East End Digest


Southampton Town: Honor Flight Comes Home

Southampton Town officials, including Supervisor Linda Kabot and Human Services Director Bill Jones, welcomed home veterans on a visit from the nation’s capital to see its World War II memorial.

Taking off and returning the same day, Honor Flight Long Island traveled from Islip/MacArthur Airport to Washington, D.C. on Saturday, June 28. They were greeted by former Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kansas).

“With 1,200 World War II veterans leaving us each day, it is imperative that we help our local heroes see their memorial as soon as possible,” said supervisor Kabot.

Among the passengers were Southampton residents Lester T. Holden and his sons, David F. Holden and John T. Holden, who went as “guardians.” Lester and John went on a previous Honor Flight with Lester’s father, John I. Holden, also of Southampton.

Honor Flight national founder Earl Morse started the national organization with a single flight in 2005. It was then that Morse, a retired Air Force captain from Ohio, flew his dad and a friend to Washington on a private plane. Since then Honor Flight has grown to over 40 chapters across the country. More than 16 million men and women served in the United States Armed Forces in W.W.II, with only two to three million alive nationwide. Honor Flight has successfully flown over 9,000 of them.

Honor Flight Long Island, a new chapter of the non-profit national network, arranges the all-expenses-paid, round-trip flights for approximately 40 veterans accompanied by about 15 guardians who assist the veterans in wheelchairs. To be eligible, a veteran needs only to register with Honor Flight to get on the waiting list. Guardians, who pay their own expenses, must register as well.

Sag Harbor: Weiss Suit Dismissed

State Supreme Court Justice Paul J. Baisley, Jr. dismissed a suit brought by attorney and Sag Harbor Village resident Patricia Weiss against the village in October of 2006 on June 24. The claim, which was connected to a successful lawsuit Weiss brought against the village earlier that year over the creation of the justice court, charged that her constitutional rights had been violated by a 2005 village law she said made it impossible for her to pass out petitions for a public referendum on the creation of the court. That law was adopted in hopes of reducing the number of free magazines and newspapers that are tossed on the streets, and village property, but was repealed by the village after it received a letter from Weiss cautioning the law was unconstitutional.

Justice Baisley points out that the village abolished the justice court in March 2007, after Southampton Town created a fourth justice position — a position he notes Weiss advocated for as a less expensive solution — thus making any relief over the creation or abolition of the justice court moot.

“Having argued the respondents did not properly create the village justice position in the first instance, petitioner’s subsequent interposition of the argument that respondents did not properly abolish the position, either, defies logic and common sense and, in the circumstances, unreasonably elevates form over substance,” wrote Baisley in a footnote.

As for the second point, Baisley notes the village did in fact repeal the law that prohibited the distribution or delivery of unsolicited print material on any village resident’s property. He added that the law did not prohibit someone from entering another’s property for the purpose of soliciting and collecting signatures on a petition to submit the village justice issue to public referendum — which Weiss said was what she had tried to do — and that there is no evidence showing her failure to obtain the number of signatures needed in a timely fashion was the result of any unconstitutional enactment.

Southampton Town: LIPA Hearings

In a mailing sent Friday, June 27, Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot and Town Board colleagues alerted 23,000 ratepayers of LIPA hearings that will help decide whether the utility will charge certain residents for the burial of its power lines.

Scheduled to convene in mid-September in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, the hearings are part of an agreement between LIPA and the Town of Southampton requiring the former to proceed with a tariff modification and enact a new surcharge called a “Visual Benefits Assessment” (VBA). Set to be imposed for a 20-year period on ratepayers east of the Shinnecock Canal, the revenue raised will be used to pay the $8 million price tag for LIPA’s burial of a 69-kilowatt transmission line from the substation in the Village of Southampton to that in Bridgehampton.

The power line route is along the town’s scenic corridor of Scuttle Hole Road through Water Mill and Bridgehampton, and considerable public outcry prompted town officials and other elected leaders to advocate for a solution. The proposed surcharge was the resulting compromise and is projected to be an average of $3.70 added to a ratepayer’s monthly electric bill. The calculations, which amount to approximately $44.50 annually, are based on an average residential ratepayer using 12,000 kw of electricity per year. For commercial ratepayers, a 36,000 kw average was used, and the projected cost increase would be $10.00 per month, or $120.00 per year.

As part of the agreement to bury the lines, Southampton Town agreed to defend LIPA with respect to the tariff proceeding and in court challenges concerning the VBA surcharge. The town will also indemnify LIPA for the collections process for potential non-payments through a yet-to-be proposed special taxing district. This way, if the VBA surcharge is not approved by the LIPA Board of Trustees, or if a court invalidates such a financing mechanism, the town could assign the repayment obligations to the property owners within the district. However, establishing it requires state approval and a separate hearing process during 2009. Though the town board adopted a resolution in support of the VBA surcharge on February 22, for many months, the broad indemnification sought by LIPA had been considered “a deal-breaker.”

“We are counting on our state representatives to pass legislation allowing us to set up a taxing district,” stated Supervisor Kabot. “If the LIPA trustees back out of our deal, we don’t want the whole town getting stuck with an $8 million bill.” On prior occasions the Supervisor has characterized the Town’s predicament as a “quantum leap of faith,” and “only a beginning, not an end.”

Both of the hearings have been scheduled for September 17, with the Suffolk County one being held at 10 a.m. in the Media Room of the H. Lee Dennison Building, 100 Veterans Memorial Highway, Hauppauge. The Nassau County hearing will take place at 3 p.m. at LIPA’s Uniondale headquarters, 333 Earle Ovington Blvd.

Southampton Town: 80 In Two Houses

The Southampton Town Police Community Response Unit assisted the Department of Public Safety in executing search warrants Saturday at a residence in Quogue and another in Westhampton.

Town fire marshals and code enforcement inspectors turned up 80 occupants in two homes. The first search, conducted at 770 Montauk Highway in Quogue led to the discovery of 49 occupants within.  According to Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, “Several of the rooms, both upstairs and down, as well as the garage, were converted to bedrooms without permits.”  Other rooms constituted building code violations in other ways, such as having more occupants than allowed by the square footage of the rooms.  A separate apartment was also found on the premises, for which there was no permit. 

Town officials added that the code violations weren’t confined to the makeshift domiciles.

 “There were safety issues in the pool area concerning self-closing and self-locking fence gates,” noted Town Investigator David Betts, “and garbage was found around the house and grounds, including empty cans, bottles, and food items.”

Charges at that house included no rental permit, for selling shares in a rental house, for garbage and litter, for excessive vehicles, for over occupying bedrooms, for not having permits for a hot tub, outside bar, shed, full apartment, for converting a garage into an apartment, and other charges.

At the site of the second search, 40 Station Road in Westhampton, the home was occupied by 31 people, including many who lived in the illegally converted basement. Investigator Betts commented that there were numerous safety violations, including missing or inoperative smoke detectors, and several of the rooms contained excessive beds and mattresses. He said both are violations of state and local codes. Like the Quogue home, this one was also littered with empty beverage containers and garbage throughout.

All the occupants were issued field appearance tickets for living in the structure without a rental permit under the Town Code and are to appear in court later in the month.