The Southold Town Board has been in the midst of juggling a planned summer ban on bicycling and running events, along with proposed local laws regarding aquaculture and short-term rentals, in the past few weeks.
On July 14, the town board adopted a policy that would effectively ban running and bicycling events on town roads between June 1 and November 1, a one-month shift later in the season than had been initially proposed by Town Supervisor Scott Russell.
That policy would not affect this weekend’s planned Southold Run for the Soldiers, a benefit for wounded soldiers scheduled for this Saturday, July 25 at Southold High School. The town board approved that run at the same meeting that it instituted the ban.
The new town policy, adopted unanimously, would also require all events on town property to be sponsored by charity organizations, with all proceeds to benefit charity organizations, would limit the number of participants in the events to 600 people and would limit the charities to just one event per calendar year.
Bicycle and running events would also require a $1,500 deposit to ensure that the roads were returned to the pre-event condition and a $2 million insurance certificate.
The town has been at odds with the Suffolk County Bicycle Riders Association, which in June painted large yellow arrows and the letters BBB on Southold’s roads for their annual Bike-Boat-Bike event. That lettering is still on roads throughout Southold.
Mighty North Fork Triathon organizer Chris Pfund told the town board that his event, which depends on water temperatures that are swimmable, couldn’t be held on a date outside of the June to November ban.
“i understand the community’s concern over safety and matters like that, but we’ve run this race for 18 years with no issues,” he said, adding that perhaps the town should ban the events on major roads, but not on side streets.
“Every town should want to promote a healthy lifestyle,’ he said. “It’s certainly your responsibility to make sure your community is safe. I hope you guys can find a way to keep us in your community.”
Mr. Russell said that, while the triathlon is an “excellent event,” the town can’t carve out a policy that explicitly excludes them from the law.
Southold is also slated to air the latest incarnation of an aquaculture code that would allow aquaculture operations on residential properties greater than seven acres if the buildings associated with the facility are at least 200 feet from the property line. New York State Agriculture & Markets law requires municipalities to allow land-based aquaculture, which is considered by the state to be a form of agriculture.
That hearing will be held at the board’s Sept. 8 meeting at 7:30 p.m.
Robert Dunn of Peconic said he believes the 200-foot setback could still put aquaculture facilities “rather close to existing residences.”
“For somebody who’s been living in a quiet comfortable neighborhood of farms to then find that they’ve got a huge Morton building with pumps and trucks right next to them – you might want to rethink that,” he said.
He added that allowing aquaculture cold also lead to allowing the processing of food and retail operations.
“When you leave wiggle room in this stuff, sooner or later some snake will sneak through,” he said.
Mr. Russell said he believes Mr. Dunn may have overstated the impacts that aquaculture operations that could be allowed in Southold will have on the community.
“These are not the models you’ve seen in Montauk,” he said. “Its a new model. I would urge anybody to research these types of operations.”
Councilman Jim Dinizio added that a 200-foot setback is the farthest setback in Southold town.
“A potato barn setback is 50 feet and they can do processing the same as anybody else,” he said.
Todd Gordon of Celestial Shrimp, who would like to open a shrimp farm in Southold, said he believes his business should be allowed in Southold.
“I think we’re really misunderstood. We’re trying to produce something that’s low impact that’s not going to have an effect on the environment and is going to be healthy,” he said. “This community thrives on agriculture. without agriculture, we’d be a dustbowl.”
Southold’s proposed new law restricting the use of houses for short-term internet rentals will also be aired again soon, after a mixed public reaction when an early draft that limited short-term rentals to seven days was aired in June. The town board plans to air a new draft of a local law that would not allow rentals of less than 14 days within its boundaries at its Aug. 11 meeting at 7:30 p.m.