Round Pond Plan Gets Warmer Reception from New Village Board

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Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy presides over her first regular meeting of the Sag Harbor Village Board on July 8. From left, village attorney David J. Gilmartin; Trustees Aidan Corish, James Larocca, Thomas Gardella and Robert Plumb. Peter Boody photo

After a month’s time and the intervening change in village administrations, the Sag Harbor Village Board’s response was a lot more positive on Tuesday to a second airing of Southampton Town’s plan to remove a failing bulkhead on Round Pond, shift the end of Middle Line Highway away from the water to create a natural buffer, restore the natural shoreline there and install “rain gardens” to filter runoff before it reaches the pond.

The plan, which the town would carry out and pay for with its Community Preservation Fund, will require an intermunicipal agreement between the town and the village when it is in final form, because the boundary between them bisects Middle Line Highway.

Holding its first regular monthly meeting since Kathleen Mulcahy was elected mayor in a landslide in June, the Village Board included new member Robert Plumb, who with re-elected Trustee Aidan Corish all called for a keener emphasis on environmental issues and for a more transparent governing process in their separate election campaigns. They joined Trustees Thomas Gardella, whom Mr. Mulcahy named deputy mayor at the board’s July 1 organizational meeting, and James Larocca. Both are in the middle of two-year terms.

As Ms. Mulcahy promised, the meeting agenda included a “public comment” period before the “action items” that require board decisions. Six people spoke on a range of topics from traffic on Bay Street and Route 114 to parking on Division Street but all congratulated the newly elected mayor and trustees.

Veteran board watcher Nada Barry of the Wharf Shop thanked Trustee Corish for overseeing the installation of a new audio-visual upgrade in the meeting room last winter, drawing applause when she urged board members to lean forward and use the microphones, which so far have proven ineffective because people sit too far away from them when they speak.

The display screens that were also installed as part of the upgrade have proven balky and have rarely been used, although on Tuesday they glowed green to show public speakers they still had more than a minute left in their three-minute time allotments.

Round Pond Proposal

Last month, at what turned out to be Mayor Sandra Schroeder’s last Village Board meeting, the Round Pond plan was on the agenda as an “action item” requiring a board decision but it was tabled at the request of Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni after a cool reception. Mr. Schiavoni said in an interview at the time that Mayor Schroeder had told him privately that “people don’t like” the proposal.

No one on the board spoke against it last month, but no one spoke to support it.

Town engineer Christine Fetten with Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni describes the town’s water quality plan for Middle Line Highway at Round Pond. Peter Boody photo

On Tuesday, after Mr. Schiavoni assured the board that the proposal was only in the conceptual stage and that all stakeholders would be included in the final planning process, town engineer Christine Fetten showed layouts and described the proposal as it stands.

Trustee Aidan Corish called it “a great plan that has a lot of potential”; Mayor Mulcahy said the village would work with emergency responders so there’s a “comfort level” over clear access to the pond; and Trustee Plumb commented, “There’s a lot more danger of people falling into the water now than when it’s a bench” instead of a bulkhead at the water’s edge.

Mr. Schiavoni said the work to restore the shoreline was part of a town vision for “a living coast line” eventually all around Round Pond that would provide a link between the 3.9-acre preserved parcel the town owns on the pond at the south side of Middle Line Highway and the open space of Oakland Cemetery’s rear section north of Round Pond.

John Parker, a member of the village’s Harbor Committee — which proposed a similar project as part of a package of water quality improvements around the village in 2016 — said at Tuesday’s meeting that he had spoken with neighbors and found “some for and some against” the plan. But “they were against specifics” in the plans they had seen, not the concept itself, he added.

Ms. Fetten on Tuesday said the plan originated with members of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt. It also has been described as an evolution of the Harbor Committee’s proposal, after the town decided to take it over because it involved the town-owned bulkhead.

It was Mr. Parker who alerted the Harbor Committee at its June meeting that the Village Board, which would be meeting the next day, might be preparing to take a stand against the Round Pond plan. In response, the committee instructed its environmental consultant, Charles Voorhis, to write a memo to the Village Board supporting the proposal.

On Tuesday, Mr. Schiavoni told the board that the final plan will include what he called an “emergency route” from the road through the buffer area to provide vehicle access to the pond in case of emergencies “and also for ice skaters.” The current proposal does not show it, he noted.

Village Attorney David J. Gilmartin told the board no vote was yet required. As Mr. Schiavoni explained it, the town will continue working with stakeholders to develop a final proposal and then submit a proposed intermunicipal agreement for the Village Board to consider.

Also at Tuesday’s relatively meeting, which was concluded in just under an hour, the board voted 5-0 to reduce the speed limit on roads in the Sag Harbor Hills neighborhood from 30 to 25 mph. Renee Simons was the only speaker during a public hearing on the change to village’s traffic regulations. She thanked the board and said when the State Legislature reconvenes after the summer it may act to allow the village to reduce the speed limit further to 20 mph.

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