Across The East End, Broad Support For CPF Extension & Water Quality Use

The Peconic Plays Ocean, Wednesday
The Peconic Bay plays ocean.

Across the East End over the past week-and-a-half, environmentalists have rallied in support of a ballot proposition that would extend the Peconic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund to 2050, and would allow the five East End town governments to use 20 percent of the money generated by the fund for water quality projects.

East Hampton, Southampton and Southold towns all held public hearings in the past week-and-a-half on the proposed referenda, and East Hampton and Southampton also held hearings on Water Quality Improvement Plans which detail how the water quality money will be spend.

Each of the five East End towns has its own Community Preservation Fund coffers, filled by money from a 2 percent real estate transfer tax, and each town must put up its own referendum on the extension. The CPF fund, enacted in 1998, was extended to 2010 by public referenda in 2002 and was extended again to 2030 by referenda in 2006.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, the author of the CPF legislation, explained the proposed changes at Southampton’s public hearing Aug. 9.

“There’s no dispute there is a water quality issue on Long Island,” he said. “We have a problem and we have to resolve that problem.”

Mr. Thiele said preserving water quality by halting development was one of the primary original goals of the Community Preservation Fund, but the way the program was set up, it did nothing to change the impact of faulty, aging septic systems that are currently contributing to the degradation of the health of the bays.

“The legacy from existing development is already here. That legacy is something we can’t simply wave a wand, change the zoning and make go away,” he said. “It’s going to cost money to do the remediation.”

Mr. Thiele added that, while he’s heard comments to the effect that larger government agencies, other than towns, should be tackling water quality issues, “if we had waited for the state, federal and county governments to do preservation, this would have been Levittown.”

“People say, ‘why should we use the CPF to solve this problem,’ and my first point is, ‘do you have a better idea?'” he said. “I don’t know anybody who wants to raise property taxes or sales taxes. This might be the only source out there. The direct intent of the CPF fund was to protect water by preserving land.”

The state law authorizing the towns to collect revenue for water quality allows the money to be used for four specific purposes: improvements to wastewater treatment, non-point source pollution control and abatement, habitat restoration and pollution prevention.

Proposed projects, which must be either included in the towns’ Water Quality Improvement Plans or added as amendments to those plans, would be vetted by volunteer town committees with expertise in water quality issues.

East Hampton and Southold’s draft laws also currently include language that “projects which have as their primary purpose the accommodation of new growth as opposed to the remediation of water quality shall not qualify for funding under this article.”

That language concerns many community members, who would like to see the word “primary” stricken, because they see it as an in for developers looking to tap a keg of money that has always been used for work that was precisely at odds with development.

Nowhere was this sentiment more strong than in East Hampton, where nearly a decade ago former Town Supervisor Bill McGintee and his budget director improperly used about $8 million of Community Preservation Fund money to pay the town’s general fund expenses.

“I have really deep concern about the ‘primary purpose’ language,” said Jeanne Frankl at the town’s Aug. 4 public hearing. “I am a lawyer. I’ve seen that type of language too many times. Lawyers will end up arguing endlessly about that. It will end up in the Supreme Court. You must go back to the drawing board on this.”

“A yes vote is a no-brainer. It’s hard to understand how anyone could oppose this referendum,” said Betty Mazur. “There’s some concern the language is not quite strong enough to prevent any consequences of any unintended development. You should absolutely prohibit its use for private development.”

Southampton has already removed the word “primary,” calling it a scrivener’s error.

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Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

4 thoughts on “Across The East End, Broad Support For CPF Extension & Water Quality Use

  • August 12, 2016 at 12:56 pm
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    Some of the properties on the East End do not drain to the Bays, but to the Sound or the Ocean, and nitrogen is not a problem in the eastern Sound or the Ocean. These properties do not require upgrades to their septic systems. I hope this is recognized as upgrades are implemented.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2016 at 4:19 pm
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    Some might argue that the 2% tax was enacted only to preserve Land.

    I feel that the land and the nearby sea or bay are and indivisable unit. The land and the sea work together to make a whole environment.

    I will vote yes.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2016 at 4:21 pm
    Permalink

    Some might argue that the 2% tax was enacted only to preserve Land.

    I feel that the land and the nearby sea or bay are and indivisable unit. The land and the sea work together to make a whole environment.

    I will vote yes. rk

    Reply
  • August 13, 2016 at 11:33 am
    Permalink

    The Clean Water Act failed, because of a faulty applied test, nobody wants to acknowledge.
    The best kept national secrete is that EPA never implemented the CWA, because it used an essential test (BOD) incorrect and not only ignored 60% of this oxygen exerting waste, but all the nitrogenous (urine and protein) waste, while this waste, like fecal waste exerts an oxygen demand, but also is a fertilizer for algae. By calling this waste now a nutrient and blaming it mostly on farmers, the public has been successfully kept in the dark.
    Therefore no more new regulations or lawsuits until EPA first acknowledges three major sources of nutrient pollution, that are presently ignored.
    1. The lack of nitrogenous (urine and protein) waste treatment in municipal sewage, due to a faulty test and also causes nutrient pollution. Wp.me/p5COh2-2C
    2. Septic tanks do not treat sewage, they only solubilize sewage so it can get into groundwater.
    3. The impact of ‘green’rain’ or rain containing reactive nitrogen (fertilizer), the result of the burning of fossil fuels, the increased use if synthesized fertilizer and increased frequency of lightning storms, the result of global climate change.
    When this rain falls on land it stimulates the growth of grasses and brush, that become the kindle wood for the hard to control range and wildfires, during the dry season and when it, either falls directly or indirectly, via runoffs, in water, it stimulates algal growth.
    The public, especially the farming communities, should demand that without, first acknowledging and quantifying these major nutrient sources, any new regulation should be halted and existing lawsuits dismissed.

    Reply

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