I am fortunate to serve on a Town Board that wrestles with difficult problems—such as helicopter noise, enforcement challenges in Montauk, overcrowded housing in single-family residences, and downtown Montauk beach stabilization—and I know how hard making some of these decisions can be. I personally want to thank each Town Board member for their work trying to make our community a better place to live and for their dedication in simply trying to do what is best for the community as a whole.
Focus for 2016
Everything we do is dependent on a firm financial foundation. Over the past two years, our year-end finances have been balanced and surpluses created. We have adopted two town budgets below the state tax cap and have reduced total Town indebtedness each year. We must be diligent in the year ahead: balancing the budget, holding the line on taxes, and continuing to reduce overall Town debt.
Three important facilities are on the horizon for the year ahead. Plans should be complete to replace the old Town Hall, sell the existing office space at 300 Pantigo Place, and consolidate our departments on our existing Town Hall property.
The Senior Center on Springs-Fireplace Road needs to be replaced, and we hope plans will be developed this year for a new, expanded facility.
We have held preliminary discussions with Southampton Hospital, which has expressed serious interest in building a new year-round 24/7 emergency care facility in East Hampton that will provide emergency room care for residents and be a major improvement for our ambulance services.
In financing the cost of the new Town Hall and Senior Center, we should look to offset these costs by selling the 11,000 square feet of office space at 300 Pantigo Place and selling the former scavenger waste plant property on Springs-Fireplace Road.
We will continue to implement a methodical capital and maintenance plan for Airport facilities, with a focus on maintaining and enhancing safety, following improvements in the new All Weather Operating System, runway lighting, some pavement repairs with a new fuel facility, and a paid
parking system, along with completing the pavement analysis. In March, we should be ready to review the noise analysis that takes into account the geographical patterns of operations from the past season.
We are seeing renewed interest in businesses seeking land leases at the Industrial Park. We are in preliminary discussions with three new prospective tenants with the potential to maintain and create jobs and generate significant lease revenue for the Airport Fund. As we continue to promote new commercial tenants at the Industrial Park, we should also begin the process of creating new industrial sites on some portion of the 600 acres of land surrounding the Airport.
In the year ahead we will focus attention on protecting and preserving water quality. We must find new ways to eliminate nitrogen and other pollutants from entering our surface waters and groundwater. We hope to develop a comprehensive plan and propose some limited use of CPF funds for water quality protection that will be subject to voter approval next November.
I would like to develop a Town-wide water quality testing and monitoring program with the Town Trustees where we can share costs and expand upon their excellent efforts to date testing and monitoring some of our surface waters.
Over the past two years, we have preserved more than 200 acres of land, with another 50 acres pending under the CPF Program, protecting community character in every hamlet throughout Town. Preserving environmentally sensitive land while reducing development density—as we have done with the Lake Montauk and Springs outreach—will continue to be a top priority in the year ahead.
With the increasing threat to our coastline from climate change and sea-level rise, we must force the issue of how as a community we want to adapt. The coastal assessment and resiliency plan will study the erosion rates along our coast, potential storm threats, and how we should adapt to changes. This study will begin this year and will present the opportunity to better understand what the future may bring and how we need to adjust our thinking and land use moving forward.
Notwithstanding the controversy over the Army Corps’ Downtown Montauk Project, we must focus our attention on the Fire Island to Montauk Point Plan (FIMP) that will be announced early this year. The Downtown Montauk Project is at best half a loaf and, as a result, without a major beach sand replenishment, it leaves the beach in Montauk in a less than desirable condition. We will press the Army Corps for a sand-only FIMP improvement and work to reach a consensus with the community.
Planning will be at the forefront in the year ahead. Hamlet Studies for Amagansett, Montauk, Wainscott, and Springs will be underway. The community will have the opportunity to participate in deciding how to better focus the Town on each of our hamlets. I hope this will be an opportunity to retain the many desirable characteristics of each hamlet while we improve on those that need to be improved.
We need tangible results in providing more affordable housing. The severe lack of affordable housing for seniors on fixed incomes and local working residents is an ever-increasing crisis. We
need to get the Manor Houses on Accabonac Road built, support the Housing Authority’s plan in Amagansett, and find other opportunities for new affordable housing throughout Town. As a community we need to move beyond the word “no” when we should be discussing “how.”
Protecting the quality of life of our residents and enforcing the laws that do so will be a priority.
We will continue to strive for a high level of cooperation and coordination from our personnel in Building, Code, Fire, and Police, where additional personnel and training will come to bear. We will work to effectively implement the new Rental Registry Law. We will hold workshops this month for realtors and landlords and provide information to the general public. We are seeking cooperation to help make this law an effective tool to protect our residential neighborhoods and prevent overcrowding and illegal occupancy.
At the same time, if you have been participating in a group house, high-turnover rental, or multiple family occupancy in a single-family residence, it is time to stop. If we find illegal housing, we will bring the full force of law to bear.
It is good to begin the year with an optimistic agenda, and, of course, it may not all get done, and there will be new issues that require attention. Let’s keep working together and every day try to make our community a better place to live and work.