Following a public hearing last Thursday, the East Hampton Town Board voted to amend various town code sections to provide for adjudication by the administrative bureau established last year to expedite the processing of minor violations.
The board had agreed to an administrative adjudication bureau following recommendations made by two assistant town attorneys and the chief harbormaster. The town is seeking a director for the bureau, a prerequisite for putting it into effect.
The administrative bureau would allow people committing minor violations to pay fines by mail or online, rather than having to appear in Town Justice Court. With the exception of parking violations, there is at present no way to pay fines for offenses such as open-container violations, driving on the beach without a permit, littering, or illegal beach fires by mail or online.
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. shepherded an amendment to New York State’s general municipal law through the State Legislature last year, and Gov. Kathy Hochul signed it into law. These were prerequisites to the town amending its code to establish the bureau, lay out its operating procedures, and enumerate the violations to be adjudicated by it.
Affected sections of the code pertain to peace and good order, animals, beaches, parks, fire prevention, special events, landscaping and gardening, littering and dump control, noise, peddling, shellfish, vehicles and traffic, and waterways and boats.
Also at last Thursday’s meeting, the board held two public hearings on the town’s community housing opportunity fund. These were on a proposed amendment to implement the authority given to the town by New York State legislation passed last year to establish a dedicated fund to provide a variety of needed housing opportunities, and adoption of a new chapter in the code authorizing the town to collect a proposed half-percent real estate transfer tax to be dedicated to the fund.
The Peconic Bay Region Community Housing Act authorized the five East End towns to establish community housing funds to be paid for by the half-percent real estate transfer tax, which would be in addition to the 2-percent transfer tax that goes toward the community preservation fund. Should voters approve the transfer tax in a November ballot referendum, the town would be better positioned to address the scarcity of affordable housing.
Several residents, in person or by telephone, spoke in favor of the proposals. “I am very enthusiastic of the creation of this fund pursuant to the upcoming referendum,” Jaine Mehring of Amagansett said during the second hearing. She asked for “a real disciplined data collection and analysis,” once the fund is in place and collecting money, “and regular reporting to the public that really tracks, among other things, the development and availability of community housing units.”
Kathryn Szoka of Sag Harbor, who is co-chairwoman of Progressive East End Reformers, voiced her and PEER’s support for the fund and the transfer fee. “We’re in a crisis moment, and we need to get the referendum on the ballot for November so that we can all vote for it,” she said.