Critics of Sag Harbor Village’s plan to build a police impound lot filled the municipal boardroom on Tuesday, with many calling for the board to abandon the idea and instead preserve not just the 80-by-60 foot lot in question but also the rest of the 24-acre parcel that lies in the Long Pond Greenbelt.
Dai Dayton, president of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, pressed village officials to step away from the proposal, and instead explore selling the entire property to the Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund. “It was always believed to be preserved,” she said. The group has also taken issue with the PSEG trucks and utility poles that the village has allowed to be stored there on a temporary basis.
However, Mayor Sandra Schroeder said the property, which is about a mile south of the village, had been in active use over the years, for instance as the place where the village dumps the leaves it picks up for its residents.
“Now you want to pave and you want fencing and lights. Where does it stop?” Ms. Dayton said. “It shouldn’t start. It should be preserved. This is something no one ever imagined would happen on this property.”
Sag Harbor has proposed paving an 80-by-60 foot piece of the property as a storage site for up to 20 vehicles that are seized by the police. According to Trustee Ken O’Donnell, the village board passed a resolution Tuesday to pay the engineering firm Nelson, Pope and Voorhis for an environmental study of the site. The resolution, which did not appear on the previously published meeting agenda, caps the cost of the study at $4,000.
Environmentalists and residents are concerned with the site’s proximity to the Long Pond Greenbelt, and specifically with how stormwater runoff of the paved site would affect the aquifer and the ecosystem, which they say is home to at least one endangered species, the tiger salamander.
“I can’t imagine that for putting five cars there you need that big a piece of property,” said Daniel Osborn. “We’re selling our community, our culture, our parkland, our open space. It’s now encroaching on the Long Pond Greenbelt.
I don’t think anyone here wants to see an impound lot — however small, however insignificant, it’s going to be an eyesore.”
Penny Moser, who has lived here since 1973, pointed out that vehicles often leak fluids. “You can see when you drive around here all the puddles have little rainbows and stuff in them,” she said. “I drove by the other day and it looks really ugly and I was sad.”
Jayne Young said the group Save Sag Harbor also opposes the impound lot, and instead would like to “expand the greenbelt, protect the gateway and keep it from becoming a semi-industrial site.”
Others in neighboring communities are taking note of the impound lot plans, too.
The Southampton Trails Preservation Society sent a letter to the village board in which Mark Potter, the organization’s president, said he and his colleagues were “shocked” to learn of the impound lot plans and the parking of the PSEG vehicles on the property.
“The citizens and officers of Sag Harbor Village have invested a huge effort in time and money to preserve the image of the village as a 19th century enclave among rural farms and woodland,” Mr. Potter said in the letter. “A vehicle impound yard in the forest bordering the village would be an urban eyesore out of keeping with these efforts. Instead, we ask you to restore the native vegetation in this property and preserve it forever as part of the Long Pond Greenbelt nature preserve.”
At its meeting Monday, the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, at the suggestion of member Peter Wilson, agreed to write a letter to the Southampton Town Planning Board opposing the impound yard. The planning board will hold a public hearing on the proposed impound yard on May 24.
Members of the village board have not expressed specific opinions, but said they are learning more each day about the site conditions and the project.
“This process is under way. It’s not concluded,” Trustee James Larocca said. “I learned a lot last night. I learned more by visiting the site. I’m not ready to express a view of the proposal.”
Mr. O’Donnell has not come out in favor of or against the impound lot, but he said the message was definitely clear on Tuesday. He also said he was intrigued by the idea of a possible property purchase by Southampton Town via the Community Preservation Fund, and suggested proceeds from such a sale could be invested elsewhere in the village, such as Long Wharf, the KeySpan parking lot or a consolidated public garage for the fire department, ambulance corps and police department at Brick Kiln Road and Columbia Street.
“If things were rearranged down on Columbia and Brick Kiln, maybe you don’t need an impound lot down on the turnpike,” Mr. O’Donnell said.
Trustee Aidan Corish said the board plans to commission a survey of the area. “I appreciate that there’s so much interest in our community in the environment,” he said. “As of now, I am undecided on the way I would vote on this. I learned a lot last night and I need to make more inquiries.”