Targeting the cars that regularly overflow the Reid Brothers service station property onto the east shoulder of the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, blocking the Nancy Boyd Willey roadside park from view, the Southampton Town Board on Tuesday aired a proposal to ban parking for 385 feet from the Sag Harbor Village boundary to the south end of the park, precisely the stretch used by the garage for vehicle storage.
The board appeared set to enact the ban but Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, its sponsor, agreed to table it until the board’s next meeting on December 20 when Supervisor Jay Schneiderman suggested giving the service station owners more time to comment. [The parking ban was adopted December 20 in a 5-0 vote.]
Drafted in response to a petition signed by 57 people and a request from the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, which maintains the county-owned highway, the proposed ban was presented on Monday by Tom F. Neely, the town’s director of public transportation and traffic safety, at a public hearing. Two people from the audience spoke in favor of the proposal and no one opposed it.
Gretchen Renner, who voluntarily helps maintain the park, told the board she had asked Robert Reid to stop parking cars along the edge of the road, blocking the park and sometimes damaging its plantings. “He said there is no code that says I can’t,” she said.
Alicia Farnum, whose late father John Schiavoni is remembered with a memorial bench in the park, spoke of former Sag Harbor resident Priscilla Ciccariello’s efforts to create and maintain the park 20 years ago.
The park is on a slice of formerly county-owned land that was created when a curve in the turnpike was straightened in the 1970s. The county sold the property, which is in the Town of Southampton, to the Village of Sag Harbor for $1 in 2004, according to Ms. Renner. The park was set up before that, in 1996, by volunteers as a landscaped pocket park in honor of Nancy Boyd Willey at Ms. Ciccariello’s suggestion. Ms. Willey was an environmental defender, who championed nearby Ligonnee Creek, which forms the village’s southern boundary and connects Sag Harbor Cove to the Long Pond Greenbelt. Her former Main Street home is the headquarters of the Sag Harbor Historical Society.
Councilman Schiavoni said at Monday’s hearing that the cars parked there have “been an issue for a very long time” and that the business was using the roadside “commercially” to store vehicles scheduled to be worked on or picked up by customers.
“The business doesn’t have room” for its parking needs, he said, only “because of what’s happening inside the [business site’s] fence, which is another story.” He later added “there seems to be a masonry storage business” operating “on the eastern side of the property inside the fence,” a possible violation of its site plan or zoning classification.
Steven Troyd, who runs the town’s code enforcement department as the town’s public safety and emergency management administrator, said on Wednesday he was sending an inspector to investigate.
Mr. Reid said in an interview on Wednesday that the county’s sale of the park site in front of his business was illegal because state highway law makes it clear that only a contiguous property owner or the road-owning municipality — in this case Suffolk County — has the right to own property left vacant after a roadway realignment. He said the 1995 case Scoglio v. County of Suffolk, which involved land affected by the re-routing of a county road, upheld that interpretation.
“I’ve been waiting a while to have a reason to take some kind of court proceeding,” he said when told about the proposed parking ban. He argued that the park has blocked his right as a property owner to unimpeded visual and physical access to the turnpike. “They created a deed out of clear air to create that park,” he said.
“Maybe I’m looking forward to it at this point,” he said of the town’s impending parking ban.
Mr. Reid acknowledged he did have storage tenants on his property.
Circulated in August, the petition’s first signers were Joseph and McClane Farnum. It is titled “petition to protest parking on County Road 79 … in front of the Nancy Willey Park.”
A paragraph above the signatures on each of the petition’s three pages read, “In an effort to ensure the right to enjoy the memorial park named after the woman who went above and beyond to preserve the Long Pond Greenbelt (and the park so named for). She also worked to protect the property at Barcelona Neck and the Sag Harbor Golf Course. The people are petitioning to request that no cars should be allowed to park on the roadside … in front of Nancy Willey Park.”
Ms. Renner told the board that cars are sometimes parked overnight and over the weekend along the roadside. She explained the park comprises two parcels, one in the village and one in the town, and that the village bought the parcel in the town in 2004. She said Priscilla Ciccariello donated money to maintain the park for years.
Ms. Renner said anyone needing to park in order to enjoy or work at the park can obtain a county parking pass and use the abandoned concrete highway.