02/26/14 3:24pm
02/26/2014 3:24 PM
Deer on Deep Hole Drive in Mattituck. (Lynette Dallas courtesy file photo)

Deer on Deep Hole Drive in Mattituck. (Lynette Dallas courtesy file photo)

A state Supreme Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Southold Town that sought to prevent a plan to use hired federal hunters to trim the number of deer within town lines. On Wednesday, Judge Gerard Asher determined the suit, which protested the town’s decision to contribute $25,000 to the Long Island Farm Bureau to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s sharpshooter program, to be without merit.  (more…)

11/25/13 10:00am
11/25/2013 10:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Southold Supervisor Scott Russell addresses the crowd at Saturday's deer management meeting in Orient.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Southold Supervisor Scott Russell addresses the crowd at Saturday’s deer management meeting in Orient.

A sharpshooting program is in the works to cull the North Fork’s rising deer population, town officials and volunteers said at a deer management forum in Orient Saturday morning.

Don Stewart with the North Fork Deer Management Alliance volunteer group said he is hopeful the program — which uses teams of skilled marksmen to eliminate dozens of deer at a time — will begin next month.

The sharp shooter program is run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services department, and will be paid for in part by a $200,000 grant secured by the Long Island Farm Bureau. The five East End Towns will have an opportunity to pay their own funds into the program, Mr. Stewart said.

About 50 people attended the forum held at Poquatuck Hall in Orient, the second Town meeting on deer control this fall after more than 200 people crowded into a forum in Peconic in September.

By aggressively cutting down the deer population, Mr. Stewart said, the North Fork will see less environmental damage from deer grazing, fewer tick-borne illnesses and will reduce deer-related car accidents.

While hunting by locals is a valuable part of deer management, it would not cause the “radical reduction” necessary on its own to bring the deer to manageable levels, Mr. Stewart said.

Other so-called humane approaches, like sterilization or contraception techniques, are more complex than they seem and would not do enough to limit the deer population, he added.

“At best its only going to keep an unacceptably high level of deer from expanding further,” Mr. Stewart said. “You’re not going to bring these levels down to where you need it.”

Having sharpshooters pick off dozens of deer seems cruel, he said, but it’s better than having hunters who might miss their shots do the bulk of the culling.

“You [won't] have animals that are wounded walking around the countryside,” he said.

The Town of Southold has taken steps to make it easier for hunters to tag deer, like waiving fees on carcasses and opening up town land to hunters. But town officials said private land owners need to open up their properties to hunters. Otherwise the deer will simply move to safer areas and continue to reproduce.

Supervisor Scott Russell had said state regulations on hunting have limited the town’s efforts so far. Hunters are not allowed to hunt within 500 feet of structures, including sheds.

Mr. Russell said the law is designed for rural areas like upstate New York, but doesn’t account for the denser population on the North Fork.

Speaker Sherry Thomas said the deer population will reach catastrophic levels soon if proactive steps are not taken. While deer management officials say there should be no more than 15 deer per square mile, the North Fork has about 65 per square mile, she said.

If nothing is done to stop the deer population explosion, there could be an estimated 400 deer per square mile in the next 10 years, Ms. Thomas said.

“It’s only going to go from unsustainable to disastrous,” she said.

psquire@timesreview.com

02/12/13 8:00am
02/12/2013 8:00 AM

When Town & Country listed the Soundview Inn on Route 48 in Greenport late last year, it definitely caught the eye of Suffolk Times readers and North Fork real estate professionals.

It’s hard for the curious real estate browser not to notice phrases like “5.5-acre waterfront resort on Long Island Sound” and “first time on market.”

Then, of course, there were all the zeroes in the asking price of $13,900,000.

While the family that has owned the iconic Greenport landmark for the past 45 years called the listing “an exploratory move,” they certainly have everyone’s attention. Two questions asked frequently since The Suffolk Times first reported on the listing are, just how much is the property worth and exactly what is the state of the commercial market in Southold Town?

“[$13.9 million] might be a record,” said Thomas McCarthy of the Southold real estate company that bears his name. “It’s certainly an ambitious asking price, but I hope they get it.”

A sale at such a number could be a significant boon for a commercial market that already appeared to be on the upswing in 2012. After just seven commercial buildings sold in Southold Town in 2011, according to MLS records provided by Mr. McCarthy, a dozen such properties sold here last year.

Not only did the number of transfers grow, the average sales price increased by nearly $300,000 in 2012 from the previous year. That’s due largely to the number of million-dollar transactions that occurred last year. After the commercial market in Southold Town topped out with the $795,000 sale of the Orient Country Store (bottom left in photo above) in 2011, four properties sold for more than $1 million in 2012.

Mr. McCarthy said he sees two reasons for the 2012 increases in sales volume and prices: a willingness among banks to lend more and sellers’ dropping their asking prices to more realistic numbers, trends that together allowed for more high-price transfers.

“Banks are less afraid to lend,” he said. “And some of those transactions involved properties where the seller really needed to sell. They couldn’t wait for it to sell at their original asking price.”

Of the 12 commercial properties that changed hands in 2012, six spent more than seven months on the market, including two that were listed for more than two years. Captain Marty’s Fishing Station in New Suffolk was on the market for 756 days before finally selling at $790,000, 17 percent less than the original asking price of $950,000. By comparison, only one commercial property sold in 2011 was listed for longer than seven months. This was an office space along Main Road in Cutchogue, which went for $562,000 after two years on the market.

No commercial building has sold for more in the past two years than the former Lucas Ford building in Peconic (bottom right in photo above), which was purchased by Greenport Harbor Brewing Company last spring for $1.4 million. The Greenport Village microbrewery plans to expand this year to its second location, which will feature a 25,000-barrel brew house system as well as a tasting room with indoor and outdoor seating.

Lucas Ford, which now operates exclusively on Horton Lane in Southold, had closed its Peconic showroom and initially listed the property at $1.8 million 10 months before the transfer, according to MLS. The closing price reflected a 22 percent drop from the original asking price.

Two other properties that sold for over $1 million last year dropped their prices by more than $300,000 before closing: the former Chowder Pot Pub in Greenport, which sold for $1.275 million after four months on the market, and the brick-paved shopping plaza at 120-122 Front Street, which was listed for nearly eight months before being purchased for $1.3 million.

The Arcade Department Store in Greenport is the only other commercial sale in Southold Town to pierce the million-dollar mark in the past two years, according to MLS, fetching its initial asking price of $1.2 million after just 26 days on the market in 2012.

While four properties selling for more than $1 million in one year marks progress in the Southold Town commercial market, no transaction in the past two years compares in price to the Soundview listing.

Similar waterfront listings nearby, such as the Ram’s Head Inn on Shelter Island, which entered the market for $15 million in 2009, have not sold.

But Rachel Murphy, who operates the Soundview Inn (top right in photo above) with her sister, Ellen Wiederlight, said the listing is merely an attempt to measure the market for such a property.

“Everything is for sale, but the family is testing the waters,” Ms. Murphy said. “I’m operating the restaurant like I’m going to be here for another 20 years.”

Ms. Murphy’s father, Jack Levin, 104, built the Soundview business up from the small beachfront concession stand named Jack’s Shack he operated at Southold Town Beach. In 1953, Mr. Levin purchased the Sound Shore Motel adjacent to the SoundView Restaurant, built in 1949. He acquired the restaurant in 1968. The property now includes the 45-room motel and the restaurant and catering facility, as well as an adjacent 10-unit apartment building.

While Town & Country listed the property in The Suffolk Times in August, it later pulled all local advertising at the suggestion of the seller. However, the listing still appears on Town & Country’s website. Hal Zwick, the agent on the listing, declined comment for this story.

The full market value of the Soundview property, assessed at $100,900, is estimated by the town to be $8,773,900, a number that does not factor in the value of the actual businesses there.

Southold Town assessor Kevin Webster said the Soundview is unique among local business properties in that it features 1,345 feet along Long Island Sound. Mr. Webster said he can’t think of another commercial property anywhere in town with near that footage.

Both Mr. Webster and Mr. McCarthy said the only property on the market in recent years anywhere near comparable to the Soundview would be the former Santorini Beachcomber Resort in Cutchogue (top left in photo above). But while that property is 17.4 acres compared to the Soundview’s 5.5, only 534 feet are on the Sound.

The local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers purchased the Beachcomber for $12.65 million in January 2008, months before the market collapsed. The IBEW now runs that property as a private training facility.

The IBEW property has an annual tax bill of just under $148,000, compared with the $116,000 the Soundview pays.

gparpan@timesreview.com

With Gianna Volpe and Tim Kelly

09/19/12 5:00pm
09/19/2012 5:00 PM

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of Plum Island.

The federal government’s long-awaited meeting on the future of Plum Island will be held mid-October, not late September as had originally been planned.

The U.S. General Services Administration, which recently prepared an environmental impact statement for the sale of the island, had planned to hold the meeting at Greenport High School Sept. 27 but has rescheduled it to Oct. 18. The original meeting date conflicted with Yom Kippur, Sept. 26, according to GSA representative Patrick Sciafani.

The meeting, which will be in the Greenport High School auditorium, will begin at 6 p.m., though the doors will open and GSA representatives will be on-hand beginning at 5 p.m.

The environmental impact statement is available online at plumislandny.com/DraftEIS.aspx.

The document explores several options for the island, including both a potential low-density and a high-density residential use; adapting and reusing the USDA’s animal disease laboratory on the island; mothballing the lab and not selling the island; and a conservation and preservation option.

Southold Town plans to zone the island this fall, which could limit potential future uses of the 840 acres.

Although Congress has not approved funding, plans have been introduced to replace the Plum Island lab with a new animal disease research center in Manhattan, Kan.

Written comments on the environmental impact statement will be accepted by GSA until Oct. 26, addressed to Phil Youngberg c/o John Dugan, GSA, 10 Causeway Street, Room 925, Boston, MA 02222, or by email at phil.youngberg@gsa.gov or john.dugan@gsa.gov.

byoung@timesreview.com

01/06/12 12:30pm
01/06/2012 12:30 PM

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | John Romanelli in a photo from Election Day in 2003.

Tuesday’s Town Board meeting agenda was full of the usual first-meeting-of-the-year business, with one exception.

Like others throughout the community, town officials were in shock over the death of former councilman John Romanelli, who died early Tuesday morning four days after suffering extensive burns during an accident at his Southold fuel oil business. He was 47.

“I’m shocked and sad. John’s an old friend,” said Supervisor Scott Russell, who was only 17 when he first met Mr. Romanelli. “We’d heard that he was doing better.”

He added, “He gave his heart and soul to Southold Town. Even when you disagreed with him it was impossible to be mad at him. I mourn his loss.”

Councilman Bill Ruland pondered how quickly an ordinary day in someone’s life can take a tragic turn.

“Life hangs by a thread,” he said. “It really does.”

Mr. Romanelli was using a torch to thaw a frozen pipe at his business, Burt’s Reliable on Youngs Avenue in Southold, as a truckload of biofuel, a mixture of petroleum and plant-based oil, was being pumped into a tank. When a crack opened in the line, about 20 gallons of fuel sprayed out and were ignited by the torch. Mr. Romanelli was engulfed in a flash fire and suffered extensive burns to the front of his body.

He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center and placed in intensive care in its burn unit, where he died at about 3:20 a.m. Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, John’s injuries were far too extensive despite the incredible efforts of the doctors and nurses of Stony Brook University Hospital and John’s fearless battle to survive,” his brother, Paul Romanelli, said in a statement Tuesday morning.
“People will ask why for a long time,” Mr. Ruland added. “Sometimes there’s no answer.”

Mr. Romanelli is survived by his wife, Heather; his two children, Ethan and Tara; his parents; and brothers Paul, of Cutchogue, the owner of Suffolk Security, and Martin.

Visiting hours were held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday and will continue from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at Coster-Heppner Funeral Home on Main Road in Cutchogue. A service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Southold, with Pastor Peter Kelley officiating. Interment will be private.

The family asks that donations be made to Eastern Long Island Hospital or the Stony Brook University Medical Center burn unit.
A native of Farmingdale, Mr. Romanelli graduated from high school there in 1982. While in high school he earned Eagle Scout honors, the Boy Scouts’ highest rank.

He attended York College in Pennsylvania but left to work for his family’s plumbing and heating business. After years of summering in Mattituck, he became a full-time Southold resident in 1988. That year he became the owner of Burt’s Reliable.

The Suffolk Times named Mr. Romanelli its business person of the year for 2008. He earned praise for stepping forward to help provide new heating and air conditioning at the now restored Brecknock Hall mansion at Peconic Landing in Greenport.

“The price we paid him — it’s almost embarrassing,” said former councilwoman Alice Hussie, who served on the Town Board with Mr. Romanelli. She took on the Brecknock Hall project as she left office. “He was always a giver, never a taker,” Ms. Hussie added.

He also came to the aid of Greenport’s American Legion post in 2001 when the building’s boiler went and he kept the heat going at far below market price.

Bob Ghosio, a town Trustee and manager of Burt’s Reliable, called Mr. Romanelli “my best friend and confidant. He was a brilliant businessman and a visionary in our industry. John’s million-dollar smile and caring nature is renowned in our community, and his charity and love for all people will be missed more than words can portray.”

Mr. Romanelli was elected to the Town Board in 1997 and served two four-year terms. His political career came to an end with his 2003 loss to then-incumbent supervisor Josh Horton.

Before running for supervisor, Mr. Romanelli became an outspoken proponent of moving to five-acre zoning. Most of Southold’s open lands, including much of the agricultural core, is covered by two-acre zoning.

During a 2003 campaign debate shortly before Election Day, Mr. Romanelli pointed to the changes along Riverhead’s Route 58 as evidence of the continuing eastward push of suburbia.

“The overdevelopment that has taken over Long Island is now at our doorsteps and we must act now,” he said.

But Mr. Romanelli’s plan enjoyed little if any support within the agricultural community and divided his Republican Party. Leading the Democratic ticket, Mr. Horton easily won a second term.

Mr. Horton remembered Mr. Romanelli as possessing “a pioneer’s spirit that was rich with compassion, kindness, guts and character. He had an open mind, an enormous heart and he saw the world through his own colorful lens.”

Mr. Horton added, “He viewed challenges as opportunities to grow, the needs of others as his own to take on and happiness as not something to strive for but rather a way of consistently being through good times and bad. I am proud to have served in public office with him, but more importantly I am blessed to have had John as a friend.”

Leslie Weisman, chair of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, described Mr. Romanelli as a generous, community-spirited man with a great sense of humor.

“His death is a great loss to community,” she said. Mr. Romanelli was equally generous with his public service, she added, serving with her on the Southold Hamlet Stakeholders committee. He was also caring of his customers, to whom he often extended credit, she said.

tkelly@timesreview.com

11/14/11 6:08pm
11/14/2011 6:08 PM

BETH YOUNG FILE PHOTO | The Southold Town Planning Board voted to allow the Mattituck 7-Eleven to open before the state DOT does required road work at its meeting Monday..

The new Mattituck 7-Eleven could be open by Thanksgiving, after the Southold Planning Board unanimously approved amendments to the project’s site plan Monday night.

The convenience store had initially been scheduled to open earlier this fall, but the property’s owners and the franchisee who will run the store discovered in mid-October that work that had been slated to be done by the state Department of Transportation as a condition of the site plan approval had not been scheduled to be done until next spring.

That work includes the removal of a telephone pole at the corner of Factory Avenue and Route 25, and pushing back the curb at that corner to allow vehicles with wide turning radiuses to make the turn at that intersection.

Franchisee Tony Cocheo, who runs the Southold 7-Eleven and was chosen this summer to run the Mattituck store, had hired eight employees and was training them at his Southold store when he discovered the Mattituck 7-Eleven might not be able to open until spring. He’s spent the past month pleading with the Planning Board to allow him to open sooner. Otherwise, he said, he would need to lay off workers and would have to pay rent on the property through the winter months without being able to open for business.

Southold Planning Director Heather Lanza said Monday night that her office was in touch Monday with DOT officials, who assured her they would do their work by the spring.

“They were very helpful,” she said. “We’re confident the DOT is on the ball and ready to roll.”

“Our staff is willing to go down and do their inspection as soon as they can,” Planning Board member Don Wilcenski told Mr. Cocheo after the meeting.

The Planning Board’s approval Monday requires that 7-Eleven put up a performance bond equal to the cost of the work if the DOT does not begin work before May 1, 2012.

7-Eleven employee Casandre Wilcox, whom Mr. Cocheo hired to work in the Mattituck store, sat patiently with her baby through more than three hours of Planning Board hearings to listen to the decision.

“I’m psyched,” she said afterward.

7-Eleven’s attorney, Patricia Moore, said her clients need to take care of a few small items on their site plan before the final inspection, including removing a broken tree limb behind the store that broke off in a recent storm, repairing some striping in the parking lot that was covered when the Suffolk County Water Authority did some work there, and placing a light in front of the store to illuminate the 7-Eleven sign.

Mr. Cocheo said he hopes the store will be open by Thanksgiving.

byoung@timesreview.com

11/01/11 8:37am
11/01/2011 8:37 AM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | The Southold Town Planning Board could vote on allowing the Mattituck 7-Eleven to open before the state DOT does required road work at a Nov. 14 meeting.

After some harsh words for the developers of the Mattituck 7-Eleven site, Southold Town Planning Board members seemed poised to allow them to open for business after a work session Monday night.

The board will likely vote on the matter in two weeks.

The convenience store was slated to open in early November, but the state Department of Transportation was to remove a telephone pole and do some road improvement work at the intersection of Factory Avenue and Route 25 before the opening.

7-Eleven representatives found out just recently that the DOT has not scheduled to do the work until spring.

The developers approached the Planning Board two weeks ago asking for help, but were only able to speak briefly because they were not on the agenda.

Chairman Martin Sidor told 7-Eleven attorney Patricia Moore this Monday that he took issue with her insinuation two weeks ago that the board was anti-business.

“As much as I respect you, Pat, for what you do for your clients, this one I’m going to give you some pushback about us being anti-business and all that garbage,” he said. “I do understand the business of it. There are situations on my farm where I need to do my homework. If I need parts, I need to know they’re there. Everyone knew up front what was expected. You came to us at the 11th hour and said ‘We need help.’”

“Sometimes I have to put money up front for something that I don’t need to keep the operation flowing and not have a stop or a hiccup,” he added.

Ms. Moore and 7-Eleven representatives, including property owner George Abi Zeid and franchisee Tony Cocheo, who runs the Southold 7-Eleven and will also run the Mattituck store, told the board that contractors building the store did not receive a work permit from the DOT until September, and could not begin to schedule that road work until they had the permit in hand.

Planning Board members were skeptical.

“George, do you have other commercial properties? Anybody who does any commercial work, one of the first priorities is to get utilities and DOT out of the way because they can hold up the process,” said Planning Board member Don Wilcenski.

Ms. Moore said they had believed until recently that the DOT would do the work this fall.

“Yeah, it would be nice if we had a crystal ball that could have anticipated that,” she said, adding that there’s very little time left this year that the DOT could do the work if it was rescheduled for earlier, because asphalt plants close when the temperature dips below freezing.

Mr. Abi Zeid said he’d recently received a clear letter from the DOT stating there were no issues with going ahead with the work, only to find out it had not been budgeted until the spring.

“None of us anticipated the DOT would delay the project,” he said. “We don’t know, maybe DOT has other priorities.”

Though many residents decried the 7-Eleven when it was originally proposed, citing traffic concerns, the developers said Monday that they believe the store will be safe if it opens now without the road work done.

Mr. Abi Zeid said he gave the small portion of the corner of his property where the telephone pole stands to the state in order to make it easier for trucks to negotiate the turn, not to make the intersection safer for the general public.

Mr. Abi Zeid said that, once the property is ready to open, he will turn it over to Mr. Cocheo, who will pay rent regardless of whether the store can open.

Mr. Cocheo, who is the president of the Southold Business Alliance, said he paid $100,000 up front to become the franchisee at the Mattituck store, and he has been training eight employees in his Southold store until they can begin work in Mattituck. He said he will likely now have to lay off those workers.

“From the standpoint of a local businessman who lives in the community … what I’m asking for is help from all of you, not for me to have the hardship of waiting months,” he said. “7-Eleven tells me I run the cleanest store with the highest standards in Suffolk County. I’m gonna have to lay off employees. This is a tremendous financial problem for us. None of us seem to have any control over the DOT.”

Mr. Sidor said his board has been made out to be the bad guys by community members who oppose the convenience store, and he believes the Planning Board will be demonized if they allow the store to open without the road work being done.

“We’re in a dilemma right now and I don’t feel like it’s our fault,” he said. “I’ve done all due diligence here but we still have the dilemma of how do we enforce our site plan?”

Planners asked the developers to provide information from the DOT and from their traffic study proving that the lack of work on the road won’t pose a safety hazard, and agreed to schedule the final site inspection of the property before they vote on allowing the store to open at their Nov. 14 meeting.

byoung@timesreview.com

10/08/11 8:00am
10/08/2011 8:00 AM

A new study from a Manhattan-based environmental advocacy group suggests East End towns need to become more proactive with preservation efforts if natural resources are to survive here, but both North Fork town supervisors say their towns are already taking the necessary steps.

The New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund released its new “green check list” on Monday, insisting federal efforts to protect the environment are failing and local municipalities will need to pick up the slack.

The study, called “NYLCVEF’s Blueprint for a Greener East End,” focuses on five policy issues: smart growth; sustainable agriculture; water quality and aquifer protection; energy efficiency and renewables; and natural resource protection, such as banning the use of non-organic pesticides and fertilizers in sensitive aquifer recharge areas and near surface waters.

“The federal government can’t seem to get its act together on climate change and clean energy, but that doesn’t mean the East End should wait,” the group’s presiden, Marcia Bystryn, said in a press release. “Our ‘Blueprint for a Greener East End’ creates a framework that will lead to a more sustainable future for the East End, while also protecting its economy and high quality of life.”

In the study’s introduction, Ms. Bystryn writes that East End population growth has often been “poorly managed and not well integrated with transportation options,” and rising costs have made it difficult to preserve farmland and open space. Though Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said reduced real estate prices have actually helped towns purchase more open space in recent years.

The study also recommends local municipalities take measures to ensure farmers have access to protected farmland at affordable prices, and suggests towns and villages should enhance agricultural districts and offer farmers incentives in order for them to continue to use their land for agriculture.

The study also notes that towns and villages should implement a transfer of development rights program in order to move potential development away from environmentally sensitive areas and to redirect high density into downtown areas or commercial corridors.

Under a transfer of development rights program, residents that own farmland or open space could sell their development rights in the form of credits. Developers could then purchase those credits to add additional units to other building projects.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said while the town already has a transfer of development rights program, it hasn’t been utilized much.

“It stalled because of the economy,” he said. “That’s the main driver.”

But over the past decade Mr. Walter said Riverhead has “done its part in land preservation” by purchasing over 2,000 acres of open space.

“We’ve done the hard work,” he said. “When the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund was thinking about it, we were we’re actually doing it.”

In addition to protecting the East End through preservation efforts, the study recommends local municipalities secure funding for septic upgrades, replacement of faulty septic systems and alternative septic management initiatives. Mr. Russell and Mr. Walter both said they are working with Suffolk County on those issues.

Both North Fork supervisors said they believe their towns are doing all the right things in regards to the environment.

“Right now, if we stay the course, we’ll achieve what [New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund] is looking for,” Mr. Russell said.

For more information about the study, visit nylcvef.org.

jennifer@timesreview.com

 

NYLCVEF’s Blueprint for a Greener East End