By Stephen J. Kotz
The battle of wills between the Sag Harbor Harbor Committee and the Village Board of Trustees continued this week, with the board yet to announce its appointments to the committee and the committee’s chairman firing broadsides at how the village manages waterfront.
Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait, whose term expired June 30, but who has remained in his position on a temporary basis pending permanent appointments, took up where he left off last month, criticizing the village for failing to enforce the conditions it places on applications under the wetlands law.
Responding to criticism from Mayor Gilbride, who last week said some Harbor Committee members had missed too many meetings and failed to take their duties strongly enough, Mr. Tait said, “If we’re lax in what we’re doing, the village trustees are extremely lax in enforcing wetlands permits.”
He then launched into a lengthy discussion of the reason the Harbor Committee was established—largely to advise the village board on its Local Waterfront Revitalization Law—and said the current village board has not asked the Harbor Committee to weigh in on whether any number of actions affecting the waterfront—from drainage to mooring rentals—are consistent with village policy to protect its heritage as a maritime community.
“We have not been asked to do a consistency review… in five years and there are dozens and dozens of actions” that affect the waterfront, he said.
“I have not had a single conversation with the mayor of Sag Harbor and I have had one with Trustee [Robby] Stein and that was just for him to tell me not to pursue the waterfront park.”
“The lack of communication with the Harbor Committee is atrocious,” he added.
On Wednesday, Mayor Brian Gilbride fired back, saying Mr. Tait’s comments were out of line. “I’m in Village Hall every day,” he said. “Has he ever come down and said ‘Let’s sit down and talk’? He believes we should be attending his meetings. I don’t get that.”
The mayor also suggested he was not planning to reappoint Mr. Tait to the committee. “There are people who volunteer for the village, who have great passion for the village, and might not be such lightening rods,” he said. “Either we continue with the status quo or make some difficult decisions. Sometimes it’s time for a little change.”
Mr. Gilbride said that the three-year terms of Mr. Tait and committee members Stephen Clarke and John Christopher were over and that they were serving in a temporary “holdover” status. In addition, he said, the term of member Jeff Peters had expired last year, and he too was a “holdover.”
At the village board’s July 7 reorganizational meeting, Mr. Gilbride nominated Mr. Clarke, Joseph Tremblay and John Shaka as potential committee members, but the board took no action.
The mayor said he decided to recommend new members of the committee, in part, because of attendance issues, but also because the way the current members handled their duties.
As he did last year, when he declined to nominate Mr. Peters to another term, Mr. Gilbride cited the committee’s approval in November 2011 of the application of Mr. Christopher, which allowed him to build an addition to his house with reduced wetlands setbacks, which he described as a watershed event, leading to similar applications.
Mr. Tait took issue with Mr. Gilbride’s use of holdover terms. “My guess is we haven’t had a properly seated board in two years,” he said. “If you are appointed to a three-year term and your term is over and you don’t get sworn in, are you a member of the committee?
Village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. said while it was permissible for the village board to retain committee members as holdovers, they are supposed to be sworn in. “The issue of taking the oath office, nobody brought that to my attention,” he said. “Obviously that could be an issue.”
Mr. Tait continued his criticism, saying the village has not managed its mooring grid well. In the spring, he said, when people sign up for a mooring, they are told there is a waiting period, but now the village is advertising that it has moorings available for rent.
He estimated that last year at least 10 moorings were left unrented, costing the village $20,000 in revenue and said there were double that number open this year.
“That’s $50,000 to $60,000 in revenue that’s not taken off the table,” he said.