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East Hampton Village Says, Clean Up Your Property, or Else!

Thu, 09/23/2021 - 05:32

Proposals to create property maintenance requirements for East Hampton Village landowners, to allow the construction of cellars that extend beyond the exterior wall of a residence, and to establish the position of "village constable" will receive public hearings before the village board on Oct. 15.

The property maintenance proposal would require the removal of stagnant water and bamboo, the clearing of "litter, debris, paper, dirt, garbage, and junk" from the premises, the upkeep of all structures including fences and retaining walls, and, for owners of street-front parcels, the trimming of trees, hedges, shrubs, grass, and weeds that extend beyond the property line. The proposal would prohibit water from rain pipes from flowing onto the sidewalk of an adjoining parcel, and unregistered vehicles including automobiles, trucks, trailers and boats from being stored outdoors.

The owners of multifamily and commercial properties would be required to keep the premises free of insects, rodents, and vermin, the driveways and parking spaces in "good repair" and regularly cleaned, and walkways cleared of obstructions including snow and ice. Depositing snow and ice onto the street would be prohibited.

Violations would result in a $100 to $200 fine for the first offense, and a $150 to $250 fine for subsequent offenses within a year. Those cited for a violation would be allowed 10 days to submit a written request for a hearing with the building inspector, who could withdraw the citation if he finds that no violation exists or that the requirement has posed an undue hardship due to the size of the property.  

Village code prohibits a building's cellar from extending beyond the exterior wall of the first story, and limits the below-grade depth to 12 feet. The proposed code would allow a cellar to exceed the first floor area by 25 percent, and would increase the maximum depth to 15 feet. The expansion would have to remain within the same setbacks as the primary structure, and the portion that extends beyond the first story would count toward that parcel's lot coverage allowance.

A separate proposal would allow a window well, which could provide egress from a cellar, to extend eight feet from the wall of the structure's foundation.

The proposals were not discussed at the meeting, and Rose Brown and Arthur Graham, trustees, asked Mayor Jerry Larsen to delay the public hearings to give residents a chance to get a firm grasp of the details. Ms. Brown noted that Mr. Larsen had canceled this month's work session, which would have provided an opportunity to discuss the proposals. Holding work sessions "doesn't seem necessary [because] there's nothing pressing on the agenda," Mr. Larsen said.

"It's important to keep the public informed," said Brown. "We're missing the opportunity to get public input if we're bringing up a resolution for the first time at a public hearing."

"The open meetings law was set up so people could watch their governing bodies making the sausage, as they say, and I think we ought to do that," added Mr. Graham.

Mr. Larsen said delaying the public hearing would merely drag out the legislative process. "Government works very slow as it is, and I don't want to slow it down," he said. "A lot of these things are not controversial. No one is even going to be opposed to some of these things."

Village Police Chief Michael Tracey and Mr. Larsen did provide some insight into the proposal to establish a "village constable" position. Training for part-time police officers at the Suffolk County Police Academy has been shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Tracey said, so it has become difficult to find personnel to help with code and traffic enforcement and other police duties. The village usually has four part-time officers on duty during the summer, and this year it only had one, noted Mr. Larsen.

The position of constable could be filled by a person who had previously served as a police officer, and they would not be subject to a residence requirement. The village would provide them with uniforms, equipment, and training.

In other business, Mr. Tracey provided a report on the village's recent transition from a ticket-based parking system in the Reuterhsan and Schenck lots to a smartphone app-based system. The new system has worked well, he said, but it has resulted in far fewer fines, because, when the ticket dispensers were in use, nearly 50 percent of citations were for failure to properly display a ticket on the dashboard.

Since shortly after the beginning of the pandemic, the village has not been enforcing overnight parking regulations at the request of Village Hall, according to Chief Tracey. "We thought it better to let people park where they could, when they were staying home," he said. The department has not received any complaints, he said, and he suggested the policy could be extended.

Ms. Brown expressed concern about safety issues that might arise on narrow residential streets that cannot accommodate two lanes of traffic when cars are parked there. "Plus, people could leave a car there for an extended period of time . . . go to the city, and come back a week later," she said. Having a ban on overnight parking has worked well for the village, said Mr. Graham, "and I don't see any reason to change it."

Mayor Larsen presented Hugh King, the village's historic site manager since 1999, the village historian since 2002, and the town crier since 1987, for his "dedication to keeping local history alive." In his honor, a walkway next to 28 Newtown Lane has been named Hugh King Alley. Mr. Larsen also announced that the village will hold a Veterans Day parade on Nov. 13.

The board approved the appointment of Shahab Karmely as an alternate member of its zoning board of appeals, and accepted the donation of a replica of Village Hall from Ray Harden and Ben Krupinski Builder, at an approximate value of $27,000.

It also accepted Devon Mansir Jr. as a new member of Fire Department Hose Company #3, and approved the promotion of Matthew MacPherson to captain, and Stephen Turza to lieutenant of Hose Company #5.

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