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Hot Topics at the AGM

SoutholdVOICE continued the celebration of its Fifth Birthday with the Annual General Meeting on Saturday, July 21st at Peconic Community Center.

The gathering of members and non-members began with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Chairman John Betsch. A moment of silence in honor of those who are serving our country followed the pledge.

The meeting included a number of speakers – each addressing issues of importance to our membership. A power point presentation began with our first speaker Attorney Jonathan Sinnreich. Attorney Sinnreich has successfully represented the rights of several of our neighbors who own waterfront property when there were challenges to their property rights. His presentation did not disappoint. Clearly spelling out the Public Trust Doctrine in layman’s terms, an understandable explanation of the “Accretion vs. Avulsion” issue and finally the actual explanation of where our Town Trustees’ Authority actually comes from were the highlights of his talk. (The informational slides presented can be found on the SV website under Reference Desk).

Following this presentation, Town Supervisor Scott Russell addressed the group. He started by discussing Chapter 275 of the Town Code and its zoning restrictions. The difficulty seems to lie in the language of the law with only types of use that are clearly spelled out in the law being “allowed”; all else is considered to be not allowed.

Also addressed by Mr. Russell were the issues of most concern to waterfront to homeowners such as hardening of the shoreline and inclusion of some reduction goals in the Towns Comprehensive Plan. Originally included in the “Community Character” chapter dated June 22, 2011, one specific objective outlined in that chapter stated:

Goal 1.2: Manage important scenic resources; Objective 1d): Achieve a 20 per cent reduction of hardened shoreline structures in the Long Island Sound and Peconic Estuary to improve visual access along the waterfront.

That goal was subsequently dropped, (SV influenced that decision) but with the possibility of inclusion in the “Natural Resources” Chapter. Supervisor Russell indicated that should not happen.

Particular neighborhood issues such as Goldsmith and Mattituck Inlets were raised with Mr. Russell requesting help from SoutholdVOICE to try to exert pressure through our membership to get the “VOICE” heard by legislators who need to find the financing to get these kinds of problems solved.

The dredging discussion was very interesting to waterfront homeowners as well. It seems that there might be a slight enlargement of the window of dredging for beach restoration. Trustees Dave Bergen and Bob Ghosio seem to think the County may be supportive of “public uses” of dredged sand. Again, Mr. Russell urged SoutholdVOICE to get its members behind the effort and bring pressure to bear on the DEC to clean up the two Inlets and rid the entrances of the present sandbars that hinder navigation of commercial and recreational boating. Mr. Russell also spoke of the need for our Town to pay overtime in order for the last batch of creek dredging in order to be sure that our list was completed as far as was possible. That was done.

Also addressed were the problems of “nitrogen loading” in our waterways; focus is not only on waterfront homeowners as seems to be the case with the focus on failing septic systems. MS4 puts great pressure on townships putting the responsibility for septic system inspections, storm water run-off squarely on the towns. Southold Town particularly affected as we have no sewer system. DEC is in charge of this area. (SoutholdVOICE has again agreed to complete phase two of our “Rain in the Drain” Medallion effort.)

Last area addressed by Mr. Russell was the tick problem that he considers to be epidemic in our Town. The biggest challenge is to get the category of “pest” applied to the deer in the same way as it is applied to raccoons, and then perhaps deer can be baited. Discussions of the successful Shelter Island insecticide ensued; Southold Town can’t afford to implement this program. Presently, deer fencing is permitted in back and side yards to help control the deer. “Fringe areas”, really our yards, need to be identified and solutions need to be researched. State is not allowing each town to make its own decision at the present time. SoutholdVOICE again needs to help members make their “voices” heard in an effort to get the State to take action sooner.

Chairman John Betsch publicly thanked Mr. Russell for the Town’s support as a joint partner in the private property beach clean-up effort of “flotsam and jetsam” which the Town agreed to pick-up at designated areas for no charge to homeowners. The transfer station also agreed to process such trash as was brought to the scale in clear bags. More publicity needs to be done next time around but there will be a next time next year.

Our last speaker was Bill Faulk from Legislator Romaine’s office. Bill reviewed the issues on the County list of our concerns: Dredging that was done with the financial help of Southold Town/Scott Russell to help out the financially strapped County; review of the tick issue and whom to contact to keep pressure on; helicopters can now be regulated by FAA, working to eliminate crossover on the North Fork, fly around Orient to East Hampton airport and to use Gabreski for Southampton area traffic. Early August is when new suggested regulations go into effect.

In closing the meeting, Chairman Betsch highlighted our new website asking members to submit photos, articles of interest and suggestions for issues members would like to see SV address. Final comments were about the upcoming visit to Plum Island on July 24th, which was made available to members who renewed before July 17th at which time there was a drawing for 37 names of lucky members who will get to visit Plum Island.

– F. Sladkus

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