What are East End governments doing, anyway? July 18 edition

If you're tired of thinking about what the government is doing, go clamming.
If you’re tired of thinking about what the government is doing, go clamming.

Stay in the air conditioning today. Or take the day off from work to go clamming. There’s nothing East End governments could do for the rest of the week that would warrant you risking heat stroke to go make your point at town hall.

The towns are keeping cooling centers open at community centers during the day this week as the heat wave continues. They are open when the temperature rises above 90 degrees for more than two days in a row, and if you pay taxes here, you deserve to take advantage of the town’s air conditioning, so don’t feel guilty about going there. Information on the cooling centers is available here.

Here’s what’s going on around the East End towns:

Southold Town

Southold farmers and winery representatives had fun Tuesday night poking holes in the town’s new proposed special events permit plan.

Right now, the town only requires permits for special events at wineries and on town-owned properties. The new permits will apply to any event that exceeds the parking capacity of a site or involves a use of the property not allowed by zoning. This project has been in the works for several years, but no one seems to be able to agree on how to keep everyone happy.

Steve Bate, Executive Director of the Long Island Wine Council, told the Southold board at Tuesday’s public hearing there are significant improvements over older drafts of the law, but he still wants the town to loosen restrictions on food being allowed at wineries, to allow wineries to showcase food and wine pairings.

“It’s a critical way to market them,” he said of food pairings with wines. He added that the Wine Council has received a $100,000 grant from New York State to promote agritourism (yes that’s a real word) on the North Fork. He’s planning an event in November, but he’s not sure how it would be affected by the new code.

If the wine council has to stick to the current requirements regarding food at wineries, he said, the wine council will have to call the event the “No Fork Food and Wine Festival.”

He also said the town should also be able to waive the $1,500 fine for for businesses that hold events they in good faith believe do not require a permit. Town Supervisor Scott Russell told him there is a provision in the law for waiving fees, and $1,500 is the maximum amount that could be levied, not the only amount.

Prudence Heston, who holds weddings and other events on her Salt Air Farm on New Suffolk Road in Cutchogue, says she has what is very much a bona fide farm, but special events are a normal part of the operation of her farm.

“We’ve been operating now for about five years,” she said. “We host six weddings a year right here on our farm…We are really convinced that this is a good business plan. We are really hoping that the laws you put in here will be listing this as a normal operation for a farm.”

“I don’t think anyone works harder than you at tying the special event to the agricultural product you produce,” said Supervisor Russell. “Under the current code, special events are only allowed at wineries…The goal was really to expand that opportunity to other agricultural producers.”

Mr. Russell said the town will soon introduce a new law clarifying activities that are part of a normal agricultural operation, which he said should help farmers and winery owners in the long run. Several members of the public said, however, that they don’t understand why the two laws are not being proposed at the same time.

Sal Diliberto, owner of Jamesport’s Diliberto winery and an officer of the wine council, likened the fact that only one part of the plan has been seen by the public yet to a used car dealer asking someone to buy a car without telling them the details of the car’s warranty.

The board closed the public hearing and will vote on the law at a later date.

Shelter Island

Shelter Island has long suffered from the finite amount of fresh water in its aquifer, and has had more severe restrictions on water use than any other East End town since a water emergency was issued there in 2003. The island has been planning for ten years to institute a ban on irrigation systems, set to take effect this September, but now they’ve changed their minds because people like to irrigate, especially when it’s hot and dry outside. The town is now proposing a moratorium keeping the new irrigation requirements from going into effect. At their board meeting tonight, they plan to set a public hearing on the moratorium. They’d better hurry up! September 1 is, like, tomorrow!

Shelter Island might consider passing their dark skies law tonight. If they do, businesses will have to make their outdoor lighting darker within six months, giving residents far less time to forget the law was going to be phased in than they had been given with the irrigation code.

If it passes, Shelter Islanders will have darker skies far sooner than Riverhead Town, which was the first East End town to pass a dark skies law in 2008, but which put off phasing in the requirements until 2017.

Here’s the law, if you like reading laws.

Southampton Town

The Town of Southampton has tabled its plan to purchase asphalt to pave a section of Noyac Road, as part of the long-awaited Noyac traffic calming project, until Aug. 13. Councilman Jim Malone, who is shepherding the project through the town board approval process, said at the board’s July 9 meeting that he was tabling it because he wants to discuss the proposal again with the Noyac Citizens Advisory Committee at their July 31 meeting.They also tabled a planned transfer of $72,000 from the road surfacing fund to the Noyac traffic calming project until Aug. 13. The project had originally been slated to cost $450,000, but the lowest bid, from South Fork Asphalt, was for $509,000.  At this rate, asphalt plants will have closed for the winter before anything gets done.

Southampton Town is meeting briefly today to discuss parking on Canoe Place Road in Hampton Bays. They’re saving up their strength for a massive meeting on Aug. 13, when they’re holding a marathon session of public hearings on everything from land acquisition to derelict properties to saving graveyards. They promised at their July 9 meeting to bring snacks, but they failed to specify whether the snacks were for board members or the public at large.

Sagaponack Village

The Beacon has been neglecting village government for the past few weeks, but this new proposed police department in Sagaponack Village, where only 313 people told the U.S. Census they lived in 2010, has a lot of people scratching their heads.

Sagaponack pays $2.2 million to Southampton Town to police its roads, and village board members believe they can save at least $1 million by hiring their own cops. The village is holding a public information session on Aug. 10 at 9 a.m. (at village hall on Montauk Highway) to discuss the idea with residents.

If Sagaponack goes forward with forming its own police department, it will be bucking a trend of other East End police departments. The public voted to disband the Village of Greenport’s police department in 1994 after a series of scandals and Sag Harbor Village’s mayor spent most of last year threatening to disband their police department due to high costs. Both Greenport and Sag Harbor have about seven times the number of residents that were counted by the census in Sagaponack. Both Greenport and Sag Harbor also have busy downtowns filled with lawless sailors and drinking establishments, while Sagaponack has a general store, farm fields and a bunch of mansions that sit empty most of the year.

East Hampton Town

The East Hampton Town Board is also meeting tonight. Here’s their agenda. If you want to go and let the Beacon know if anything interesting happened, be our guest.

Riverhead Town

Riverhead Town is also meeting today to discuss all kinds of ethical nonsense that only Riverhead News-Review reporter Tim Gannon can understand. He’s there, live blogging now, the poor chap. Do him a favor and follow along. He makes it as pleasant an experience as possible.

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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