Sustainability in the spotlight in Southampton

The two spaces reserved for cars that use alternative energy in front of Southampton Town Hall are just the beginning of the town's sustainability plan.
The two spaces reserved for cars that use alternative energy in front of Southampton Town Hall are just a teaser for some of the changes envisioned in the town’s sustainability plan.

Southampton seems poised to adopt its sustainability plan next month, and members of the town’s Green Committee are holding their third annual public forum this Friday night, Oct. 25, to discuss both the elements of the plan and the role of water in Southampton’s sustainable future.

The “Watershed Event” will be held from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Peconic Institute, in the library at Stony Brook Southampton.

Scott Carlin, the co-chair of the town’s Green Committee, says that while his committee is charged with creating new regulations and incentive programs for Southampton to enact green policies, their primary role is to educate the community.

“This plan was brought to the board as an education initiative,” he told the Southampton Town Board at its last meeting Oct. 8. “How do we think differently about our community?”

Friday’s forum will include discussion on the health of Southampton’s estuaries, on the sustainability component of the comprehensive plan, on the newly formed Long Island Clean Water Partnership and on alternative septic systems.

On Oct. 8, after six contentious continuations of a public hearing over the course of six months, the town board finally closed the sustainability plan to public comment, allowing residents to submit written comment for 30 days. The latest draft is available online here.

At the final day of the hearing, Oct. 8, Green Committee co-chair Dieter von Lehsten described the comments the town board received over the past six months as “from ridiculous to sublime to sensible to stupid.”

“You listened to it all with patience, and all sides commended you on incorporating everything… That is democracy and free speech at its best,” he added.

But Maud Pollock of Hampton Bays, who frequently challenged the board over the course of the hearings, saying she thinks the sustainability plan is part of a global United Nations conspiracy theory to deny people property rights in their communities, still wasn’t convinced.

“A lot of sustainability concepts are based on false science,” she told the town board Oct. 8. “They’re an imposition on our personal and private lives that are beyond environmental concerns.”

Ms. Pollack added that she doesn’t think people who are concerned about climate change are really environmentalists, but business people trying to make money from technology that reduces carbon in the atmosphere.

“They care about themselves and the money they are going to make,” she said.

Meanwhile, over in East Hampton, their town’s Energy Sustainability Committee’s “Comprehensive Energy Vision,” focusing on promoting alternative energy and reduced electric consumption, was quietly adopted by the East Hampton Town Board on Oct. 15 without any complaints from the public.

Builder Frank Dalene, who serves on the committee, told the East Hampton Town Board in late September that East Hampton’s first focus should be to reduce electric consumption in buildings and become involved in the Long Island Power Authority’s effort to bring 50 megawatts of renewable energy to the East End. Mr. Dalene said electric consumption is the easiest objective for the town to address. The energy vision lays out ways in which East Hampton can provide education and assistance to the public and to businesses on programs to increase energy efficiency, as part of the state DEC’s Climate Smart Communities program.

Mr. Dalene said his group took lessons from the difficulty Southampton had in implementing its plan.

“It was difficult for the community [in Southampton] to understand the impacts,” he said. “We learned from that in our committee. We wanted to first set goals and get community input one piece at a time, not just present an entire thing that the town has to swallow in one piece.”

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

One thought on “Sustainability in the spotlight in Southampton

  • October 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm
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    First, I think it’s very promising to see towns actually concerned enough to form committees to handle environmental issues with a forward-thinking, pro-active approach. I do not believe that we can simply glide along blissfully naive of the impacts that 7 billion humans have on the resources of this planet.
    As to Ms. Pollack’s comment about environmentalists and business people being mutually exclusive – I think that’s simply short-sighted. Of course businesses are going to be a part of this! And if “they” only cared about the money, what difference does that make if they’re producing environmentally positive results? Even if the motivation is purely monetary, if the end product is a cleaner, better environment, then I don’t understand what the problem is.
    After all, businesses, in general, not only have the opportunity to help the environment, but help local economies and provide employment, etc..
    I see no reason to believe that “big business” and environmentalism can’t work together.
    As to the other two comments Ms. Pollack quoted above, they are both generalizations without any specific references. I always bristle when someone says “a lot of (something) is based on false (something)” without following up with specifics.
    And exactly what “impositions” is she annoyed with?
    Depending on the annoyance, it may be worth a little discomfort to give our children and future generations a better world –
    And I’m glad the Beacon is there to spotlight these positive signs of forward-thinking government!

    Reply

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