September 27, 2006

Board Dogged By Lobbyists

Sometimes it's better not to form yet another committee. At least that's what East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill McGintee thinks. His opinion is at odds with the actions of onetime running mate Councilwoman Deb Foster, who has embarked on convening a new committee to determine the future use of Springs Park on Three Mile Harbor Road in the hamlet.

"We've had enough public input on this. It's time for the board to roll up its sleeves and get to work," McGintee said last Friday.

The prior evening, a contingent of dog lovers once again appeared before the town board touting the benefits of the park as it is right now and urging the town to keep it this way.

Although the board had not acted formally to convene a new committee, speakers thanked Foster for inviting members of their group to participate. If McGintee has his way, no such caucus will be held.

Discussing the issue with The Independent on Friday, the supervisor reminded that soon after the one time home to the Springs nursery was acquired by the town, the Schneiderman administration convened a committee to solicit public input and determine how the 42-acre site might be developed. The committee came back with what was described as a "grand" and "ambitious" plan that was almost instantly nixed by McGintee and colleagues when he took office in 2004.

The supervisor and his Democratic majority colleagues favored a more low key plan for the parcel. They thanked the committee and disbanded it, to consternation from volunteers who had contributed hours to the issue.

Board members resolved to wait and see how the park was used before deciding how to move ahead. That was two years ago.

Since then the land has become a gathering place for people and pets. Dog lovers especially appreciate the fencing that allows them to unleash their animals and let them run free. In recent months they've entreated the board to eschew any kind of major change to the current conditions. Speakers last week only evinced support for regrading of the access, and perhaps a couple of strategically placed benches and trash cans.

Explaining his aversion to convening a new committee, the supervisor pointed out that another vocal group had earlier lobbied to use the site for equestrian activities. Like the dog lovers, they, too, submitted petitions in favor of the idea.

For the supervisor's money, the town has already received ample input from potential users of the site. He believes he has the consensus of enough colleagues on the town board to stop listening and start deciding.

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