Bill Wilkinson

Responses to East Hampton Environmental Coalition questionaire

East Hampton Town supervisor
Republican, Independence Party


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.

Actions speak louder than words. In my first term, before making any acquisitions, we performed an audit of the CPF. This audit revealed that not only did the McGintee Administration (prior administration) borrow eight million dollars as described by the District Attorney, but borrowed an additional nine million dollars, totaling illegal diversion of $17,000,000.00 earmarked for acquiring critically important parcels. Without this review, the CPF might have forever been out the Nine Million Dollars which our audit uncovered. After the review, we started fresh CPF purchases with a clear and understandable balance sheet. As we received necessary deficit financing, we paid back the Community Preservation Fund. We then continued to purchase property at an admirable pace. In addition, we have restructured the operations of the CPF committee to ensure site selection and prioritization is performed in an objective business like fashion. Since beginning my term, $18 million dollars and 130 acres have been purchased/contracted and earmarked for acquisition.

In addition, we have refortified the Lake Montauk Watershed Committee and designed a Lake Montauk Sustainability Committee to pursue public/private partnership to ensure the sustainability of this great body of water. With the help of Fred Thiele, we have been innovative in changing the dynamic of purchasing properties for the purpose of establishing retention ponds to retain runoff from this body of water. We will study septic and with the like of Kevin McAllister being added to the Committee, important work will be done to examine septic impact on the lake.

We have approved two wind energy platforms in the Town. This is another promise during the campaign. I always was puzzled that East Hampton would have a windmill on its flag yet failed to pursue non petroleum based energy sources in our town. We are a critical part of the Suffolk County Planning groups’ address of this area.

Noise impact of helicopters drew our boards’ attention. We have been leaders in addressing noise pollution and have diligently worked with the FAA on establishing new routes, getting the first Airport Layout Plan approved in over 22 years and with that scheduling the use of a seasonal control tower to ensure air space control prioritizing our surrounding areas and noise reductions related to these aircraft.

Recognizing that the single biggest threat to our waters is sewage effluent, we continue to pursue sewerage treatment, both with considering the future use of our east Hampton facility and the attempt to implement in Montauk. There is much opposition from environmental groups in Montauk for fear of increasing density.

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?

I believe that it is government’s role to enact legislation and to ensure the health of our environment. The Town of East Hampton has always and continues to take this responsibility seriously and, along with the Trustees, the County, and the State, work to ensure the regulations are adequate and state of the art. We must ensure that open discussions take place where risk is apparent and proper planning takes place to ensure future generations are safeguarded by the actions we take today.

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

We spearheaded various open forums which were inclusive of representatives of the DEC, Suffolk County Planning, the Peconic Bay Keeper , Nature Conservancy, the Group for the East End and the Long Island Farm Bureau. We continue to use members of our Planning Department and Natural Resources Department to share their learning’s from conferences they attend with members of the Board.


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?

We have been fairly frustrated with the Army Corp of Engineers and what appears to be a 35 year Fire Island to Montauk Point Study (FIMP). That is why we demanded and received an open hearing from the Corp in Montauk. We continue to work closely with the Army Corp to provide emergency dredging, staged on September 30 and dredging beginning the first week of October, in Montauk Harbor. Dredging is not only critical for safe ingress and egress of this vital fishing port but is imperative to ensure adequate water flow to the Lake Montauk, a vital water body that houses abundant shellfish. We have been in constant communication with the NYS DEC working collaboratively to safeguard our lands and 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?

As stated earlier, we are currently analyzing the current sewerage treatment plant in East Hampton. The Lake Montauk Watershed Sustainability Committee is initiating testing of Lake Montauk and its tributaries and focusing on the impact of septic systems around the Lake. Septic placement and its impact are on the short list of priorities for this group. With all our CPF purchases, the effect of open space on preservation of the aquifer continues to be of great importance.

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?

We are actively engaged in MS4. We are actively pursuing retention ponds that not only capture this runoff but filter the runoff. Culvert inspection is critical and we engage Suffolk County Vector Control in our efforts to ensure adequate water flow. We are examining the potential impact of septic systems as they flow to Lake Montauk. Because of elevation and drainage, these systems could potentially contribute from as far away as Ditch Plains. It is the first time that such an examination has been performed.

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 a Godsend to East Hampton. Well over 50% of East Hampton is preserved and Montauk has over 70 % of its land preserved. Once we cleaned up the mess from the last administration, we aggressively pursued and continue to purchase properties under CPF. Since our administration took office, we have purchased, offered and contracted for over 130 acres of open space at a price of approximately $18 million.

I personally look forward to resumption of this tax well after it expires. I think future funding has an opportunity to also apply to sustainability of our water bodies, inlets and beaches under an appropriate banner of preservation of the quality of what we have.

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?

The benefit is the obvious exposure to our night skies-especially brilliant the further east you go. We need to improve any conditions created by this legislation that impact safety – street lighting and crosswalks are especially dangerous in downtown Montauk. I think there is opportunity by zoning lighting –trees, water and open areas have different lighting and shading impacts than commercial or residential areas.

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?

We have been active in leading the charge for reduction of Helicopter noise through the formation of an East End Helicopter Advisory Committee; orchestrating a southern route out of New York; getting the first Airport Layout Plan approved in the last 22 years; and laying the ground for a seasonal control tower that will regulate incoming traffic within a five mile radius.

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?


Our planning activities have been focused on land management and in that regard, our planning department and boards they have done a wonderful job. But we must have our planning department focus on planning for our long term infrastructure, people, roads, energy, business, sewage treatment and ultimate sustainability. This often requires different education, competencies and analysis. Long range planning must be implemented coupled with short term performance measurement.

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?

Adequate

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?


We have yet to really attack recyclable issues within the Town. We have adequate facilities. We must ensure appropriate activity. As stated earlier, sewerage treatment is a current priority as we examine our East Hampton facility and determine future needs of this facility.

Comments

The 2006 "Smart Lighting" code does not include ANY references to streetlighting. It simply sets standards for new residential and commercial lighting to meet the law enacted in the 1980's and gives allowances to bring illegally installed lighting into compliance. There are no-cost measures for residences that have illegal lights. The light levels specified in the law meet all professional guidelines for safety. In fact, these light levels are used to defend lawsuits. If the Supervisor wants to have safer crosswalks, he needs to implement the Guidelines for Streetlighting that was prepared (in consultation with professionals), by the Energy & Light Advisory Committee. Those Guidelines would save money for the town.
Actions do indeed speak louder than words but this fact is not one that Mr. Wilkinson should bring to our attention. His actions and those of his Republican majority confirm their collective belief in Ms. Quigley’s words “The conservationists lost the election”. In response to each of the questions above, Mr. Wilkinson makes clear that his first priority is the short-term interest of the business community. His idea of the best way to introduce his environmental position is a reference to irrelevant book-keeping misdeeds of the previous administration. He then lays claim to Lake Montauk initiatives that were capitulations to pressure from the Montauk community and he takes credit for approving wind energy proposals initiated by others. He claims success in dealing with airport noise pollution by pointing to a control tower that can guide but not quiet aircraft. He imagines that bringing more aircraft over Wainscott will be beneficial when it simply increases the number of people and wildlife exposed to helicopter traffic. Inexplicably, he brags to environmentalists about an airport layout plan that did not address the environmental effects of airport noise beyond the grounds of the airport. He claims environmental collaboration with some organizations but not one of the more than 15 organizations that are local to East Hampton. He neglects to point out that he has left the Natural Resources Department understaffed to the point of total frustration. His response to critical dredging needs has been to turn in desperation to other agencies while continuing to deny the funding of a Town dredge that was approved by the previous administration. He claims major accomplishments in land preservation that are widely regarded as minimal given both the bountiful size of the CPF coffer and the probably temporary availability of bargains. He honors Councilperson Quigley’s shameless attempt to exempt businesses from our very hard won light pollution laws. Perhaps worst of all, he covers his attempt to stifle the planning department’s protective role by a personal attack on the department’s staff. Finally, despite his systematic attempt to undermine the authority and wisdom of the Comprehensive and Local Waterfront Revitalization plans, he feigns an appreciation of them as “adequate”. In all, Mr. Wilkinson’s actions have proven that his leadership has been devoted to making commerce the winner and conservationists the losers. Our economy may be in trouble but our environment is in a larger and more consequential crisis. We cannot tolerate another round of leadership that recognizes only dollar concerns.
Here on the North Fork of Long Island we are watching, and unfortunately hearing, the effect of decisions taken by East Hampton politicians. Vast numbers of helicopters (at peak times one per minute) fly over Long Island on their way to East Hampton Airport, often very low and with thundering noise. Mr Wilkinson claims to have been effective in reducing helicopter noise, but in fact there were more flights this year than ever, and it will become steadily worse if the economy improves. Unless Mr Wilkinson can offer objective evidence, through accurate noise measurements, that noise is decreasing and will continue to do so, it seems unlikely that one can believe anything he says in this matter, and by implication in any of the other areas he addresses. I do not believe that accepting FAA money will give the Town greater control over flight frequency and patterns, or in reducing the noisiness of individual aircraft. On the rest of Long island, helicopter noise, largely caused by EHA, is one of the biggest quality of life issues. It clearly also greatly impacts many EH residents. The only people who benefit are a few ultra-wealthy people, and the politicians to whom they contribute. Decibels speak loudest of all.