08/14/14 1:00pm
More than 200 North Fork residents upset by helicopter noise over their homes turned out Monday night for a forum in Southold. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

More than 200 North Fork residents upset by helicopter noise over their homes turned out Monday night for a forum in Southold. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

Residents from three East End communities voted with their feet Monday and Tuesday, when more than 500 people attended three public meetings to stop low-flying aircraft from buzzing over their homes.

In Southold Monday night, 200 people chastised Federal Aviation Administration officials about the barrage of noise this summer — up more than 40 percent over last year, according to several reports. On Tuesday afternoon, the Shelter Island Town Board held a standing-room-only work session to hear audience members complain bitterly about the racket they’ve been forced to endure.  (more…)

08/12/14 3:36pm
08/12/2014 3:36 PM
Southold Town Supervisor  Scott Russell discusses the deer cull results at the East Marion Community Association meeting last Thursday. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell discusses the deer cull results at the East Marion Community Association meeting last Thursday. (Credit: Paul Squire)

The number of deer killed in Southold Town as part of the controversial federal cull that took place earlier this year was outpaced by the town’s own hunting program, said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell.

He said the federal efforts involving U.S. Department of Agriculture-trained sharpshooters were hampered by lawsuits and opposition from animal-rights and hunting groups.

Official numbers on the results of the cull have not yet been released by the Long Island Farm Bureau, which coordinated the efforts. The organization’s executive director, Joe Gergela, did not return calls seeking comment and USDA spokespeople have been referring all calls to the farm bureau.

Mr. Russell said the town’s hunting program was a success in killing 265 deer on town lands this year, the USDA cull totals from about a dozen private properties in town were lower, although he could not give exact numbers.

“The cull had been severely hamstrung,” Mr. Russell said  at a community association meeting in East Marion last Thursday. “There were groups out there that wanted to stop the cull and they were largely successful.

“The numbers [of deer killed] are going to be very low, I would say insignificant,” he added.

Opponents of the cull have called the USDA’s sharpshooter program — which involves baiting deer before shooting them, mostly at night — inhumane and a challenge to local hunter’s rights.

Mike Tessitore, president of the hunters-rights and conservation group Hunters for Deer, said he expected numbers for the cull to be low.

“It just goes to show you that hunters are not only a cheaper option but more effective,” he said.

The Long Island Farm Bureau, which had secured a $250,000 grant for the program, had lobbied all East End towns and villages last fall to contribute, asking for $25,000 from each town, including Brookhaven, and $15,000 from each village.

But the towns of Southampton, Riverhead and Shelter Island all eventually decided not to participate financially, leaving Southold as the only East End town to support the cull.

Yet sharpshooters did acquire permits to operate on private properties in Riverhead, Southold and Southampton towns, according to state Department of Environmental Conservation documents. In addition, Southold Town held its own hunting program on town-owned lands that were excluded from the cull.

Mr. Russell said Tuesday that the town will be refunded a portion of the $25,000 it paid the Long Island Farm Bureau, since the cull was minimized.

The effort was hampered in large part by a state Supreme Court decision in March that prevented the DEC from issuing any further deer hunting permits, essentially stopping the cull from expanding, Mr. Russell said.

Many of the private properties that had previously agreed to participate in the cull pulled out under pressure from the cull’s opponents, he added. Mr. Russell said the properties that remained were rendered practically unusable after hunters groups that opposed the cull — including Hunters for Deer — publicized the locations on social media and walked through the areas to disperse the deer.

But Mr. Tessitore said Tuesday that his group only posted photos of the locations, and took no steps to hamper cull activities there.

Those running the cull did attempt to “make the most” of the effort by donating thousands of pounds of venison to local food pantries, Mr. Russell said. But ultimately, he said, the cull was a disappointment.

“We have to do something here,” he said. “Deer are an economic crisis, deer are a public health crisis and believe it or not, deer are a huge environmental crisis. They’re devastating the ecosystem.”

Mr. Tessitore said in an interview that his group agreed that the deer population needed to be managed, but said federally managed culling is doing a job hunters could do for free with the right regulations.

“We want to make sure we have a good, healthy herd,” he said. “We want to protect our hunting opportunities but we also want to preserve the species … The DEC really needs to realize that hunting on Long Island needs to be regulated like a management tool, not a sport.”

Hunters for Deer was willing to work on a solution with those supporting the cull, he said. But he claims the organization was left out of the process; if the cull goes forward last this year, the group is resolved to continue to fight.

“We’re going to be more aggressive in our tactics next year,” Mr. Tessitore said. “We’re not going to be as passive.

“They’re not going to shove it down our throats like last time.”

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08/12/14 10:21am
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.

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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.

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With Gianna Volpe and Tim Kelly