Sylvia Overby

Responses to East Hampton Environmental Coalition questionaire

Runing for East Hampton Town Board
Endorsements: Democratic, Working Families

 

EXPERIENCE, PHILOSPOHY AND RELATIONSHIPS
1. Please share with us accomplishments or experiences that would indicate your commitment to advancing an environmental agenda for East Hampton. These may be professional or personal.

I was a member of East Hampton Town Planning Board for 7 years, 4 as Chair, 2 as Vice Chair. I was Chair of the Villages and Hamlets Subcommittee for the East Hampton Town Comprehensive Plan 2005 and Chair of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee for 5 years and am currently a member. In each of those positions the environment as part of East Hampton’s community character played a significant role in our decision making. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Emory University and was a middle school science teacher.

2. What do you believe is the role of town government regulation and enforcement in maintaining a clean, sustainable environment? What, if any, changes are the most important?

The East Hampton Town Code, the East Hampton Town Comprehensive Plan, and the Local Water Revitalization Plan are important documents that in some cases took years and thousands of hours of citizen participation to complete, schedule and hold public hearings on, modify and finally approve. They are the road map for all future planning and should not be ignored, diminished or overlooked when enforcing the law or their intent. The environment is our economy. Changes to any of the documents or legislation need to be worked through with full public participation. The best results are those with the broadest public discourse. Public hearings should be held when changes have been fully vetted.

3. What resources, experts or opinions will you consult when making decisions that affect East Hampton Town’s environmental resources?

East Hampton has an excellent Planning Department, Natural Resources Department and professional environmental planners and town planners. Several environmental not-for- profits are also located on the east end with expertise in all areas of our fragile environment. East Hampton also has an active group of elected Trustees with important knowledge and powers over our bays and beaches.

Coastal, Drinking and Surface Water
4. In view of the extreme weather conditions as of late, what should East Hampton Town, as a coastal community, do in the short and long term to prepare for these changes?

There are many opinions on how best to combat the effects of rising sea levels, changing shorelines, erosion and responses to storm damage. There is a need to protect private property while balancing the need to preserve public resources for the future, such as beaches, dunes, bluffs and wetlands. Decisions should be considered now to help homeowners and business people understand what remedies will be available to them when extreme conditions arise. For example, erosion control districts could be set up that address standards for rebuilding, incorporate MS4 remediation, and pre-approve designs and materials to protect shorelines.

5. Do you believe current Town policies adequately protect drinking water quality and sustainability? If not, what, if any, policy changes would you support?

There is always room for improvement when it comes to protecting our drinking water quality and sustainability. We live, work and play on top of our drinking water supply, a single source aquifer. The Upper Glacial/Magothy aquifer is our only source of drinking water and if those sources are polluted, we will lose our ability to have fresh drinking water from private or public SCWA wells. The two aquifer layers act as one aquifer in East Hampton as there is no continuous clay layer that separates them. They are interconnected so if you pollute the Upper Glacial, the Magothy will also be affected. Groundwater recharge areas are critical to maintaining sustainable aquifer levels of fresh, drinkable water. Rainwater needs a clean place to percolate through the soil layers without picking up pesticides, fertilizers, or toxic chemicals. Maintaining land above the deepest recharge areas in its natural state is one of the best ways to keep our water pure. The Town should continue buying land in the deepest recharge areas as open space for the protection of our aquifer. MS4 standards need to be implemented and followed. Education about and the effects of pesticides and fertilizer use should be considered as part of an overall plan for homeowners, landscapers and nurseries. Town landfills need continued monitoring as well as the scavenger waste plant. Updating septic systems is also helpful and should be encouraged. Underground oil tanks should also be updated and replaced when possible. Clearing restrictions should be enforced especially along the shore areas of the Peconic Estuary.

6. Periodically, East Hampton Town’s bays and creeks are closed to shell fishing or swimming due to poor water quality. Some water bodies do not meet Federal EPA MS4 storm water protection standards. What concrete actions will you support to improve the quality of our surface waters?

The Town must continue the implementation of the MS4 storm water protection standards. Nitrogen loading is an ongoing problem exacerbated by wastewater from septic systems or treatment facilities. Contributions to nitrogen loading are fertilizers and road run-off. Protecting areas around the estuaries, harbors and bays should be considered through land purchases, decreased density, and education. Land Preservation Public land preservation protects our drinking water supply and improves drinking water quality, quality of life, tax rates and property values in the Town of East Hampton.

7. Should the Town continue to use the Community Preservation Fund to purchase land? If so, what changes, if any, would you support in land preservation policy or practice? If not, what funding mechanism do you propose ought to replace it?

The Community Preservation fund has been an overwhelming success and should be continued. Some consider this program, voted on twice, once for its implementation and again for its extension, as a contract with the people of the Town to purchase land and use it in accordance with the CPF guidelines.

Dark and Quiet Skies
8. In 2006 the Town passed the "Smart Lighting" law which enhanced previous legislation addressing light pollution. What are the most important benefits (if any) and shortcomings (if any) of the Smart Lighting law? What actions would you support to expand or modify the enforcement of this law?

There are many important benefits to implementing a good “Smart Lighting” law including reducing energy consumption, preventing glare that can distract drivers or annoy neighbors, viewing stars in the night sky, helping migrating birds, and having a more restful sleep. The current lighting law contributes to our rural and semi-rural character and is a contrast to urban and suburbanized areas where lighting is overly bright and harsh. A new proposed lighting law does not protect our environment or conform to the community character that makes East Hampton a desirable place to live.

9. Noise pollution caused by aircraft, particularly helicopters, has been a source of complaints from residents for many years. Because of financial agreements with the FAA, the Town government currently has little control over East Hampton airspace. How will you address these complaints? What specific rules would you like to see enacted?

Not only noise pollution, but also air and ground pollution should be considered in any discussion about the airport. Complaints from residents of the Town have broadened to include many in Southampton (Jessep’s Neck area) and Sagaponack, as well as large areas of East Hampton that had not experienced any airport noise until just a few years ago, mostly due to helicopters. I believe that it is prudent at this time to not take FAA funding. The Town should install a seasonal control tower and calculate its effectiveness in reducing noise until 2014 when it is expected that FAA control will expire. The cost of the airport should not impact the taxpayers of the town. The airport fund has a surplus from which the cost of the seasonal tower should be paid. If the seasonal tower works to control noise problems those facts will help in making further airport decisions. During a recent presentation from the Town’s hired aviation attorney, he stated the FAA could negotiate with airports on curfews, types of aircraft and hours of operation. If this is true, taking FAA money now without negotiating for community needs is not a powerful position. If the Town allows the FAA assurances to expire in 2014 we will have facts about the effectiveness of the seasonal control tower and negotiate from a position of strength, a sound business practice, with the FAA in using their money and having an airport that is quiet, safe and not a burden to its citizen. If the FAA will not allow us to impose restrictions for the welfare of the residents of East Hampton then we should initiate a community discussion that includes a cost benefit analysis.

Government Planning and Enforcement
Historically, East Hampton has been a national leader in community and environmental planning and open space preservation.
10. What is your vision for the future of the Planning Department in East Hampton Town? What aspects of the Planning Department’s organization and function are most important for the Town’s future and what aspects, if any, would you change or strengthen?

The East Hampton Town Planning Department is envied for its forward thinking planning and enjoys a stellar reputation for its professionalism. The Town Planning Department has championed the preservation of East Hampton’s natural beauty, protected our water supply and the environment. The Planning Department should be consulted on every piece of legislation that involves land use or has an environmental impact. Their recommendations should be followed. The department needs to be fully staffed to address all development and environmental issues in the town.

11. Are the Town’s Comprehensive and Local Waterfront Revitalization Plans adequate in your opinion? If not, which specific policies or plan recommendations do you not support or would like to see changed? Which policies would you prioritize for implementation?

The East Hampton Town’s Comprehensive Plan of 2005 has withstood all court challenges and is a document that must be followed. Thousands of hours of citizen participation was considered and incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan. It is a document that accurately reflects our desired community character and is a road map for our future development. The LWRP took many years to write, scrutinize, consider public comment and finally implement through New York State. East Hampton’s local waterfront plan has been incorporated into the New York State Coastal Management Program. As such, this important document must be followed when considering development, erosion, water and scenic resources, commercial and recreational fishing and much more. We are a community bounded by water on three sides, and whether it is beaches, bays, wetlands, estuaries, kettleholes, or freshwater ponds, water resources define East Hampton. I strongly support both plans. Solid Waste and Water Waste Management Facilities The Town’s systems for the management of both solid waste (trash and recyclables) and water waste (sewage) have been the focus of critical discussion in recent years.

12. What is your assessment of the state of these systems, what are the major problems requiring correction, and what are the most urgently needed changes in policy and practice?

Efficient management of solid waste should be studied and implemented. Closing the dump on Wednesdays and Monday holidays could be avoided. It appears that the town used a lot of overtime at a cost of time and a half for employees during the summer instead of hiring a full time person. The numbers are not readily available to the public to analyze at this time. An international baling system for recyclables has also been discussed and it may be more efficient to buy the machine and sell the international bale of recyclables in this form. Currently, we bale the recyclables, send it up Island where it is re-baled to the international specifications and then sold. Instead of using a middle man, it may be more valuable for us to buy the international baler and do the work. The sewage treatment facility appears to need major updating to protect the aquifer. Town Board discussions in public have been brief and not forthcoming. The plant seems to need new filters to reduce odors, and tests have been done to ascertain levels of substances detrimental to the environment. There appear to be DEC violations. These violations and reports about the tests should be made available to the public with an open discussion about remedies.

Comments

I applaud Ms Overby for recognizing that the impact of noise from helicopters flying into EHA impacts many outside of East Hampton itself. Indeed, it affects millions of people living on Long Island, which is one of the world's most densely populated islands. Much of the impact is felt along the North Shore and especially the North Fork, because, inexplicably, flights turn inland over Riverhead and Southhold, directly over the homes of thousands of people who moved there to find comparative peace. I suggest a 3-pronged approach. First, great efforts should be made to reduce and eventually eliminate commercial helicopters flights. Helicopters should be flying over Long Island only for emergency, medical and police reasons. The only exception would be those cases where those affected all agree to allow a direct flight corridor over their property: if the ultra-wealthy along the south shore of E Hampton can band together and create a direct Atlantic- EHA corridor passing exclusively over their property, then they could fly helicopters over it. Second, while commercial helicopters are being phased out, regulations should be created to permit only low-noise helicopters (yes they exist and are mandated in other comparable situations). Third, ALL commercial and private helicopters should be required to fly exclusively well out over the ocean, or around Orient Point and between the N and S Forks, until their final approach into EHA. Furthermore, landing fees should be imposed to create a fund that would purchase the houses under this final approach path at the market price that would have existed if there were no noisy flights. It's simply immoral that those underneath cannot move because the noise has at least halved the value of their property!