North Haven Village Seeks Support To Bury Lines at Long Beach

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Power lines along Long Beach heading to North Haven. Stephen J. Kotz photo

Is there anyone who wouldn’t like to see the overhead power lines on Long Beach Road buried from the road’s Noyac roundabout terminus to its entryway into the Village of North Haven?

Are there homeowners in northeastern Southampton Town, including Bay Point, Noyac and North Haven, who would object to paying $26 a year for 20 years — for a property assessed at the local average of about $1.22 million — through a special property tax to pay for the work?

That’s the question North Haven’s Mayor Jeffrey Sander and the Village Board want answered before they vote next month on the mayor’s proposal to join a special tax district that the Town of Southampton might create to fund the project if there is public support for it.

The mayor, accompanied by Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, presented the proposal at the monthly meeting of the North Haven Village Board on Tuesday, June 5.

The proposed district would follow the contours of the Sag Harbor School District but not include properties in the Village of Sag Harbor. Because only part of Sag Harbor lies in the Town of Southampton, not all Sag Harbor property owners would pay the tax. That would be unfair, Mayor Sandra Schroeder told Mr. Sander in declining to participate in the effort, he said.

Estimated to cost a maximum of $1.745 million and probably less, Mr. Sander said the project began to take shape about 18 months ago after he got a letter from the regional power utility, PSE&G, advising him that the overhead lines on Long Beach would be upgraded as part of a FEMA-funded program to prevent storm-related outages.

The mayor feared that bigger poles would be erected, just like those installed in recent days on Route 114 in North Haven as part of PSE&G’s “storm-hardening” program.

“What better way to guard against storm-related outages than not having any overhead power lines at all?” he asked at Tuesday’s meeting, which about 35 more people than usual attended because media and residents had been alerted by email that the power line-burial proposal would be unveiled.

“You get used to seeing them,” Mayor Sander said of the power lines, “but if you took them away, that would be amazing,” allowing for a broad view over the beach and the bay unobstructed by poles and wires.

He said that the additional “$20 or $50 or $100 a year” more in extra property taxes residents would pay for 20 years — depending on the assessed valuation of their real estate — would be “like a beautification donation.”

The bill would be about $11 a year for properties assessed at $500,000 and $200 a year for a property assessed at $10 million.

Mayor Sander began meeting with utility representatives, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. more than a year ago, hoping to find a way to bury the lines, he said.

Mr. Thiele subsequently sponsored state legislation to allow the Town of Southampton to create a special taxing district to pay for the work, subject to a public referendum. It was passed and recently signed by Governor Cuomo, the mayor said.

Mayor Sander said he wanted to gain a sense of public support for the proposal before proceeding to the next step of asking Supervisor Schneiderman and the Town Board to set a public hearing.

The bill to taxpayers would total $1.42 million, reduced from $1.745 million by a $200,000 donation privately collected from about 20 Cliff Drive property owners in Bay Point, who stand to benefit from the improved view, the mayor explained. The bill will be further reduced by a $125,000 state beautification grant obtained by Mr. Thiele, the mayor said.

In the interest of “full disclosure,” the mayor said, he acknowledged he owns a house on Cliff Drive built by his parents in 1951. But “this is not about Bay Point,” he said. “If it was about Bay Point and that was my only interest, it would have been done” through a town bond issue funded by Bay Point residents that would have paid only for burying the section of lines that block their view.

In that case, he said, “I would have saved hundreds of hours on this project. So it’s about the whole beach and … whether the rest of the area feels that there’s a significant benefit by being able to bury all the poles and lines”

Those benefits, he argued, include “mitigation of outages, safety, beautification and mitigating the risk of PSE&G coming back in five years from now and putting in bigger poles like they’re threatening to do on Scuttle Hole Road.”

The mayor said poles with osprey nests on top would not be removed. One pole and section of overhead wire at a cul de sac on Sag Harbor Cove, he said, will remain because the cost of burying it would be prohibitive.

Work would probably take place in the late fall or during the winter.

Comments on the proposal should be emailed to Mr. Sander at mayor@northhavenvillage.org and Mr. Schiavoni at tjscciavoni@southamptontownny.gov.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Village Board formally voted to set a public hearing on the question of whether or not the village should join a future “underground utility improvement district” for Tuesday, July 10 at 5 p.m. in Village Hall.

In other business, the Village Board also set a public hearing for July 10 on a proposed “pyramid law” thought would limit building heights according to lot size.

Under the proposal. all buildings would be limited to two-and-a-half stories and 35 feet in height except buildings with a “low slope roof,” which would be limited to 23, 26 or 28 feet depending on lot size. Gable roofs would be limited to 30 feet on lots of 20,000 square feet or less; 32 feet on lots larger than 20,000 square feet but less than 40,000 square feet; and 35 feet on lots larger than 45,000 square feet.

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Peter Boody is news editor of The Sag Harbor Express. Previously he was the editor of the Southampton Press for many years and also edited several other papers, including the Shelter Island Reporter and the East Hampton Press, of which he was founding editor. He was a regular correspondent for the New York Times Long Island section and wrote the novel “Thomas Jefferson, Rachel & Me.”