New Democratic East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc pledged to work on drinking water safety, protect the town from climate change and honor the town’s history, while meeting the needs of residents impacted by few low-cost housing options, opioid abuse and increasing traffic in his inaugural address Jan. 2.
Mr. Van Scoyoc, along with his running mates Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and Jeffrey Bragman, was sworn into office at the town board’s organizational meeting Tuesday morning, before an enthusiastic crowd including many town Democratic leaders.
Mr. Van Scoyoc, a devoted environmentalist who had served on the town board for six years, most recently as Deputy Supervisor under retiring Supervisor Larry Cantwell, was elected with a solid 61.3 percent of the vote in November.
The board will soon appoint a replacement to fill his seat until a special election is held in November 2018. Town board member Sylvia Overby, also a Democrat who is halfway through her second four-year term, was named his deputy supervisor at the organizational meeting.
The full text of Mr. Van Scoyoc’s speech is below:
I am humbled by the overwhelming support shown by the voters of East Hampton in electing me and grateful for your confidence in me to serve as the next Supervisor of East Hampton Town. Together we face many challenges.
I believe that foremost among them is protecting and improving our water quality. We must continue to be vigilant in protecting our drinking water resources. The water that we depend on is under foot. We must tread lightly and be mindful of the fact that what we do on the land can have a direct and significant impact on the quality of our water. Recent revelations about elevated levels of Perfluorinated chemicals (PFC’s) detected in private water wells in Wainscott is cause for concern. The Town will continue to work with the State Department of Environmental Conservation, State Health Department, Suffolk County Department of Health Services, Suffolk County Water Authority, and State and County elected officials to determine the source of contamination and above all to ensure that the public has access to safe drinking water.
Nitrogen leaching into our aquifers and surface waters is also threatening our drinking water and is causing harmful algal blooms in our bays, creeks, and ponds. To help reverse this trend, the Town is offering a septic rebate program to replace existing residential and commercial waste treatment systems with innovative, alternative low nitrogen systems. Rebates of up to $16,000 per property are funded through the Community Preservation Fund’s (C.P.F.) Water Quality Improvement Plan. In addition, as of January 1st, the Town now requires the installation of Innovative Alternative low nitrogen systems for all new construction and substantial renovation projects. Habitat restoration and open space acquisition will continue to be an integral part of our water quality improvement plan. Using Community Preservation Funds, qualifying projects such as building oyster reefs or growing macro algae, will help restore our water bodies’ natural ability to process nitrogen and other contaminates. We will continue to focus on preserving and restoring natural habitats within our critical watersheds.
Coastal Erosion and Sea Level Rise present additional challenges to our community. The Coastal Assessment and Resiliency Planning study, or C.A.R.P., will continue to help us develop strategies to adapt to the threats of Coastal Erosion and Sea Level Rise. The assessment phase of CARP, which gathered detailed data about areas at risk, has been completed. Phase two will involve planning efforts to develop specific strategies to help us adapt to our changing surroundings and to be proactive, rather than reactive, in addressing the impending impacts. We will continue to press the Federal Government to deliver on their promise of a major, sand only beach replenishment project in Downtown Montauk under the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation study (FIMP). This will allow us the time we need to accomplish implementation of the CARP strategic planning effort.
Another Town Board planning initiative is the Hamlet Studies. These studies will focus on the Hamlet Business Districts, with the goal of ensuring that our community remains viable and vibrant, and becomes more resilient and sustainable. We will continue engaging both residents and stakeholders in shaping our future.
Another goal of becoming a more resilient and sustainable community is improving energy efficiency and adopting more sustainable practices. To that end, we will continue working to attain the Town’s 100% renewable energy goal by supporting Offshore Wind Power. In addition to Offshore Wind, we will pursue Solar Energy Production on Town owned properties and incorporate solar panels on Town buildings wherever possible, as part of our overall renewable energy portfolio. We will invest in more energy efficient technology, such as retrofitting downtown Montauk street lights with LED fixtures. We will begin the transition to electric powered vehicles by replacing a portion of the Town’s fleet, installing more electric vehicle charging stations, and installing lighting upgrades with grant funding we’ve received for clean energy efforts. With these changes we will further reduce energy consumption, reduce toxic emissions, and lower costs.
Sustaining our community and quality of life must not be limited to protecting our natural environment. Protecting our history and traditions is important.
To that end, we will continue to preserve our shared and diverse past with historic restoration projects such as the Second House in Montauk, the George Fowler House on Springs Fireplace Road, and with legislation that protects Historic homes from demolition. One of our most important traditions is public access to the water. This has always been an integral part of who we are in East Hampton. Our Town was founded with the provision that our beaches, bays, bottom lands, trails, and ancient roadways are to be forever held in common for the benefit of all. The Town will protect these ancient rights we enjoy and expand upon them through appropriate land acquisition and preservation.
Another challenge we must rise to meet is finding ways to safeguard our young people from the ever growing threat of opioid addiction. We will make a concerted effort, working with our schools and other community groups, to provide additional youth services to combat the opioid epidemic.
Housing affordability here in East Hampton continues to be a challenge for our young people, working families, and seniors. Increasing home values and the high cost of living here impact individuals directly, and contribute to commuter congestion. The lack of affordable housing for working people negatively impacts our local businesses and volunteer Fire Departments who struggle to maintain staff. Twelve housing units known as the Manor House Project are expected to be completed by the end of this summer. Another 48 housing units are planned to begin this year. We will continue to pursue more affordable housing opportunities for our residents in 2018.
The town is considering undertaking several major building projects to improve services and replace antiquated infrastructure. Plans to build a new senior center at its current location on Springs Fireplace Road are underway. This project will be partially funded by proceeds from the sale of the former Scavenger Waste Site on Springs Fireplace Road. The new center will allow for additional programming and services for seniors. Another major building project under consideration is a new Town Office Complex which would create a consolidated campus by moving the offices from 300 Pantigo Place to the Town Hall Property. Plans to create a consolidated town hall campus will be reviewed at a public work session later this month. A consolidated campus will not only provide better and more convenient services to residents but will also be more efficient for Town staff since most Town departments will be housed together in one location. The Town offices at 300 Pantigo Place will eventually be sold to help offset the cost of the project along with a $500,000 grant the Town has already received from the New York State Department of State.
In an effort to help alleviate traffic, the town plans to again provide a free circulator bus service in Montauk this summer. Last summer the bus service provided over 20,000 free rides. We will also continue to work with the Long Island Railroad, State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and State Senator Ken LaValle to bring improved commuter rail service to East Hampton.
We have made great strides in addressing quality of life issues such as over-crowded housing, over-occupancy night spots and illegal rentals, but continued vigilance is required. We will coordinate the various Town departments: Code Enforcement, Building Department, Fire Marshall, the Town Attorney’s office and the Police Department in order to achieve our goal of full compliance with the town code.
Aircraft noise has long disrupted the peace and tranquility of the residents of our Town. As long as the airport is grant obligated, our best avenue to pursue reasonable aircraft noise restrictions at East Hampton airport is through an F.A.A. Part 161 Study. We have hired outside counsel and are engaging additional professional consultants to assist in preparing this study. It will be both time consuming and expensive to complete, but meaningful aircraft noise relief is worth pursuing. The cost of the Part 161 Study will be paid for by the Airport Fund, which receives revenues from landing fees and airport leases, NOT property taxes. The Airport Fund is restricted to only airport uses.
We will continue to engage the noise affected and aviation communities, with the goal of gaining meaningful relief for noise affected residents while maintaining a safe airport.
The town, through sound fiscal management, has recovered from financial disaster and is now on solid ground. In the last 4 years we have turned deficits into surpluses, and we recently achieved the highest credit rating in the Town’s history, Moody’s Aaa. Our goal will be to stay within our budget, reduce overall indebtedness, and increase efficiency, while remaining under the State imposed 2% tax cap. We will strive to retain the highest possible credit rating.
Keeping the Town’s finances in order will ensure that we have the resources necessary to meet the many challenges we face.
I am confident that together we can rise to meet any challenge and reach any goal. We must remain open to new ideas and be tolerant of our differences. We must engage in constructive and civil dialog, while respecting each other’s views. We must care for the most vulnerable among us, and work constructively in the best interests of all. As the Supervisor of the Town of East Hampton I look forward to working with all of our residents in serving East Hampton, a place like no other I know.
Thank you and I wish you all the very best in this New Year!