Bid for Septic Upgrade Exemption, Nixed Last Time, May Get Second Shot in North Haven

An image presented to the North Haven Village Board on Tuesday showing the tracks of aircraft of all categories arriving at and departing from East Hampton Airport (KHTO) over time, with the highest concentrations over areas lying in Southampton Town west of the airport.

The North Haven Village Board may reconsider its unanimous decision in October to reject a homeowner’s plea that he be exempted from the village’s strict requirement that an expensive “innovative/alternative” nitrogen-reducing septic system be installed for all new construction, major renovations and whenever a conventional system must be replaced.

At its monthly meeting on Tuesday, November 17, the board proposed new rules that may allow Frank J. Mangieri to come back to the board with a new request for his second home on Sunset Beach Road, if he can comply with them. Mr. Mangieri’s current conventional septic system is failing.

The proposed rules will be the subject of a public hearing at the board’s next meeting at 5 p.m. on December 15. Like Tuesday’s meeting, it will be conducted online, via Zoom.

The proposed rules would set the criteria under which the board could grant exemptions from its I/A septic requirement, which the village — like towns and other villages all around the Peconic Bay region — adopted in recent years to cut down on the volume of nitrogen steadily seeping into the bay system through groundwater from conventional septic systems.

In recent years, scientists have identified the region’s many thousands of passive septic systems as the leading cause of environmental harm to the bay system. The nitrogen, which may take years to reach surface waters from upland properties, causes a drop in oxygen levels and a sharp rise in harmful algae, suppressing other marine life.

The North Haven code currently allows for the Village Board to grant waivers from the I/A requirement only in cases of “economic hardship,” but it does not define the term. Mayor Jeff Sander commented at the October board meeting — when the board flatly rejected Mr. Mangieri’s request in a 5-0 vote without debate — that “only [in] dire conditions would we allow an exception.” But he also urged the board to come up with specific criteria for future requests.

“It’s “disconcerting,” Mr. Mangieri told the board in October, to have to put in an expensive I/A system even though he uses his house “only a quarter of the year.” Its cost will be $20,000 more than a new conventional system, which alone would cost 5 percent of what he paid for his house, he said.

Mr. Mangieri said he had been unable to obtain town, county or state grants that were established to encourage I/A installations because the pandemic has shrunk the tax revenues that fund them.

Following the October meeting, Trustee Terie Diat and former Trustee Chris Fiore worked with Mayor Sander come up with criteria for exemptions, the mayor reported at Tuesday’s meeting. He said Ms. Diat had recommended proposing a maximum adjusted gross income of $150,000 for applicants while Mr. Fiore suggested $200,000. The board agreed after a discussion to make it $175,000.

Both Ms. Diat and Mr. Fiore urged — and the rest of the board agreed — that second homeowners as well as primary residents should be eligible for exemptions; that exemptions should be available only to property owners whose conventional systems are failing, not those who must upgrade because of new construction or major renovations; and that the difference in cost between an I/A system and a new conventional system would have to be at least $20,000.

Those criteria will be amended to the code if the board votes to adopt them after next month’s public hearing.

Referring to Mr. Mangieri as “the individual” who came before the board in October, the mayor said Tuesday “his issue resonated with me” but “we ruled him out because of the primary [residency] issue.”

The mayor noted that, once the board adopts the proposed criteria, the applicant would be free to come back and request an exemption again if he qualifies.

In the October public discussion, the issue of primary versus secondary residency did not come up. “It’s pretty hard to figure out what’s fair,” Mr. Sander told Mr. Mangieri then. “I empathize, but the flip side of that is the need to change out the [old, passive septic] systems that have been affecting our waterways … We have to set the bar somewhere.”

“It’s imperative that the towns and villages move rapidly to get these new systems installed. North Haven is an island. We touch the water practically everywhere and we have a million estuaries,” Mr. Sander said when the board held its first public hearing on plans to make I/A systems mandatory in April, 2019.

Report On Airport Traffic, Noise

Also at the unusually long and busy meeting on Tuesday, November 17, East Hampton Airport’s noise impact on the East End was the topic when John Kirrane of the Noyac Civic Council and Ron Klausner of the Water Mill Citizens Advisory Committee reviewed airport traffic and noise complaint data that has been collected by the consulting firm HMMH for the East Hampton Town Board.

“We in the town of Southampton are bearing the burden” of East Hampton’s airport, Mr. Kirrane said.

Traffic falls off drastically every year after mid-September, but Mr. Kirrane reported that in the first two weeks of October 2020, operations were up 80 percent over the same period last year as more city people have come to live full-time in their second homes. They are commuting to work and flying to distant cities from East Hampton and some of their children are even commuting to city schools, according to accounts he’s heard, Mr. Kirrane said.

Mr. Klausner reported that changes in the Eastern Region Helicopter Council’s voluntary noise abatement routes last summer reduced flights over East Hampton town and the North Fork, but directed more traffic than ever before over Southampton Town, particularly Noyac and North Sea, and increasingly Shinnecock Hills, the Shinnecock Nation and Hampton Bays.

Overall summer-season traffic in and out of the airport was up 8 percent from 2018 to 2019 and 23 percent since 2015. Noise complaints in 2019 soared 33 percent compared to 2018 and 145 percent since 2015.

Both members of the Southampton Town Board’s Airport Noise Advisory Committee, Mr. Kirrane and Mr. Klausner were introduced by Southampton Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, a North Haven resident and a Town Board’s liaison to the noise committee.
He said the East Hampton Town Board was sensitive to the problem and was studying options for how to proceed when the town’s final FAA grant assurances expire in October of 2021.

At that time, he said, the town may be free to close to the airport and put the land to some other use or impose changes that might allow for legal restrictions on noisy aircraft, which so far it the town has been unable to impose due to court rulings.

Other Business

In other business at the November 17 meeting, the board:

• Accepted a contract with the village of Sag Harbor for fire and ambulance protection for 2021 at a total cost of $645,117.76, up $12,314.32 or 1.9 percent from the 2020’s total of $632,803.44.

• Agreed to grant a dock application for property at 27 Mashomack Drive, with the condition that it be a “low-profile” dock with pilings that do not protrude above the decking, as recommended by Trustee Diat, who is working on new dock standards to be added to the village code.

• Heard Mayor Sander urge changing the dock code so that the requirement for a 2.5-foot depth at the end of the dock may be determined across a larger area rather than a single spot. The depth requirement was a factor in the recent review and withdrawal of Larry Baum’s proposal for a dock at 59 Mashomack. The mayor also suggested the code be amended to allow the board to reject dock proposals on properties with unusual bends, such as 59 Mashomack, where the proposed Baum dock would have been prominent in the view from a neighbor’s property.

• Set a public hearing for 5 p.m. on December 15 on a proposal to ban parking on Fresh Pond Road from Ferry Road to the entrance of the Bay Haven community due to the hazards that have been caused by landscaping vehicles lining the street. Residents Linda Reiser and Mary Churchill spoke in favor of the proposal. One resident of Ferry Road wrote a letter opposing the idea because the no-parking signs would be unsightly.

• Heard Trustee Diat report that a cell tower probably cannot be constructed on preserved land behind the Ferry Road cemetery because it was preserved with Community Preservation Funds, which restrict structures to agricultural uses. She said she is vetting a couple of other publicly owned properties that may be appropriate sites. Meanwhile, she has received a total of five proposals from cell-tower builders that “are all very consistent,” she said. Eventually, when the best location is determined, a leasing proposal will be presented to the public, she said.

• Heard Mayor Sander report during a discussion on ways to make the village’s permitting process less time consuming an expensive that he had talked with the chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals about rezoning the Bay Haven area to reflect the actual size of its house lots. He said maybe applications for variances before the ZBA are the result of the discrepancy.