Southold Supervisor Candidates Talk Environmental Issues

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell and Cadidate Damon Rallis at Monday's environmental forum.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell and Cadidate Damon Rallis at Monday’s environmental forum.

Mr. Toedter asked both candidates for their perspective on a single-use plastic bag ban.

Mr. Russell has made his stance against a town-sponsored ban known at several recent meetings where members of the public presented petitions in favor of a ban. He believes the county should take the lead in such an initiative.

“My position is clear, maybe to the chagrin of people here tonight,” he said. “Suffolk County has tools that Southold doesn’t have. An outright ban would put a disproportionate burden on small businesses…. Local business profit margins are very narrow, and they’re now competing with corporate businesses to the west. A county ban would level the playing field for all businesses.”

Damon Rallis
Damon Rallis

“It’s been successful in other towns. I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Mr. Rallis. “If elected, I will vote for it. There’s nothing wrong with it.”

Mr. Toedter asked the candidates if the town should change its Dark Skies code, which currently only requires complient fixtures when applicants come in for major building permits or site plans.

Mr. Rallis said the town should encourage the use of LED lighting and other new technologies, and should better enforce the code that is on the books.

He added that a new, part-time code enforcement officer soon to be hired by the town to work nights and weekends could be charged with looking into Dark Skies violations.

Mr. Russell said the town could revisit the Dark Skies code, but is also doing more to limit its own light pollution.

“Don’t let Southold off the hook,” he said. “We produce a lot of light.”

Mr. Russell said the town is retrofitting many street lights with LED fixtures and is removing street lights in areas where they’re not needed.

“If you see places where there’s lighting illuminating sod farms, that’s because LILCO needed to justify the cost of getting electric to subdivisions,” he said. “In some places we can simply remove that lighting.”

A member of the audience, who lives near Mattituck Inlet, said he’s been having difficulty with noise from music venues along the inlet.

Mr. Rallis said he lives nearby and he hears it too.

“It annoys me. It bothers me,” he said. “My kids can’t sleep and that’s annoying.”

Mr. Rallis said the town has issued just 13 violations to two entities since the noise code was enacted.

“You look at those numbers. That is a problem,” he said.

Mr. Russell said there is a loophole in the town’s noise code that allows noise from special events, and the town board should look to close that loophole while still allowing longstanding events like the Strawberry Festival to be noisy.

He added that his 2016 budget, due to be unveiled tomorrow, includes money for noise meters in every police car and training for every officer. Currently, the noise meters are only in sergeants’ cars.

“We get a lot of noise complaints. A lot of times, people might have a false expectation of what the code will do,” he said.

Damon Rallis
Damon Rallis

In his closing statements, Mr. Rallis pointed out that his slate’s platform, and a new party line they’ve formed this year, is “Sustainable Southold.”

“Sustainability — that word doesn’t just apply to the environment. It applies to the community as a whole,” he said. “Things have changed so much in the last 10 to 20 years. We need to stop putting out fires and manage the changes that have come.”

Mr. Russell said he’d like to build on the 10 years of work he’s already done as town supervisor.

“I think we’re covering a lot of bases, but we need environmental groups to help with the deer,” he said, adding that the town could have used the help of environmentalists when it decided to embark on a controversial deer cull two winters ago.

“Our understory is disappearing. It’s not just a public health crisis, it’s an environmental crisis,” he said. “Environmental groups have the street cred to help me get the word out about the deer problem. I need you to help me start selling the message that the environment needs a reduction of deer.”

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and the North Fork Environmental Council are also hosting a candidate forum with Riverhead Town Supervisor candidates Sean Walter, Anthony Coates, and Jodi Giglio next Monday, Oct. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary School on Main Street in Riverhead. More information is online here.

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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

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