Board Split on Peconic Estuary Agreement

    In a split vote last Thursday, the East Hampton Town Board declined to join forces with other municipalities bordering the Peconic Estuary in an effort to pursue ecosystem and water quality protection goals.

    An intermunicipal agreement calls for each entity to contribute to the costs of achieving the goals of a comprehensive conservation and management plan developed by the Peconic Estuary Protection Committee — goals such as restoring and enhancing tidal wetlands, controlling and reducing pollution, and complying with federal, state, and local coastal regulations.

    Joining forces, according to the failed resolution, would “save personnel, time, and money, and lead to a better level of coordination” in East Hampton’s pending efforts to meet state stormwater management requirements.

    Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, who was originally slated to sponsor the resolution to enter into the agreement, not only refused to support it, but expressed outrage over an issue of protocol — that Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, upon learning that Ms. Quigley had asked to have the resolution removed from last Thursday’s agenda, had himself brought it to the table for a vote.

    “I don’t understand it to agree with it or disagree with it,” Ms. Quigley said, adding that the board had not “properly vetted” the agreement.

    But Mr. Van Scoyoc said that the matter had been discussed in detail at  “at least two” previous meetings, and raised again at a meeting earlier in the week from which Ms. Quigley was absent.

    “I know nothing about it,” Ms. Quigley said, demanding that Mr. Van Scoyoc provide the date of the earlier meetings. “I want discussion on it, and it’s my right.”

    According to the resolution, the Towns of Brookhaven, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southold, and Southampton, along with Suffolk County, the Villages of Greenport, North Haven, Sag Harbor, and Dering Harbor, and the State Department of Transportation, “recognize the importance of the Peconic Esturary as a vital coastal ecosystem essential to the environmental and economic well-being of the people in the areas surrounding the Peconic Estuary,” and therefore have entered into the agreement.

    Mr. Van Scoyoc said it was important to join them “to protect our Peconic Bay region, its economy, [and] its resources,” and that it would put the towns on a better footing to obtain grants to support the work.

    Councilwoman Sylvia Overby voted with Mr. Van Scoyoc in support of the resolution, while Supervisor Bill Wilkinson voted against it, siding with Ms. Quigley.

    Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who would have been the swing vote, abstained. Mr. Stanzione said that though he had “every intention of supporting the proposal,” he would honor Ms. Quigley’s request for further discussion. “I’m extending a courtesy to a colleague . . . who has requested it,” he said. “But I expect us to act on this expeditiously.”

    “I feel fully versed on this,” said Ms. Overby, noting that the town’s natural resources director, Kim Shaw, had made a presentation about the matter to the board.

    “I am liaison to natural resources, and I asked to have it removed,” said Ms. Quigley of the resolution. “How did it get put back on under Peter’s name?” She looked to John Jilnicki, the town attorney, for an opinion about the procedure.

    “As I understand, Theresa Quigley thinks, as liaison, she can prevent something from being voted on,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc. “I can understand if she doesn’t support it,” and would decline to sponsor the resolution, he said. But, he added, “a single councilperson, because they’re the liaison to a particular department, should not be the gatekeeper to doing the town’s business.”

    If a board member has questions about a proposal regarding an area for which they serve as liaison, Mr. Wilkinson said, they should be able to “pull it back and have the board discuss it at a work session.”

    “Again, this has been discussed at several work sessions,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said.

    “I don’t remember it myself,” said Mr. Wilkinson.

    “It has to do with secret meetings, Peter,” Ms. Quigley charged. She did not elaborate.