board’s resolution will do just that. 

Plans for the third annual spring street fair in the village were announced by Steven Ringel, the executive director of the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce. The street fair will take place on May 11 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Newtown Lane, he said, and there will be a few changes. Last year, food booths were set up along the entrance to the municipal parking lot, next to the Capital One bank. To avoid overcrowding, he said, the food booths will be moved to an area near the main stage, closer to the traffic lights on Newtown Lane. The total number of general booths, showcasing the work of East End artisans and nonprofit groups, will be reduced, down from approximately 50 last year. The changes, he said, will keep the event “streamlined and looking nice.”