08/12/14 10:21am
08/12/2014 10:21 AM
Teresa McCaskie, of Mattituck, called for the shut down of East Hampton airport if a solution to noise couldn't be reached. (Jennifer Gustavson photo)

Mattituck resident Teresa McCaskie talking with an FAA representative at Monday night’s meeting. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

Frustrated by years of incessant helicopter flights over their homes and summer homes, more than 200 citizens showed up at a forum Monday night in Southold to demand real solutions to what’s become a huge problem in the otherwise quiet hamlets that dot the North Fork: noise pollution.  (more…)

02/27/14 3:24pm
02/27/2014 3:24 PM
Carpenter Rem Stabas (left) and contractor Tom Gabrielsen working in the kitchen of a Peconic home where they did a complete remodel, gutted all the walls and built two additions. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Carpenter Rem Stabas (left) and contractor Tom Gabrielsen working in the kitchen of a Peconic home where they did a complete remodel, gutted all the walls and built two additions. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The number of Southold Town homeowners choosing renovation over new construction is on the rise, building records show.  (more…)

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.


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.


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.


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.