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Supervisor Ed Romaine

A rendering of the proposed Heatherwood rental units in South Setauket. Rendering from Heatherwood

The Town of Brookhaven is in the final stages of deciding whether to allow a controversial retirement community to be constructed. 

Commack-based Heatherwood Luxury Rentals has proposed plans to build on nearly 26 acres of its more than 70-acre golf course on the southeast corner of Arrowhead Lane and Route 347. It was put on the planning board’s decision calendar at its July 9 meeting, and now they have 62 days from July 9 to render a decision.

The property at the intersection of Arrowhead Lane and Route 347 is currently a golf course. Photo by Andrea Paldy

If approved, the company would construct Heatherwood Golf at Setauket, a 55 and over community with 200 rental housing units, 403 parking stalls and additional garages. Heatherwood also plans to redesign the golf course, reducing it from 18 holes to nine. The property falls in both the Comsewogue and Three Village school districts.

John Gobler, a 48-year homeowner in Heatherwood Village South in South Setauket, attended the July 9 meeting objecting to plans for the new development having only one entryway to exit and enter, which would dump traffic onto Arrowhead Lane. He said the intersection of Arrowhead Lane and Route 347 has been a problem for several years due to the number of cars exiting onto Arrowhead and the timing of lights at the corner, where he has witnessed only four or five cars being able to go through a green light.

He questioned a traffic engineering study by Stonefield Engineering & Design, LLC conducted June 13 of the traffic volume count of cars exiting Arrowhead to Route 347. He said the company found a total of 183 cars during 7 to 9 a.m. and 141 vehicles 4 to 7 p.m. Gobler said he sat at the intersection and monitored traffic for a 20-minute period, 8:55 to 9:15 a.m. three separate days when school wasn’t in session and counted exiting cars from Arrowhead. His average was 89 for the 20-minute intervals, which would be 266 cars during the morning rush hour. He said Stonefield’s count of 183 cars over a two-hour period would mean only 31 cars every 20 minutes.

Frank Filiciotto, a traffic consultant with Stonefield, said there are always spikes in traffic, which could account for Gobler’s observation. He also said the 183 and 141 numbers represent one-hour volumes within the periods of time specified and not the entire time specified. He said the company has been monitoring traffic in the area for four years. One observation of cars entering and exiting nearby Fairfield Knolls North by the company showed a daily total of 218 cars observed during 7 to 9 a.m., 2 to 4 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Stonefield broke the figures down to 60 in the morning period, 80 from 2 to 4 p.m., and 78 during the evening period. The monitored development is 0.65 miles northeast of the proposed apartments and is also age restricted. The company prorated the numbers since Fairfield Knolls has 91 more units than what is proposed for Heatherwood. He said the amount of traffic was similar to what they originally projected and should not negatively impact the area.

“The overpacking of the site with housing, adjacent to a residential neighborhood, and built on an already highly trafficked Route 347 demonstrates poor planning.”

— Herb Mones

“This isn’t assumption,” Filiciotto said. “This isn’t opinions. This is fact. We went out, and we calculated the amount of traffic Fairfield North was generating during peak hours.”

In 2014, Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) sponsored the resolution for a zone change for the property from A Residence 5, which allows one housing unit for every 5 acres, to Planned Retirement Community, which would allow a 55 and over community. On Dec. 16, 2014, the town board approved by a 4-3 vote. Councilwomen Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Connie Kepert (D-Middle Island) as well as Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) dissented. 

The town board placed conditions on its zone change approval, including requiring Heatherwood owner Doug Partrick to donate 40 acres of land to the Manorville Farm Protection Area, removing a billboard at the golf course and constructing a sidewalk on the east side of Arrowhead Lane. Panico’s office confirmed the town accepted the 40 acres of property in 2015 in lieu of the Pine Barrens Credit redemption required under the Planned Retirement Community code.

Development of the golf course has faced opposition from elected officials and local civic associations since it was first presented in 2014. Cartright remains opposed to the project as it stands, according to her legislative aide Jennifer Martin. 

Herb Mones, chair of the Three Village Civic Association’s land use committee, said the civic group opposed the initial zone change for the golf course, and he said many felt it was controversial due to the town board approving it over the objections of Cartright.

“The overpacking of the site with housing, adjacent to a residential neighborhood, and built on an already highly trafficked Route 347 demonstrates poor planning,” he said.

Sal Pitti, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, said the group still stands opposed to the development.

“The community spoke in force back when the project was proposed, and they said we don’t want it,” Pitti said. “The aspect that bothered us the most for the acceptance of the project was that a donation of land went to another council district instead of ours.”

Cutting costs, growing local economy, combatting climate change, modernizing transportation among Romaine’s goals for ‘18

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine at his state of the town address April 3. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is nothing if not confident about the future of the town he oversees.

Brookhaven Town’s leader delivered his annual state of the town address at Town Hall April 3 in which he touted its financial footing while also looking toward the future.

“The state of Brookhaven Town is good and getting better,” Romaine said. “Brookhaven Town, though not perfect, is still a town full of promise and hope. It is up to all of us who live here to help realize that promise.”

“Brookhaven Town, though not perfect, is still a town full of promise and hope. It is up to all of us who live here to help realize that promise.”

—Ed Romaine

Brookhaven has a structurally balanced budget for the current fiscal year that stays within the state mandated tax levy increase cap, in addition to maintaining its AAA bond rating from Standard & Poor’s financial services company. Romaine detailed a few cost-saving measures he said he’d like to accomplish going forward, including more sharing of services amongst other municipalities as a way to streamline government and save taxpayer money.

“Sharing resources and services to reduce the size, scope and cost of government is one of the best ways to control and reduce expenses,” he said, adding the town remains in the running for a shared services grant from New York state that, if selected, would add $20 million to Brookhaven’s effort. “We must continue to closely monitor our capital and operating expenses. Our residents cannot pay more in taxes. Too many Long Islanders are leaving.”

He said growing the local economy through additional jobs was another priority for him and the town going forward. Romaine said he still hopes Brookhaven will be selected as the second national headquarters for Amazon, which he said could bring in about 50,000 jobs to the town. He also praised the work of the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, an arm of municipalities dedicated to funding projects that will stimulate job creation and economic growth.

“The IDA closed on 20 projects that will result in $435 million of private investment and the creation of 4,050 permanent or construction jobs,” the supervisor said. “In addition, the IDA has 13 approved projects that have or are about to close in 2018, with the potential for another $440 million of private investment into our town, creating or retaining another 1,000 jobs.”

Romaine detailed several “green” initiatives already underway or on the horizon in 2018, noting the real threat to Brookhaven posed by climate change and sea level rise.

“With the largest coastline of any town in New York state, the Town of Brookhaven knows full well that global climate change and sea level rise is real and poses significant challenges in the decades ahead.”

— Ed Romaine

“With the largest coastline of any town in New York state, the Town of Brookhaven knows full well that global climate change and sea level rise is real and poses significant challenges in the decades ahead,” he said.

He said the town has adopted a practice of “strategic retreat” from commercial and residential development in low lying areas to allow nature to reclaim wetlands. He called land use and zoning among the most important powers a town government possesses. He also pointed to the imminent closure of Brookhaven’s landfill as a wakeup call in need of attention in the coming years. He said the town is ready to work with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and other towns to formulate a regional plan for solid waste disposal.

The supervisor also made an impassioned call for updates to the Long Island Rail Road, including electrification of the Port Jefferson line east beyond the Huntington station, adding he co-authored a letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority asking for just that with Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R).

“It is time for a better transportation system, one based on 21st century innovation, not 19th century technology,” Romaine said.

Task force inspires local governments to join forces

Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn, Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Laurie Vetere and George Hoffman of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, sign a memorandum of understanding to protect Setauket Harbor Sept. 23. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Cooperation between members of government, especially from differing political parties, is a scarce natural resource these days, but don’t tell that to leaders from Brookhaven Town, Suffolk County and New York State. Setauket Harbor and the surrounding area is set to be the beneficiary of that cooperation, as leaders from each of the three municipalities formed an agreement Sept. 23 aiming to protect the historic and natural resources of the harbor.

“The Parties are committed to conserving, improving, protecting and interpreting Setauket Harbor’s historic and natural resources and environment through preservation of historic sties, wildlife areas and viewsheds to enable appropriate uses of harbor resources,” the agreement read in part. It also stated that preventing, abating and controlling water, land and air pollution will be a part of enhancing the health and safety of the people who live within or visit the Setauket Harbor Watershed.

The agreement is a Memorandum of Understanding, meaning it is not law, but rather a set of guiding principles or a moral commitment to follow in the years ahead.

On Sept. 23, North Shore residents enjoyed Setauket Harbor Day. Photo by Alex Petroski

The cosigners of the document, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station); Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket); state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket); and representatives from the Department of Environmental Conservation and Setauket Harbor Task Force left the agreement open-ended in the hopes that other branches of government and organizations will follow suit. The Setauket Harbor Task Force, a three-year-old community organization dedicated to improving water quality and the marine habitat in the harbor, spearheaded the agreement after finding local levels of government share a common interest in protecting and improving the harbor, though they were working concurrently rather than coordinately in some ways.

The memorandum was signed on a town dock off Shore Road in Setauket as part of the third Setauket Harbor Day, an annual event established by the task force in 2015.

The first mission laid out by the document is to develop a natural and cultural resource inventory of the harbor, which will be a springboard toward creating a management plan designed to achieve the preservation goals of Setauket Harbor and the roughly three-square miles surrounding it, known as the watershed, by acquiring lands within it, preserving historic sites, sharing ideas, engaging in open, ongoing discussions and contributing funds.

“You need to have a starting point and a vision for how all these pieces come together, and I think that’s what’s so great about this designation,” said George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force.

Englebright credited the task force with getting everyone involved and focused on the problems associated with Setauket Harbor, which among others include nitrogen pollution and the presence of coliform bacteria, mostly due to storm water runoff into waterways. The harbor falls within the larger Port Jefferson Harbor Complex, which lets out into the Long Island Sound.

In Sept. 2016, state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) announced he had secured a $1 million grant from the state to be used on enhancing the quality of the harbor’s waters, and the town dock on Shore Road. Englebright thanked Flanagan for his leadership in bringing issues regarding the harbor to light, but a recent annual study completed by Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences still shows the body of water is an area of concern.

“Some of the parcels we’re trying to protect are very vulnerable,” Englebright said. He added although the agreement is only an understanding and not law, he hopes that will change in the future. “What I’m hoping we can do within the context of a completed plan is that we can revisit that question at the state legislative level and write something that may have broad applicability. I think this whole plan has the potential to be a model.”

Romaine said he was excited for the possible benefits to the environment the agreement could bring, but also for the potential economic benefit of a healthier harbor.

On Sept. 23, North Shore residents enjoyed Setauket Harbor Day. Photo by Alex Petroski

“The Harbor has been closed to shell fishing for more than 10 years,” he said. “We’d like to see it open up. We’d like to see some of the contaminants eliminated from this harbor so that it can restore itself. It’s very important to the town. I want to thank Steve because he’s done tremendous work, and we’ve worked together as colleagues for more than 35 years.”

Hahn suggested homes in the watershed could be prime candidates for Suffolk County’s Septic Improvement Program, an initiative that offers funds to homeowners within the county to replace outdated cesspools and septic system, which are major contributors to nitrogen pollution in waterways.

The federal government is not currently on board as part of the agreement, though DEC Regional Director Carrie Meek Gallagher said she expects that to change once a plan is in motion. The significance of the collaboration across party lines and municipality lines in lockstep with a community group like the task force was not lost on Cartright.

“This should be a prime example of how government on all levels should work together with the community,” she said.

Kevin McAllister, the founder of the nonprofit Defend H20, said while the agreement is a positive step, it will be largely symbolic if it is not followed up with action, and more importantly, funding.

“Providing greater funding for a host of projects, land acquisition, more protective zoning, denying shoreline hardening permits — these type actions, individually and collectively will define the resolve as put forth in the MOU,” he said in an email.

Englebright implored members of the public and community groups to not only get on board, but to take the additional step of holding elected officials to the terms of the agreement, including those who come after the incumbent lawmakers.

Local officials weigh in on President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Paris Agreement

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, helped to establish the United States Climate Alliance in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Lawmakers signed a bill protecting the Long Island Sound last year. File photo from Cuomo’s office

By Alex Petroski

U.S. President Donald Trump’s (R) decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a global effort to combat the threat of climate change, elicited strong responses from around the world. One of the more notable reactions came from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who along with the governors of California and Washington State established the United States Climate Alliance. The coalition will convene the three states, and others that have come out in support of the initiative, in committing to uphold the parameters of the Paris Agreement despite Trump’s June 1 announcement. As of June 5 the alliance included 13 members — 12 states and Puerto Rico.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order establishing the United States Climate Alliance. Image from governor’s website

“The White House’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet,” Cuomo said in a statement. “New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change, which is why I am also signing an executive order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment and our planet.”

The Paris Agreement, which officially took effect in November 2016, aimed to strengthen the response to climate change globally by keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius during the current century and also strengthen countries’ ability to deal with the effects of climate change. The U.S. is now one of only three nations on the planet not included in the agreement.

According to Cuomo, the United States Climate Alliance will seek to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels and meet or exceed the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan, each of which were self-imposed U.S. goals of the Paris Agreement. The Clean Power Plan was established in 2015 to establish state-by-state targets for carbon emission reductions. Trump signed an executive order early on in his administration placing a hold on the plan and pledging a review. Cuomo also announced New York State will be investing $1.65 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency in the aftermath of Trump’s decision. In addition he said he aims to create 40,000 clean energy jobs by 2020.

Republican New York State Sens. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) did not respond to requests for comment through spokespersons.

Local officials from across the political spectrum spoke out about Trump’s decision in the aftermath of the announcement.

“We live on an island and have already begun to see some of the effects of our rising seas,” Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in a statement. “To protect Brookhaven for our children and generations to come it is our responsibility to take action now. The president’s announcement today regarding the Paris climate accord is disappointing. On behalf of our residents, I will continue to fight to protect our environment.”

Democrats including 3rd Congressional District U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and others blasted the decision in public statements.

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement is a devastating failure of historic proportions,” Schumer said. “Future generations will look back on President Trump’s decision as one of the worst policy moves made in the 21st century because of the huge damage to our economy, our environment and our geopolitical standing. Pulling out of the Paris Agreement doesn’t put America first, it puts America last in recognizing science, in being a world leader and protecting our own shoreline, our economy and our planet.”

New York State 4th District Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) expressed support for the newly minted climate alliance on Twitter, sharing the hashtag “#LeadNotLeave.”

First Congressional District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said in an emailed statement through a spokeswoman that he supported many of the goals of the Paris Agreement, but thought the U.S. “approached this entire agreement all wrong.” He criticized former President Barack Obama (D), who played a leadership role in establishing the Paris Agreement, for bypassing Congress in reaching the agreement and for what he viewed as outsized pledges made by the U.S. compared to other world powers in the agreement.

“What we need to do moving forward should include continuing to take an international approach to protect clean air and clean water, and reduce emissions that are impacting our climate, but we must negotiate it correctly so that we aren’t over promising, under delivering and causing unnecessary harm,” he said.

Sen. Schumer was among the most forceful opponents of Trump’s decision. File photo by Kevin Redding

During Trump’s June 1 speech announcing the withdrawal, he sited a loss of American jobs in the coal industry and crippling regulations on the business world as the drivers behind his decision.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who was appointed by Trump, praised his decision.

“This is a historic restoration of American Economic Independence — one that will benefit the working class, the working poor, and working people of all stripes,” he said. “With this action, you have declared that people are the rulers of this country once again.”

Administrators from the New York District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, a government agency that offers support to small businesses, were not available to comment on Trump’s decision or the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, but a spokesperson for the department instead directed the request to answers U.S. SBA Administrator Linda McMahon gave to Yahoo Global News June 6. She agreed with Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement, adding she believes this will result in more job opportunities for Americans.

“I think [Trump] was making a statement that we’re going to look at what’s good for America first,” she said. “I do think climate change is real, and I do think that man has some contribution to climate change. As to the extent of the science, predictions as to what might happen 20, 30, 40 years from now, I’m not sure we have that totally decided, but I do respect the science behind a lot of it.”

M-section residents look for support as they battle to keep trees. Photo by Susan Ackerman

Stony Brook residents visited the Brookhaven Town Board meeting last week to register their dismay over the large scale tree removal planned for the Strathmore housing development.

A total of 11 people addressed the issue of tree removal prior to road resurfacing during the public participation portion of the meeting.

The Brookhaven Highway Department has marked trees on several M-section streets.

Several of the speakers at the meeting were residents of the M-section, but others weighing in on the topic were just concerned citizens.

As commenters took to the microphone to express their frustration with the situation, Supervisor Edward Romaine (R) interjected and said he wanted to make it clear that these actions are not the responsibility of the town board.

“I just want to point out one thing,” he said. “The actions with the trees are not the actions of this board. They are the actions of the highway superintendent, who is an independent elected official.”

Community activist MaryAnn Johnston, of Mastic, commented on the highway superintendent’s aggressive paving policy. She said he paid no mind to resident objections in Coram regarding tree removal. “He needs to give communities advance notice — and he needs to follow the state-mandated SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review Act) process,” she said.

“People would rather live with those potholed streets than lose the trees.”

—Robert de Zafra

According to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation website, the act “requires all state and local government agencies to consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors during discretionary decision-making.”

If there is potential for significant adverse environmental impacts, the site further explains, an environmental impact statement is required.

According to the Highway Superintendent’s office, SEQR does not apply in this situation. Based on Section 617.5 (c4), the project is part of an “in place, in kind” replacement of structures. A spokesperson for the office said this is only a repaving planned for an existing road, and no expansion is being made.

Prior to the start of public participation, Deputy Highway Superintendent Steve Tricarico was invited to make a statement. He acknowledged the presence of the M-section residents and said he was there to listen to them.

“I speak on behalf of the superintendent of highways when I state that it is by no means our intention to purposely remove trees or replace concrete that is not necessary,” he said. “In order to resurface these roadways, to mill them and to pave them, certain aspects of the root systems as well as the concrete are causing serious concerns to the department.”

After the outcry from the neighborhood, Tricarico said a letter was sent to affected M-section homeowners, stating that a re-evaluation would be made to determine which trees are absolutely necessary to remove.

Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) asked Tricarico if the superintendent is willing to participate in a community meeting once the reassessment is completed. Tricarico said Losquadro has already met with some of the concerned residents.

“I know the superintendent has been up there personally and has met with a number of residents … has spoken with them, both on and off camera, and will continue to do so moving forward,” Tricarico said.

Cartright said she will schedule a meeting and notify the community so they can be present to hear the department’s findings. The date of that meeting is not yet known.

Three Village Civic Association President Robert de Zafra, who was present to support historical status for a Stony Brook building, said he decided to add his voice to save the trees.

“People would rather live with those potholed streets than lose the trees,” he said. He also thanked Cartright for working to set up the future meeting.

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