North Haven Rejects Plea to Avoid Cost Of Upgrading Septic

North Haven Village sign

The possibility of a North Haven cell tower to improve local service; the problem of what to do with the former home of the late Lovelady Powell if her property were acquired as preserved open space; and a proposal to ban parking for the first 100 yards of Fresh Pond Road were among many topics that came up at the North Haven Village Board’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, October 20.

Also at the session, conducted virtually via Zoom, the board flatly rejected in a 5-0 vote the request of a Sunset Beach Road property owner to be exempted from the village’s requirement that an I/A or “innovative/alternative,” nitrogen-reducing septic system be installed for all new construction, major renovations or whenever the Suffolk County Department of Health finds that an aging septic system must be replaced.

The village code allows for the Village Board to grant a waiver from the rule in cases of “economic hardship,” which the code does not define. Mayor Jeff Sander commented at the session, that “only [in] dire conditions would we allow and exception.”

It’s “disconcerting” to have to put in an expensive I/A system when his house is used “only a quarter of the year,” said the applicant, Frank J. Mangieri, who participated in the Zoom session. The cost will be $20,000 more than putting in a new conventional system, which itself would cost 5 percent of the price he paid for his house, he told the board.

“Your incentivizing me to leave the old system in place and hope nothing happens,” he added.

Mr. Mangieri noted that “income and obligations are two different things.” His wife has lost her job in the pandemic and his income has fallen, he said, but “I still have obligations.”
“It’s pretty hard to figure out what’s fair. I empathize,” replied Mayor Sander, “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.”

When the mayor noted that Mr. Mangieri may be eligible for town, county and state rebates that could cover the cost of an I/A system, Mr. Mangieri said he’d been told the town considered its rebate program “a low priority” and that — while he might qualify for state and county funding — “there’s no money available” in 2020 because of the sharp drop-off in tax revenues during the pandemic, “and they can’t guarantee that even 2021 money will go to me.”

Board members discussed revising the code to establish a metric for determining economic hardship, perhaps using the state’s rules for “STAR” and “Enhanced STAR” property tax relief, but they did not debate Mr. Mangieri’s application, voting unanimously and without comment to reject it.

Cell Tower Conversations

Mayor Sander reported that he had asked newly elected Trustee Terie Diat and former Trustee Chris Fiore, both of whom had called for better cell service during their competing election campaigns, to look into the problem, including contacting cell providers and tower builders. (The first contested election in North Haven in years, their race drew nearly 300 people to the poll on September 15, Clerk-Treasurer Eileen Tuohy reported, resulting in a fairly close victory for Ms. Diat, 148 to 120.)

“There’s homework that needs to be done,” and no proposal is ready to be aired, Mr. Fiore said, but he added that the ideal tower would be for a “48 foot-flagpole … that comes up between the trees.” He said Ms. Diat would be meeting with Sag Harbor Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy to learn about that village’s efforts that led to a contract with Verizon for installing antennae in the Municipal Building cupola.

Ms. Diat said the committee, which also includes Trustee Dianne Skilbred, had met with Verizon, which offered a proposal, the terms of which Ms. Diat did not describe. Talks with AT&T, T-Mobile and Elite-Towers, LP will be held in the future, she said.

A possible site for a tower would be the town and village open space preserve “behind the cemetery between Sunset Beach Road and Ferry Road.”
Lovely Powell property

The mayor reported that Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, a North Haven resident, had advised him that the town’s CPF acquisition review committee considered the existence of a house on the Lovelady Powell property at 19 Sunset Beach Road “a major issue” because the town “really avoids” preserving open space that will require a commitment to building maintenance.

The mayor added that village has been exploring the possibility of setting up a non-profit to buy the structure — a 19th-century farmhouse locally famous for having been a retreat for the Lovin’ Spoonful band in 1969 — in order to make the open space acquisition more palatable for the town’s CPF panel. Another option would be to tear it down, he said.

Yet another possibility might be that the Bay Street Theater could acquire it as housing for cast members, he said. But “if there’s no willing seller, it doesn’t really matter” what ideas the village pursues, the mayor noted, “so Tommy John and I are preparing a letter to the sellers to query them about their interest in it.”

“I would hate to see the land preserved and tear down a 150-year old house,” commented Mr. Fiore. He suggested it could be saved to serve as a cooperative facility for artists, writers and musicians.

The property, which adjoins about 30 acres of already preserved open space, is on the market for $3.9 million.
Other Business

In other business, the Village Board:

• Closed the hearing on an application to install a catwalk for access to Polles Creek at 2 Seagull Hill Road for kayaking and authorized an approval resolution to be drafted for the board’s November meeting.

• Heard the mayor report he had asked Trustees Diat and Skilbred to look into ways to improve communications between village government and residents, including website improvements. Also, he said, he wants to come up with ideas for streamlining and simplifying the village’s permit approval processes, in the same way that the village’s planning consultant Billy Hajek and Trustee David Saskas have developed a draft proposal to clarify the village’s rules on clearing vegetation, something that Mr. Fiore said during his campaign needed attention. “We’ll get that draft shortly,” the mayor added, so “stay tuned.”

• Discussed a letter from the Bay Haven Association asking for a lower speed limit, speed bumps and a no-parking rule for Fresh Pond Road. The mayor noted the village recently reduced the speed limit to 25 mph on village streets and would soon be installing electronic signs in key areas to flash the speed of oncoming vehicles driving over the limit. He said to put a sign on Fresh Pond Road “before we look at speed bumps.” He also called for banning parking on the first 100 yards of Fresh Pond Road, a proposal that will be drafted and presented at a hearing after Clerk-Treasurer Tuohy asks nearby residents for their feedback.

• Set the date of the annual leaf pick-up for qualifying senior citizens age 65 and older whose primary residence is on a public village street, who meet income requirements and who request a pick-up from November 16 through December 11. Call Village Hall at (631) 725-1378 for information.

• Heard Trustee Diat report that unkempt yards should be added to a draft property maintenance law that is in the works and has not yet been slated for a public hearing. She said the draft currently addresses only structures.