North Haven Hears Outpouring Against Easing Clearing Code

James Komosinski, president of the West Banks community in North Haven, decried the widespread yard clearing that he said has taken place illegally on waterfront properties there. He was among eight speakers who opposed the Village Board’s plan to slightly ease clearing limits as a hearing on the plan was continued on May 18.

North Haven Village’s bid to ease its clearing code to make it simpler, improve compliance and eliminate unfairness drew more passionate opposition when the Village Board continued its public hearing on the plan at its monthly Zoom meeting on May 18.

The opponents included speakers who said they couldn’t understand why the board wanted to allow more lot clearing — up to 45 more acres of it across the village, according to one analysis — than the current code allows.

As it did in April, the board refrained from a vote on the proposed code change and held the hearing open again for the board’s next regular Zoom meeting on Wednesday, June 16, at 5 p.m.

In the meantime, Mayor Jeff Sander will further refine the proposal and prepare a graph presentation, which he said would show the nuances of the proposed changes more clearly than the data tables he presented at the start of the hearing.

“You raised three justifications” for increasing clearing limits, “none of which makes sense,” Kim Taipale of the North Haven Shores community told Mayor Sander and the three trustees who attended the session.

One reason, Mr. Taipale noted, is to eliminate a “sawtooth effect” in the current code’s sequence of clearing limits that allows some owners to clear a higher percentage of their properties than an owner with a slightly larger lot.

“You can do that without increasing the aggregate” total of clearing to be allowed, Mr. Taipale said.

Another reason is to improve compliance with the code, he noted. “That’s like increasing the speed limit on Ferry Road to 60 mph to put everyone in compliance,” he said.

The third justification, he said, has been the idea that easing the restrictions “won’t lead people” who are complying with the code now “to change their behavior” by over-clearing.

“That’s true for most of us who bought here” with a desire “to live in the wilderness,” Mr. Taipale said, but there are other people who will always push the limits.

So “why move the line? … I have yet to hear a reason why you want to do that.”

Mr. Taipale was one of eight people who spoke in opposition at the hearing: residents Barbara Roberts and Susan Edwards, who attacked the plan when it was first aired last month, joined this time by April Gornik, Nick Gazzalo, James Vos, James Komosinski, and Annette Handley Chandler, in addition to Mr. Taipale.

Two people spoke in favor of the proposal, Henrik Brun and Susan Reed.

If you’re planning an extension or garage and you’re told “you can’t cut down a tree, it’s kind of difficult,” said Ms. Reed. “I think this is a very reasonable presentation and proposal.”

Mayor Sander made a 35-minute presentation at the start of the two-hour hearing in defense of the proposal, which his data showed would allow up to a 2.6-percent increase in clearing across the non-preserved land in North Haven, which contains a total of 1,728 acres.

Saying he was disturbed to hear from Ms. Roberts that she suspected “real estate interests” were lobbying for the increase, Mr. Sander declared, “I know of no real estate people that have come forward to lobby for increased clearing to myself or any other member of the board.”

Noting that his wife Mala has been in the real estate business locally for more than 20 years, and that Trustee David Saska’s wife is also a real estate professional, he added, “I’ve never heard my wife or any other agent say that a client would not consider buying a house in North Haven because they could not clear enough. It has never been an issue. It has never come up.”

Resident James Vos branded the mayor’s slide presentation and analysis of the proposal’s impact “a marketing document” instead of a “like-to-like” comparison of the proposal’s impacts. “What are we trying to do to North Haven? Make it more like East Hampton and Southampton?” he asked. “We have a right to be upset.”

Mr. Sander told Mr. Vos that the current code allows 35 percent of a 2-acre lot to be cleared; the new proposal would allow 36.48 percent to be cleared; and a 2.1-acre lot could be cleared 36.25 percent. “There’s 100 data points” that would be better presented in graphs, the mayor said.

“The last thing I want to do is look like East Hampton,” said April Gornik, referring to the mayor’s citing of East Hampton Town’s clearing code — the only one on the entire East End beside North Haven’s — as the model for the village’s proposal because it has no “sawtooth” effect in its limits-per-lot-size curve.

“What I love about North Haven is it’s a little wild,” Ms. Gornik said.

“I don’t understand the impetus … It’s peculiar and unnecessary and kind of asking for unintended consequences,” she added, because there will always be people who break the rules.

“Why are we doing this?” she added. “Did someone complain? I’m just mystified.”

The mayor said clearing restrictions “have been a major issue” for years as people complain “about the level of clearing people are allowed” hindering their ability “to use their homes effectively,” such as putting in a garden or a space for kids to play ball.

“My experience is a lot of people have a problem with the current code and I think that increasing it would be satisfactory to a lot of people,” the mayor said. “They haven’t spoken up, but we should make an attempt to hear from them.”

He reported the board had received 13 letters from nine households opposing the proposal, as well as a letter in opposition from The Group for the East End, and two letters in support.

The Group wrote that the proposal had the potential for a “negative impact” on water quality, wildlife habitat and community character, and that its text offered no justification for upping clearing limits. That “should be expressly stated,” The Group asserted.

Lovelady Powell Purchase

In other news at the May 18 session, which the mayor said was the longest in his 14 years on the board at two hours and 47 minutes, the board voted 4-0 (with Trustee James Laspesa absent) to create a special assessment district that includes only properties abutting public roads to fund a leaf pick-up service for those properties. The fee will be $150 for each property owner, which the board agreed to consider refunding in the case of elderly residents with limited incomes.

When it was mentioned there was good news involving the town’s Community Preservation Fund (CPF) and the 4-acre Lovelady Powell property on Sunset Beach Road, which the village has been hoping to see preserved as open space, Mayor Sander said, “We were not to talk about that.”

He reluctantly went on to report that the CPF and the seller had reached an agreement but there was no contract yet. Until there’s a closing, he said, “anything could happen. It’s not done ‘til it’s done.”

Also on May 18, the Village Board:

• Heard Trustee Terie Diat propose that the Village Board should take over the review of applications for shoreline erosion control structures from the Planning Board for the sake of “consistency,” because the Village Board is in the process of developing a new policy and code that will divide the village into more than a dozen zones where different goals and rules will apply.

• Agreed to buy a bike rack for Sunset Beach for up to $750 for the purchase and shipping costs.

• Granted a mass assembly permit subject to all applicable COVID restrictions for a wedding on an Actors Colony Road property on July 24.

• Set a public hearing for the June 16 meeting on installing a stop sign on Robertson Drive at Sunset Beach Road.

• Set a public hearing for June 18 on restoring the original name of Cove Road, “Cove View Road,” to eliminate confusion with other Cove Roads in the area.

• Set a public hearing on extending the rules allowing otherwise non-compliant deer fencing in yards for four years.

• Agreed to get quotes for repairs to drywell drains at the west end of Sunset Beach Road.

• Set the next meeting for Wednesday, June 16, instead of Tuesday, June 15, because the village election takes place that day.