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Four Vying for Two Seats in Sag Harbor

Thu, 05/23/2024 - 11:17

Sag Harbor has a legitimate political race on its hands. Four experienced candidates are vying for the two trustee seats now held by Ed Haye and Jeanne Kane, who are seeking re-election. Ron Reed, a member of the village’s planning board, and Mary Ann Eddy, who sits on its harbor committee, hope to displace them.

All four candidates were interviewed recently.

“I’m a voice for the environment,” said Ms. Eddy, who has lived full time in Sag Harbor since 2009. “It’s not like I think it should monopolize the floor on every issue, but it should have a presence when you’re making decisions and setting priorities. That’s why I’m eager to be on the trustee board.”

Ms. Eddy, who’s also on the environmental advisory committee, was instrumental in getting the village listed with New York State as a Climate Smart Community. “Village Hall is 147 percent over the national average in energy usage,” she said. Through the C.S.C. program, when the village improves its energy usage, as with its new LED streetlights, it’s awarded points. A high point total could help when the village applies for state grants.

A former I.C.U. nurse, Ms. Eddy has worked with refugees in Thailand, Somalia, and the Sudan. A graduate of Stanford University’s Business School, she has also been a banker and managed insurance products. Her varied experiences, she said, taught her important lessons. “I’m a really good problem-solver. I learned how to manage people and to set goals. How to get everyone involved and not to get discouraged and not to give up. I am very determined.”

Through her work on the harbor committee, she became especially interested in water quality. “We’re trying to track down where most of the pollution is coming from and if it can be mitigated. I find this very satisfying. There is a tremendous amount of pollution right at Windmill Beach. People want to take their kids there because it’s safe and protected, but the water can be pretty foul, especially after rain.”

“I am really grateful for useful work,” Ms. Eddy said. “I don’t watch a lot of TV. I’m intrigued by the amount an individual citizen can do to effect change. It’s a great time to be alive.”

Mr. Haye is an incumbent member of the village board, but this will be his first election with opposition. He was appointed by former Mayor Jim Larocca in 2021 to fill his vacant seat, and ran unopposed the following year. A graduate of Pierson High School who grew up in Sag Harbor, he is a lawyer specializing in the utility industry, and thus is versed in large projects and long-term planning.

If re-elected, he said he would continue to work on community housing and water quality. “In order to improve the assets of the village, our waterfront, our parks and open spaces, the roads and housing stock, and to retain the people who are supporting this village — these are all based on infrastructure that requires a long-term view. They all require

a financial support system to help maintain and improve those assets.”

To that end, Mr. Haye formed the village’s first “capital planning advisory committee” in the spring. “Capital planning is more concrete than a comprehensive plan,” he explained. “We’ve done a lot of planning in this village. This is about how we execute on those plans. Part of the limitation has always been a perceived lack of funding. We need to identify funding that will enable good long-term solutions, instead of just talking about and identifying problems. We’ve had plans, but the same problems exist. We are trying to transition from short-term projects to longer-term thinking.”

Capital planning might not be the sexiest issue to run on, but Mr. Haye is thinking big. Rain gardens are nice, he said, and they have their place, but they can’t manage the village’s stormwater issues alone. For that, larger, more expensive, engineering projects are required.

Both Mr. Haye and Ms. Kane believe the village needs to take a multifaceted approach to housing. Each lauded legislation, passed last year, increasing the number of accessory dwelling units and lowering their minimum size. Also, where rentals previously had to be of an entire house, they praised recent tweaks that could allow owner-occupied homes to be rented. Finally, both mentioned the community housing fund, which is managed by Southampton Town, expressing hope that it will be used to acquire the village’s remaining multi-family housing units and maintain them as community housing in perpetuity.

“That will help us understand how the housing stock in the village is being used,” said Mr. Haye. “We want to keep the people who are living and working here living and working here.”

Both incumbents, Ms. Kane as well as Mr. Haye, would like to modernize the Municipal Building; the top two floors are unused. One idea is to move the village offices upstairs and rent the two lower floors. Technology improvements, they suggested, could lead to a reallocation of employees. A project manager to oversee the upcoming sewer expansion, and whatever comes from ongoing traffic and environmental studies, might soon be needed as well.

“I want to preserve the attractive historical character and feel of the village, but develop a plan that’s going to allow the village to thrive far into the future,” said Ms. Kane, who shares Mr. Haye’s views on long-term planning: “A lot of the topics we’re bringing up were brought up in the past, but because of financial constraints, previous boards focused on short-term solutions. A lot of these pieces will come together in a comprehensive plan, but we need to be integrating them all.”

In 2021, then-Mayor Jim Larocca named Ms. Kane chairwoman of the village’s architectural review board, and appointed her the year after to head the zoning board of appeals. Both roles, she noted, familiarized her with the village code.

Like Mr. Haye, this will be her first election; Mayor Tom Gardella tapped her to fill his open trustee seat when he was elected mayor.

A Wall Street veteran who has lived full time in Sag Harbor since 2016 (her husband is a third-generation local), Ms. Kane, as the trustees’ liaison to the harbor committee, has worked to develop the new outer mooring area plan; a compromise, she said, between commercial operators and recreational boaters.

“We settled on 67 moorings for the year, and we introduced new tags for the marine sanitary devices. The harbormasters are being very proactive, visiting each boat and reinforcing that our bay is a no-dump area. If we don’t have a clean bay, the attractiveness of Sag Harbor will change drastically. It’s our most valuable resource, and we have to proactively promote it.”

“I feel I’ve come up the learning curve, and would really like to see some of these things to fruition,” Ms. Kane added.

For Mr. Reed, the complexity and magnitude of the village’s current issues, not to mention the future effects of climate change, will require bigger, more visionary thinking.

“We need to have groups that have thought outside the box, who have more of a vision for what’s coming at us,” he said. “Nelson Pope and Voorhis are not visionaries. They’re good at typical engineering that works in the meantime, but . . . we’re not preparing for the next stage of evolution.”

The village, he said, should immediately get to work on a comprehensive plan, using a recent grant from the state of $175,000. Mr. Reed, who has a background in architecture and art, serves on the Sag Harbor School Board, and is a local business owner, believes his perspective and expertise are needed in that conversation.

“If you look at our history, there’s an argument to be made that the core of Sag Harbor could be much more dense than it is today. But those are things we must study. The comprehensive plan will help with that. Could we have more density in the core? How will it impact traffic and parking? It’s important for somebody to be at the trustee level that has experience with planning and architecture. Currently we don’t have anybody with that experience. Otherwise, you’re relying on the consultants too much, and you end up going with what they suggest.”

Mr. Reed recently led a team of New York Institute of Technology students who used Sag Harbor as a location to test planning ideas.

“The data that came out of that project puts us in a dire strait as a village,” he said. “In the next hundred years, sea level rise will impact about 500 residential homes in the area and they’ll either need to be raised or moved. In today’s dollars that’s about $750 million in property value, yet we’re not planning anything.’

“My gripe is, that as a village, we react instead of think ahead. We may get a developer who comes in, buys a bunch of land, and wants to start building. We have no way to pull out a document and say whether the ideas are appropriate or not. We have no master plan for the village. We keep hiring the same local, or slightly UpIsland consultants. We need more visionary thinking when it comes to these matters.”

The village elections will be held on June 18, a Tuesday.


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