Board Weighs New Boat Fueling Regulations

Year-end hearings address road improvements, Napeague beach access, contractor licenses, too

    A proposal to regulate boat fueling at town-owned docks was the subject of an East Hampton Town Board hearing last Thursday. Setting guidelines for, or even banning, diesel deliveries by truck has been discussed for several years, but after the town’s insurance provider expressed concerns about the town’s liability should a spill or accident occur, the town board drafted legislation covering the issue.
    The proposed law would bar fueling over town docks in Montauk, where there are private marinas with fuel pumps that all kinds of boats can access, but would allow fueling from trucks at the town’s Gann Road commercial dock in Three Mile Harbor, where larger boats with deeper drafts cannot get to marinas’ docks.
    If a “legitimate liability and environmental concern exists” in Montauk, then wouldn’t those concerns apply to fueling at Three Mile Harbor, too? asked David Buda, a speaker.
    Zachary Cohen, who lost his bid for town supervisor by 15 votes this fall, suggested allowing commercial fishermen in Montauk to buy fuel from trucks at the town docks. The savings, and faster pumping from trucks, could help them, he said. “They pay to have a slip at the commercial dock,” he said, “but they can’t get fuel there.”
    Carl Darenberg, an owner of the Montauk Marine Basin, addressed the issue of fueling from trucks in general. While he said he has 200 feet of boom on hand at the marina to contain a spill should one occur, trucks cannot carry enough boom to do the job. Should something go wrong, dispensing fuel from a fixed pump, he said, provides additional safeguards, such as the ability to cut the fuel source off from an office computer.
    According to Richard Etzel, who also spoke at the hearing, Riverhead and Southold Towns both completely prohibit fueling from trucks. He questioned the East Hampton Town fire marshal’s position on the issue.
    Lynn Mendelman, who is an East Hampton Town trustee but said she was speaking as an owner of marinas on Three Mile Harbor, suggested that if the town board was to allow a “commercial” use of the town’s commercial boat dock at Gann Road, such as fueling, it should consider other uses, such as “the offloading of goods and tourists into Springs.”
    Another hearing held last Thursday night concerned some proposed changes to the home improvement contractors’ licensing law.
    “We assembled a group of contractors that represented each of the trades,” Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said, in describing how the revisions came about.
    “We would like to have participated in the discussions,” said Pat Trunzo, the chairman of the East End chapter of the Long Island Builders Institute,
    Councilwoman Theresa Quigley apologized, saying she was unaware of the organization’s local chapter.
    “I knew. But I apologize,” Mr. Wilkinson said, adding that he felt those who participated in the discussions leading to the legislation’s overhaul were “a good cross-section.”
    The board agreed to Mr. Trunzo’s request to keep the hearing open so his group could formally submit comments. He raised several initial issues of concern, however, including the proposal to drop a requirement that contractors take five hours of continuing education courses annually. It is important to keep up with “building science,” including energy efficiency initiatives, Mr. Trunzo said, which “leads to protection of consumers.”
     Another builder, Wally Klughers, told the board that he disagreed with exempting from the licensing requirement those whose annual income from contracting jobs is less that $10,000.

Napeague Reserve
    Although last Thursday’s agenda also included a hearing on the removal of three Napeague reserved areas totaling some 16 acres from the list of town nature preserves, board members said during the meeting that they were unfamiliar with the circumstances surrounding the parcels.
    The land, which includes an oceanfront lot, was to have been deeded to the town according to the terms of the Beach Plum Park subdivision approval. Apparently a change in ownership of the entire subdivision, due to a foreclosure, included the parcels, and a title search commissioned by the town board last spring concluded they are not legally in town ownership.
    Two attorneys who commented at the hearing — Mr. Buda, a Springs resident who researched the property history, and Richard Whalen, a former town attorney who is a member of the town’s nature preserve committee — said the board should not delete the land from the nature preserve list, in order to better preserve the town’s ownership rights, which could be pursued through a “quiet title” procedure.
    Ms. Quigley said that though “the board should not unilaterally abandon . . . rights,” she believed that the lots should not retain nature preserve status, as only property the town owns can be so designated.
    Mr. Whalen said one reserved lot contains an old beach access road once used by haulseiners, who called it Napeague Station Road, in reference to a life saving station that was nearby.
    He noted that the legal procedure followed when property is to be deeded to the town pursuant to a planning board approval does not require title certification to be submitted immediately. Therefore, he said, “If the town folds on these things, then you endanger, probably, hundreds of these things. So there’s the underlying principle.”
    “Go back to whoever got the property in foreclosure, and tell them, we’d like a deed to the property,” he told the board.
    “We look forward to your actions in keeping this in the town’s hands,” said David Lys, who spoke on behalf of the group Citizens for Access Rights, formed in response to a private claim on ocean beach access on Napeague.
    “We are absolutely in accord,” Ms. Quigley said. “It’s town property. We don’t want to lose town property.” After discussing the topic at a subsequent meeting on Tuesday, the board agreed to leave the properties in nature preserve status.
    Roads in a subdivision off Stephen Hand’s Path in East Hampton that are not town property were the subject of another hearing last Thursday night.
    Using fees assigned to each property owner, the private roads were to have been improved bit by bit as the neighborhood developed and then taken into the public highway system, under East Hampton Town’s urban renewal plan.
    Flaws in the outcome of that plan, adopted in the 1970s, have long been a topic of discussion, as many of the roads never reached town highway specifications, leaving people living along them without the benefit of services such as snowplowing.
    After some help from New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., the town won the right to establish road improvement districts, a special tax district through which the cost of fixing the roads in a certain urban renewal area can be apportioned among the people living there. Before doing so, however, the town board has vowed to hold a vote of those affected.
    Several who spoke at last week’s hearing supported the idea, saying it was the only way to deal with potholed, substandard roads. In letters sent to the town, two families “expressed dismay” about the cost, said Tom Talmage, the town engineer. Individual tax assessments would vary depending on fees already paid, but could be paid over a number of years.

    One speaker, who said he owns multiple lots in the area, said the project could cost him $50,000 or $60,000 a year, and that he would be forced to sell his land.
    Another speaker, who said he has built numerous houses in the area and paid over $100,000 already for road improvements, said most of the people that would be burdened by the plan “are blue collar workers.” A murmur of protest went through the room at his assessment of the residents. “I don’t think it’s fair. I’m terribly against it,” he said, adding that he would circulate a petition protesting the district. The hearing record is open for comments through Sunday.
    During another brief hearing last Thursday, two residents of the area near Damark’s Deli in East Hampton, commented on a proposal to make Soak Hides Road, now one way along its length, a two-way thoroughfare for the first 170 feet from its intersection with Three Mile Harbor Road.
    In reviewing a site-plan application from Damark’s, the planning board had asked the town board to consider the change to the road. A proposal calls for routing traffic out of a parking area behind Damark’s onto Soak Hides, from which it can turn onto Three Mile Harbor Road.
    The two residents said the change would make the area less safe, causing dangerous traffic conditions at the intersection.
    Also last Thursday, two speakers weighed in on the proposed 10-year extension of the town’s franchise agreement with Cablevision. The contract allows Cablevision to place its cables and other equipment along town rights of way in exchange for annual payments and other consideration. A previous 10-year agreement expired in February of this year, and negotiations have been ongoing.
    Joan Gilroy, Cablevision’s director of government affairs, provided an overview of Cablevision’s performance in the town.
    Martin Drew, a member of a town Cablevision committee, questioned why bi-annual joint reviews of Cablevision’s performance, as called for under the previous contract, have not taken place. Town Councilwoman Julia Prince and Ms. Gilroy said that informal discussions had taken place.
    Katie Casey said that “10 years is a long time,” and suggested that the town could have made certain issues affecting consumers — for example, the need to lease a cable box from Cablevision in order to access certain channels — points of negotiation. “People are being held hostage,” she said of the company, the only cable provider in town. Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said he had approached one of Cablevision’s competitors, Verizon FIOS, and that the company did not want to make the investment needed to provide service here. The lack of other cable providers in the town, Ms. Quigley said, “puts us in a spot where we don’t have much negotiating power.” The franchise agreement, Ms. Gilroy said, is not exclusive, and would allow another company to set up shop if they so chose.
    On Tuesday, the town board voted to approve the contract.