Crowd Cheers New Supervisor At First Meeting

Cantwell outlines his 2014 list of initiatives

       “We begin the New Year with great hope and expectations,” said Larry Cantwell, East Hampton Town’s new supervisor, at the start of the town board’s organizational meeting last Thursday.

       Even in the face of divergent points of view, he said, “if we work together to find common ground and maintain our small-town values . . . then this great, more than 350-year-old town will survive and prosper.”

       The new supervisor dedicated the first meeting of his administration to the recently deceased Lee Hayes, one “of the many extraordinary people who live and have lived among us and who have made remarkable contributions to our town and our country.” Mr. Hayes served in World War II as a Tuskegee Airman.

       Mr. Cantwell also took time to thank town employees and tell them that “we value your work . . . I ask we always remember it is the public we serve and I expect the public to be treated with the highest level of professionalism and courtesy.”

       He then outlined a list of 2014 initiatives, though “not a comprehensive list,” he said. The crowded room applauded after every one and gave him a standing ovation at the end.

       Among the initiatives: improving town board transparency by publishing meeting agendas two days ahead, focusing on town code enforcement; working with the Army Corps of Engineers on a downtown Montauk beach-replenishment project and seeking funding to rebuild the Ditch Plain beach as well, while working with the Natural Resources Department to consult with coastal scientists and engineers; using the results of a forthcoming wastewater management plan to protect water quality, working with local agencies to address social needs, and completing East Hampton Airport noise and financial analyses to address airport capital improvements and use restrictions to mitigate noise.

       In addition, Mr. Cantwell said that the town housing office, East Hampton Housing Authority, and nonprofit groups would be asked to identify and propose new affordable housing opportunities to meet the needs of working families and senior citizens, and that the Planning Department would be charged with preparing a “professional and comprehensive review” of nonconforming business uses on properties now zoned for other purposes. A citizens advisory committee will be appointed to look into that issue as well.

       To “better prepare for the long-term impacts of sea-level rise” and the risks of coastal storms and erosion, Mr. Cantwell said the town would seek grants to pay for a “townwide hazard-mitigation, resiliency, and recovery plan.”

       A loophole in the town’s farmland preservation law “allowing site plans for condominium-type development to avoid the 70-percent open-space requirement” — brought to light, Mr. Cantwell said, by the recent 555 proposal for a large-scale development in Amagansett — must be closed.

       The town board, he said, “must live within the parameters” of the 2014 budget adopted by its predecessors, and “must manage town finances to balance the budget and continue on the road to financial recovery.”

       The new supervisor also ticked off some items of unfinished business to be addressed: “taxi and public assembly permit laws, definitions for light trucks, and other improvements and clarifications to town code.” It was important, he said, “to maintain a balanced perspective of the needs of the community in resolving these matters.”

       Mr. Cantwell has asked the Parks Department to remove the name of the supervisor from the signs at town facilities, such as the airport and the recycling center. “Except at Town Hall, I see no public benefit to spending money for signs advertising the supervisor’s name,” he said.

       He finished on a poignant note, recalling that his parents,  immigrants from Ireland and Italy, had taught him “small-town values I will not forget” during his childhood in Amagansett: “Work hard for what you want, and treat everyone the way you want to be treated.”

       “If I have one regret, it is that my parents are not alive for this day.”

       Two speakers addressed the new officials and administration. Kathleen Cunningham, who heads the Quiet Skies Coalition, congratulated them on “the opportunity to regain local control over the airport” and saluted Councilwoman Sylvia Overby and Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, the board’s two holdovers, for standing against the acceptance of Federal Aviation Administration funds before airport control issues are ironed out.

       David Doty, the treasurer of the East Hampton Conservators, a political action committee that has supported Democratic stances and candidates, echoed those sentiments, adding, in a reference to the end of the previous administration, “I would like to add one last word. Phew.”

       The new board appointed Job Potter, a Democrat and a former town councilman whose bid to regain a seat on the board last fall was unsuccessful, to the planning board. Cate Rogers was appointed as a new member of the Zoning Board of Appeals. 

       Councilman Fred Overton, who is now the sole board member not a Democrat — he ran on the Republican line but is not a registered memer of any party —  commented before both votes. He said he had hoped Lee White, whom Ms. Rogers will replace on the zoning board, could serve another term. “At this point I cannot support the appointment” of Ms. Rogers, he said before casting a “no” vote. Nonetheless, he said he thought she would do a good job.

       Before voting for Mr. Potter, Mr. Overton said he would have liked to have seen J.P. Foster reappointed to the post.

       Also last Thursday, the board reappointed Britton Bistrian to a new five-year term on the Licensing Review Board, and appointed Robert Ortmann to an unfilled three-year term. Averill Gues was named the town historian, and Len Bernard was formally appointed as town budget officer.

       Councilman Van Scoyoc will serve as Mr. Cantwell’s deputy supervisor.