How many trucks and businesses will be displaced if East Hampton Town officials adopt a new "light truck" definition?
It could be 50 or it could be thousands, Margaret Turner, executive director of the East Hampton Business Alliance, mused. "You have no idea," she told members of the town board during their regular meeting last Thursday night. There is "no true data" available, she said.
The amendment to the town code, currently still in the discussion stages, is prompted by complaints of operators filling residential properties (especially in Springs) with heavy trucks and equipment, illegally transforming them into commercial properties.
Turner reminded the board that members asked town planners for a list of places where the trucks could be parked, for the number of properties that are zoned for the use. The information was not forthcoming. "We don't feel these numbers are so easy to obtain," Turner said.
Acknowledging that Springs neighborhoods do need relief, Turner said the failure to include data in the discussion is symptomatic of a larger issue – the town's failure to consider the needs of the business community.
Listing myriad ways the business community is an asset to East Hampton, Turner told the board, "You need to consider how the problem started in the first place. We feel it was poor, or lack of, planning." She reminded that the town's Comprehensive Plan, written in 2005, listed a business needs assessment study as its fifth goal. "It's long overdue," Turner said.
Supervisor Bill Wilkinson offered that his administration has often been criticized as too "pro-business." Turner backtracked a bit, characterizing Wilkinson as one of the "most receptive" supervisors in years. However, she said her group's frustration lies in conversations about measures that could help the business community commencing, then hitting brick walls.
Councilwoman Theresa Quigley offered that the board was originally a "pro-business" board, and did indeed hit brick walls. But, she reasoned, when measures that could help are proposed, members of the business community don't step up and offer support. It seems as if board members alone support the ideas when the business community remains silent, Quigley said. She volunteered to convene a committee to begin a business needs assessment.
In other business last Thursday night, board members heard from recreation advocate Paul Fiondella. He asked the board to find a way to ensure community members have a voice in the state's Montauk Highway resurfacing project. Next year, resurfacing from Egypt Lane in East Hampton Village to Etna Avenue in Montauk will commence. It's the third phase of a three-pronged plan that will, at its conclusion, result in resurfaced roadway from Montauk to Southampton.
Fiondella expressed concern that as the project has moved along, state officials "Neglected the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists." He pointed to the first phase of the project which stretched through the western section of the village and created a hazardous condition, with no room for bicyclists, at the Woods Lane traffic light.
Officials have already made that mistake, how many more might occur if local input is not included at the planning stages? Fiondella queried. Asking board members to inform the state that the community would like to provide comments, Fiondella also noted the lack of crosswalks on Montauk Highway along a stretch of road from the Abraham's Path intersection all the way to Newtown Lane. What would it cost to put one down at Egypt Lane, he wondered.
Finally, as has become a custom at town board meetings, a contingent of Springs residents was on hand to urge the board to act to address quality of life problems in the hamlet. Complaints about suspected illegal volleyball games that are allegedly run commercially with food and beer sold and gambling were reiterated by two residents. David Buda pointed out that even if property owners take nets down after the games, if the posts don't meet setbacks, a violation has occurred.
Carol Buda noted that while people often blame the Springs school district for high taxes in the hamlet, the town's failure to enforce laws against illegally overcrowded homes – which she believes are responsible for the enrollment surge at the school – is to blame.