11/22/13 4:30pm
11/22/2013 4:30 PM
BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA COURTESY PHOTO  |  Boy Scouts on a rope obstacle course.

BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA COURTESY PHOTO | Boy Scouts on a rope obstacle course.

The new location of the Baiting Hollow Boy Scouts Camp’s proposed COPE course at their 90-acre camp in Baiting Hollow was approved with no opposition at the Riverhead Town Planning Board meeting Thursday.

The COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) obstacle course had met with opposition from neighbors on Silver Beech Lane after it was previously proposed for a location about 100 fee from homes there, on the eastern portion of the camp property, which stretches north from Sound Avenue.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation had initially given its approval to that site, but withdrew its supports due to DEC covenants and restrictions on what could built there and dropped its support.

The reversal came mostly as a result of the opposition from neighbors, who retained a lawyer to fight the plan.

The new location is on the western part of the Boy Scouts camp, and is more than 400 feet away from the nearest homes. The land there also doesn’t have any DEC restrictions, and thus, doesn’t need their approval.

There was no opposition at a public hearing on the new site two weeks ago.

The Planning Board approved the COPE course, which is a series of rope and wire climbing challenges, as well as a new archery pavilion at the site,  by a 3-0 vote, with board members Lou Bochetti and Joe Baier absent.

Camp Director Jim Grimaldi said earlier this year that it will cost the Scouts about $15,000 more to put the course at the new location.

tgannon@timesreview.com

10/27/13 10:00am
10/27/2013 10:00 AM
RACHEL YOUNG | Chris Rowett uses his solar carving technique on a piece of driftwood outside his home in Baiting Hollow.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTOS | Chris Rowett uses his solar carving technique on a piece of driftwood outside his home in Baiting Hollow.

Seated in a patio chair on the back lawn of his Baiting Hollow home on a recent Sunday afternoon, Chris Rowett positioned a two-foot piece of beach driftwood on his lap.

Mr. Rowett finds the wood on local beaches.

Mr. Rowett finds the wood on local beaches.

He held a large magnifying glass a few inches from the wood and waited. In just seconds, the magnified sunlight had burned a dark line onto it.

Mr. Rowett, 31, is a solar carver. Harnessing the sun’s energy, he uses magnifying glasses of varying sizes to burn designs into driftwood he finds at nearby Long Island Sound beaches. He can etch almost anything, but the majority of his pieces feature sayings like “NOFO” and “Long Island, New York.” More detailed pieces incorporate drawings with nautical themes like sailboats, suns and seahorses.

“I’ve always been into art,” Mr. Rowett said. “I used to paint and draw. This is just a different medium for me to use.”

The ease with which he approaches his craft gives him the look of a seasoned professional, but Mr. Rowett, who grew up in Blue Point and works full-time as a physical education and health teacher at Comsewogue Elementary School in Port Jefferson Station, has been solar carving for only two years.

He was at a beach in East Marion one day, he said, when he realized that if he held a magnifying glass over driftwood on a sunny day, it produced a scorching effect.

By manipulating the magnifying glass, Mr. Rowett discovered he could create letters and pictures on the wood.

“I just kind of fell upon it,” he said. “I started playing around with it, making letters, then went off that.”

At first, Mr. Rowett made solar carvings as gifts for friends and family. During the summer and early fall, when the sun is at its hottest, he usually designs three or four pieces a day. A simple design, like “NOFO,” takes just a few minutes, he said. More elaborate pieces take up to an hour.

Now, solar carving is much more than just a hobby for Mr. Rowett. Woodside Orchards in Aquebogue began selling his pieces this year and his work will soon be for sale at East End Getaway, a boutique opening this month at MacArthur Long Island Airport in Islip.

Mr. Rowett recently put the finishing touches on a piece of driftwood with butterfly etchings that he custom-designed for the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center in Riverhead. After he appeared in a feature on News 12, Mr. Rowett was contacted by the aquarium about designing some pieces to be sold at its gift shop.

“His work is very interesting,” said Nadine Ferrara, gift shop assistant manager and assistant buyer at the aquarium. “To do that with a magnifying glass and not have a template or anything is amazing.”

Mr. Rowett said he finds his recent -— and unexpected — recognition exciting.

“Everything is growing,” he said. “It’s hard because I can only make so many pieces, because each piece takes about an hour. When it’s sunny out, I feel like I have to burn. But it’s enjoyable.

“It’s exciting to have a few people appreciate my work.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

08/21/13 12:00pm
08/21/2013 12:00 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A woman who identified herself as the owner of this Baiting Hollow house denied running a dog adoption service there.

The Riverhead Town Board has approved a resolution to take legal action against a Baiting Hollow property that town officials allege is acting as an illegal dog shelter.

The board gave town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz the green light to begin a state Supreme Court civil action against the owners and tenants at 31 Goose Lane. Mr. Kozakiewicz said the building is being used to run an adoption business in violation of town code.

The shelter, called Precious Pups, has been adopting out small rescue dogs, Mr. Kozakiewicz said, though he couldn’t say how many dogs were believed to be inside the house at any given time.

“It was something brought to our attention,” he said. “One neighbor complained about the noise.”

In an interview Wednesday morning, a woman who identified herself as the house’s owner said she was fostering dogs for a shelter in Ronkonkoma, adding that the town never sent her a notice that she had violated the town code.

“Once in a while, maybe, I have one or two [shelter dogs] here,” said the woman, who did not give her name. “I just foster a couple of them. Is it against the law to foster a dog? I mean, some people foster children.”

psquire@timesreview.com

08/19/13 10:00am
08/19/2013 10:00 AM
BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA COURTESY PHOTO | Scouts on a rope obstacle course.

BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA COURTESY PHOTO | Scouts on a rope obstacle course.

Plans for what turned out to be a controversial obstacle course for the Baiting Hollow Boy Scout Camp are heading west.

The Suffolk County Boy Scouts plan to resubmit a new site plan for their 90-acre Baiting Hollow camp that would move a proposed COPE Course to the western part of the property, according to camp director Jim Grimaldi.

A COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) course is a series of rope- and wire-climbing obstacles that exist at Boy Scouts camps throughout the country. The Scouts had proposed locating it on the eastern side of their property earlier this year, but it ran into opposition from residents of nearby Silver Beech Lane, some of whom said the proposed course would be only about 100 feet from their backyards.

At the time, the Scouts argued that because their property was so hilly, that locations was the only place on their property were the COPE course could be located.

But because that proposed site had state Department of Environmental Conservation restrictions as to what could be built there, a DEC official who met with neighbors near the site  in May withdrew that agency’s prior support for the COPE Course, essentially killing the application. The neighbors had expressed concern about the prospect of noise from the course being so close to their homes.

The proposed new location is not restricted by the such restrictions.

“The new COPE course is proposed on a piece of property that owned by the Scouts and is free and clear of covenants,” Mr. Grimaldi said. “It probably will cost us $15,000 more to do so.”

In addition to the COPE course, the Scouts also had proposed, in the same application, a new archery range pavilion on the western part of the property that was not near any homes and had not met with opposition. The new proposed location for the COPE Course is nearer to the archery building, he said.

“It’s probably about 300 feet from the archery building,” he said,

Mr. Grimaldi met with the Riverhead Town Planning Board last Thursday and discussed the plans to resubmit the application with the new location for the COPE Course, and it was agreed that the new submission would also include the COPE Course and the archery pavilion in the same plan. Mr. Grimaldi told the Planning Board he could have a new set of plans submitted to the town by the end of the week.

tgannon@timesreview.com

07/24/13 3:30pm
07/24/2013 3:30 PM
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.

The Riverhead Town attorney’s office now says Councilwoman Jodi Giglio does not have to pay another $1,500 in fees to get a building permit for a second-story addition to her Baiting Hollow home, contradicting an earlier stance taken by the town building department.

The move comes after Ms. Giglio, who’s claiming that “political rivals” in the town dragged out the process when they realized she was getting close to obtaining permits, hired an attorney to investigate the situation.

Over several years, Ms. Giglio and her husband, Mike, had built the second-story addition, a finished basement, an inground pool, a hot tub and a deck. All had gone without certificates of occupancy until recently.

On June 20 of this year, the Giglios were issued COs for the basement, first applied for in 2009, and the pool, first applied for in 1999. But a letter dated June 20 from building inspector Richard Podlas said a Sept. 29, 2009, building permit for the second story had expired in 2010 and the Giglios would have to pay a $1,500 renewal fee before the CO could be issued for that addition. The letter was sent again July 11, according to the town.

Ms. Giglio said last Wednesday that she had not received either copy of the letter. She claimed she had paid the $1,500 building fee in 2009 and should not be required to pay it again. The fee represents a triple fee, a penalty the town previously imposed on applicants who had built structures without a permit.

Complicating matters was an Oct. 20, 2012, letter from Mr. Podlas saying Ms. Giglio owed a $403 permit fee for the pool and a $1,160 fee for the basement. The letter stated that these fees would be added to the Giglios’ “open permit” for the addition, “which Leroy Barnes put hold on, so therefore this permit does not have to be renewed, even though it expired.”

The wording of the letter brought charges from political rivals that Ms. Giglio was being given a waiver.

“It sounds like, from the way that reads, that by putting a hold on it, whatever that means, it allowed her to get a favor that otherwise would be unavailable to the public, and it seems like, although it’s not abundantly clear, it allowed her to avoid having to renew the permit again and pay the fee again,” said Anthony Coates, who is challenging Ms. Giglio in a Republican primary this September.

Supervisor Sean Walter, who also originally thought the letter from Mr. Podlas meant the fee was being waived, said Friday that the entire Giglio building permit file was being turned over to the town attorney’s office. On Tuesday, he said he wasn’t commenting on the case anymore.

“It’s up to the town attorney’s office,” Mr. Walter said.

Mr. Barnes, the former building department coordinator referred to in the October 2012 letter, said on Friday that he had held up all other permits until a building permit was obtained for the basement. He pointed out another 2009 letter in the file, on which he had written by hand, “On hold. Finished basement no permit.”

Deputy town attorney Bill Duffy said Tuesday that he is recommending the building department not require the $1,500 fee because the Giglios paid it in 2009 and the town “never released the permit, so you can’t claim it expired.”

Ms. Giglio charged on Tuesday that politics were involved in her not getting the permits, citing Mr. Walter’s claim that “Giglio’s toast,” made at a fundraiser for Mr. Coates.

“This is dirty politics and has been dragged out for political purposes,” she said in a statement to the News-Review. “When my political rivals realized I was closing out the matter with the building department, things were suddenly held up in the building department and additional things were requested.”

When asked for comment Tuesday, Mr. Walter laughed but declined comment on that claim.

However, Mr. Coates, when asked for comment, said the issue arose long before this year.

“This issue has gone on for 14 years,” he said. “She arranged for tax abatements, permits and everything else for the Summerwind project [of which she is an owner] during this same time and ignored her personal property until I asked a question. She likes to blame other people for her problems. She’s blamed her husband, me, the supervisor, the media, her attorney, her architect and the building department, when the fault lies directly with her. None of this exonerates her from 14 years of willful neglect in a tax avoidance scam.”

The additions to the home, except for the pool, were not reflected in the town’s tax assessment records from 2003 to 2013, meaning that the Giglios were not taxed on the improvements. Ms. Giglio has said she will pay the taxes due on those improvements.

Ms. Giglio also questioned how Mr. Coates had obtained so much information about her building permits since he had never filed a Freedom of Information request with the town to see the file.

Mr. Coates said he has never seen the file and had only asked questions of Republican leaders in response to rumors that the building permits were lacking.

“And all of a sudden a chain of events began,” he said.

“I raised the issue and, boy, did they step over themselves trying to cover up the situation,” he said. “I haven’t said a word about what’s in the file. I’ve reacted to her statements and to what’s been in the press.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

07/07/13 12:00pm
07/07/2013 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The 110-year-old Baitting Hollow Library holds 6,000 books.

There’s no doubt you have to keep your eyes peeled if you’re looking for Baiting Hollow Library.

Located on Sound Avenue, nestled between a residence and a side road, it appears to anyone passing by to be an extremely small house. But in reality, it’s an extremely small public library.

Though it does not boast the large number of books, services, programs or staff members you’ll find at most local libraries, it’s rich with character and history.

The Baiting Hollow Library, painted light gray with burgundy shutters, consists of just one room. A narrow walkway leads from the door to the road and a sign on the front lawn gives the library’s name, along with its days and hours: Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The library hasn’t always been in this location, however. In fact, it’s moved around quite a lot throughout its long history.

Current librarian Charlotte Jacques is an expert on the subject.

Full bookshelves line all four walls of the room, and Ms. Jacques usually sits in the middle, at a large table entirely covered with towering stacks of books.

As she told the library’s story, she leaned back in her chair and smiled over an old scrapbook of aging photos and yellowing newspaper articles.

According to Ms. Jacques, it all began in the year 1903.

At the time, there was a club for parishioners of Baiting Hollow Congregational Church called the Philomathean Club, named for a Greek word meaning “lover of learning.”

The club hosted a series of winter lectures that year and used the admission money to launch the Baiting Hollow Free Library, since there wasn’t a library in the community.

The first location of the library was in the parsonage, where the minister of the church lives, and the first librarian was the wife of the Rev. Frank Voorhes.

Eventually, the library outgrew that location and moved to a portion of the Baiting Hollow post office, now the Calverton post office, where it was run by two sisters who served as postmistresses. After the post office, the library moved to the home of Goldsmith Wells, Ms. Jacques’ great-grandfather, where it was operated by his daughter Sarah. After that, it returned to its original location at the rear of the Congregational church. Today, that space is occupied by two bathrooms.

In 1941, the local Warner family donated a plot of land, so long as the spot remained a library. In a community effort, the Talmage family provided a house that was on their farm to serve as the library building. A foundation was poured and the house was moved from the farm to the designated site, where the library has been ever since.

Ms. Jacques, who has been librarian there for the past 11 years, grew up with the family-run library.

“It was a hobby at first,” she said of spending time there, “since I was about 6.”

She started working there by filling in for her cousin on and off over the years, and eventually she took over.

“I like picking out the books — that’s my favorite part,” Ms. Jacques said. “And I get to see all of the regulars from the neighborhood.”

One such regular is Nathaniel Talmage Jr. Although he says the main reason he goes to Baiting Hollow Library is because of its convenience, he has an undeniable family connection.

“It’s convenient for me and I can be in and out in two minutes,” Mr. Talmage said. “Also, I grew up with it.

“In the past 15 years I’ve become much more interested in reading books and going to the library. And it does have that family history.”

The library holds 6,000 books, which Ms. Jacques knows readily since she has to count them every January. Five visitors mark a busy day for the library and patrons sign a check-out card the “old-fashioned way,” since there aren’t any Baiting Hollow Library cards — or any computers.

Most books on the library shelves are written by modern authors. Ms. Jacques picks out what she thinks people will be interested in reading from a catalogue or buys them at BJ’s. As for herself, the librarian loves mystery novels and has read all of Sue Grafton’s books.

The library’s modest annual budget of about $11,000 covers Ms. Jacques’ salary, building maintenance and book purchases. She says she buys about 200 new titles each year.

If you find yourself riding along Sound Avenue, don’t let the size of Baiting Hollow Library deter you from stopping in for a lesson in local history. Talk to Ms. Jacques to hear more of the interesting story of the 110-year-old library — or just let the book-lined walls speak for themselves.

intern@timesreview.com

05/26/13 12:43pm
05/26/2013 12:43 PM

KERI NAJDZION COURTESY PHOTO | Ashley Yakaboski of Baiting Hollow has been selected Miss Polish Town USA 2013.

Ashley Yakaboski of Baiting Hollow has been selected Miss Polish Town USA for 2013. Miss Polish Town leads the parade and ceremonies at the Polish Town Fair in August.

First runner up was Anna Klimczuk of Mattituck and second runner up was Tiffany Russo of Hicksville.

KERI NAJDZION COURTESY PHOTO | First runner up was Anna Klimczuk of Mattituck and second runner up was Tiffany Russ of Hicksville.

05/16/13 12:00pm
05/16/2013 12:00 PM

BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA COURTESY PHOTO | Scouts on a rope obstacle course.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has withdrawn its support for a controversial COPE obstacle course proposed for a wooded area of the Baiting Hollow Boy Scout Camp, potentially limiting the project’s chances of gaining approval from the Riverhead Town Planning Board.

“DEC determined the plan for the camp did not meet the [1981] conservation easement’s requirement that no further development could occur on the land,” said DEC spokesperson Aphrodite Montalvo. “As the conservation easement states, ‘No buildings, residences, mobile homes or other structures … shall be constructed … on the Protected Property …”

A COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) course is a series of rope- and wire-climbing obstacles that exist at Boy Scouts camps throughout the country. But the proposed location of the Baiting Hollow course is about 100 feet from the backyards of some neighbors on Silver Beech Lane, who have rallied to oppose the plans.

Baiting Hollow camp director Jim Grimaldi described the proposed course as requiring the installation of a dozen 35-foot telephone poles on camp property east of Fresh Pond. A variety of climbing exercises will be hung from wires between the poles, including a zip line, a cargo net, a Burma bridge, a balance beam and other climbing apparatus.

The Scouts have said the proposed location is the only place the course can be built on the 90-acre Baiting Hollow property because the rest of the land is too hilly.

The DEC’s withdrawal of its support came after some Baiting Hollow residents who live near the proposed course met Saturday with the DEC official who ruled last year that a COPE course was “in keeping with the spirit and intent of the conservation easement” the DEC applied to the property in 1981 after paying the Suffolk Boy Scouts $127,000.

That land remains under the ownership of the Suffolk Boy Scouts, but the easement puts restrictions on what can be built on it in order to preserve the land.

Heather Amster, the DEC’s regional real property supervisor, who wrote a letter of support for the COPE course on May 11, 2012, met with residents Saturday at the home of Bob and Mary Oleksiak, who live closest to the proposed COPE course. The Oleksiaks’ attorney, former Riverhead Town supervisor Phil Cardinale, was also present.

Ms. Amster’s 2012 letter, written to Mr. Grimaldi, read that “Natural Resources staff have reviewed the design plans and purpose of the rope course and have determined there will be little to no impact to the protected property, and that the course itself is in keeping with the spirit and intent of the conservation easement.”

Mr. Cardinale wrote to DEC regional director Peter Scully on May 10, emphasizing that “the public paid a considerable sum for this conservation easement. The public has a right to expect the conservation easement they paid for will be enforced. If the State of New York, via the DEC, elects to waive any of the conservation protections the public paid for, that waiver must, as required by law, be made publicly and placed on the public record of the Suffolk County Clerk’s office.”

The easement’s stated intent is to “preserve perpetually the protected property in its natural, scenic, open space and wooded condition,” Mr. Cardinale stressed in his letter, saying this intent “would be violated” by the construction of the COPE course.

Mr. Cardinale said he made these same points in the meeting Saturday.

On Monday, Ms. Amster sent a new letter to Dirk Smith, the Scout Executive of the Suffolk County Boy Scouts, and copied Riverhead Town.

“The department finds it necessary to withdraw its approval for the placement of a COPE course on lands under conservation easement to the [DEC] at the Baiting Hollow Boy Scout Camp,” her letter reads.

Ms. Amster wrote that the “new information” received by DEC officials “demonstrates that the project’s purpose and scope are more significant than previously indicated. Of particular concern are the scenic impacts the project would have and the potential utilization of the course by non-scouting organizations for a fee, neither of which is consistent with the conservation easement.”

Mr. Grimaldi said on Tuesday that he had not read Ms. Amster’s letter and could not comment.

John Roe, the Scouts’ attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr. Cardinale said he believes the COPE course cannot be built without the DEC’s approval.

Bill Duffy, the attorney for the town Planning Board, which has held two public hearings on the application, said the town has received the DEC’s letter and town officials are discussing whether the course could be permitted without its support.

The Planning Board has yet to issue a decision on the COPE course, and has another meeting scheduled for today, Thursday, May 16, at 3 p.m.

“We had just found out about the covenants last week and we’re happy that DEC was nice enough to come out and visit with us,” Mr. Oleksiak said. “We’re very happy to find out we did have some say in the matter.”

tgannon@timesreview.com