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Jun 12, 2018 1:24 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Village Sees One Newcomer And Two Incumbents In Contest For Board Seats

Jun 12, 2018 1:37 PM

On Tuesday, June 19, from noon to 9 p.m. at the Emergency Services Building, voters in East Hampton Village will determine whether or not there will be a slight shakeup in the East Hampton Village Board for the next four years.

Two seats on the five-member Village Board are up for grabs next Tuesday, with three candidates vying for those seats. The terms of current board members Arthur Graham and Bruce Siska are coming to an end this year, and both members are running to retain their seats, with newcomer Rosemary Brown also competing for a seat. Ms. Brown and Mr. Graham are running together as part of the Fish Hooks Party. Mr. Graham is running for the second time in two years, having been voted onto the Village Board last June to complete the term of Elbert Edwards, who died on October 6, 2016.

Arthur Graham

Known by friends and family as “Tiger,” the 70-year-old said he has been enlightened about the workings of village government in his first year on the board.

“I think I’ve learned the process,” Mr. Graham said on Monday. “The wheels of government turn slowly. A lot of things before the board are things that people don’t normally consider. I learned a lot about what makes the village tick and how the board calibrates that.”

One issue he has focused on thus far has been the noise caused by gas-powered leaf blowers. In January, Mr. Graham proposed a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers from June 1 to September 15, when the blowers are used primarily to blow grass clippings from lawns. While this would appease residents, local landscape companies have expressed concern about how this could harm their business.

“There are different approaches in the minds of board members,” Mr. Graham said. “We need to find a place of comfort for all the members to reach. After that, we’ll host a public hearing, which will be interesting. I wouldn’t be against having a public hearing before we craft legislation.”

Though Mr. Graham was not in attendance at last Thursday’s work session because of a family matter, he said that he had looked over the 2018-19 budget, which will pierce the state tax levy cap, which was adopted that day, “with a magnifying glass” and was happy with it.

“The budget is responsible and it covers things we need to cover,” he said.

Mr. Graham said the Village Comprehensive Plan could use an update. The plan should “reflect where we are now” and the board should figure out what elements are “still working,” he said. He said he has also focused on protecting the character of the village and finding ways to improve parking in the commercial district of the village, and suggested considering a meter at the Reutershan parking lot between Herrick Park and the retail outlets on Main Street that would allow patrons to extend the two-hour parking limit by an extra hour, at a charge of $10 to $15, to allow people to have more time to shop, dine or go to a movie.

“My overriding charge is to make sure residents have the village that they want,” Mr. Graham said.

Rosemary Brown

Though this is her first run at a Village Board seat, Ms. Brown has had plenty of experience with village government. The 45-year-old started in 1999 as a member of the East Hampton Village Planning Board, eventually becoming chair of the board in 2011, before moving on to the Village Design Review Board for five years. Ms. Brown said on Monday that she believes she’s “bringing a new and fresh perspective to make the board well-rounded.”

Ms. Brown said the issue of water quality would be the first thing demanding her attention. She proposed adopting legislation that would require all major renovations to include installing nitrogen-reducing septic systems.

“I think it’s an issue at the top of everyone’s list,” Ms. Brown said.

Ms. Brown hopes to revitalize the village’s downtown in different ways. She said that second-floor apartments in the district could be used to accommodate the local workforce, and added that bringing in more food shops could attract more visitors.

“In talking to people I hear them say, ‘We’re going to Sag Harbor’ or to this yogurt place,” Ms. Brown said, referring to how people find popular restaurants outside the village. “It seems that restaurants and food would bring people into the village.”

Like her running mate, Ms. Brown is interested in looking into improving parking opportunities in the village and revisiting the Village Comprehensive Plan.

“I think it’s worthwhile to review it since there are new pressing issues,” she said. “The Comprehensive Plan allows the village to hear from different groups.”

Bruce Siska

Mr. Siska most likely is glad to see the winter season over.

“I think we’re looking at brown paper in stores all winter long,” Mr. Siska said of the commercial district on Main Street and Newtown Lane. “The buildings are rented for three months and then close down. It doesn’t look good for the village.”

Wrapping up his seventh year on the board and his second as deputy mayor, Mr. Siska has been keeping himself busy at age 76. One of the board’s accomplishments he’s most proud of was installing special drainage and filtering systems, called bioswales, at Town Pond in 2017. Mr. Siska said that he hopes to have a study commissioned to test the origins of nitrates found in Town Pond and Hook Pond. This is part of Mr. Siska’s focus on water quality and exploring the possibility of a village-wide sewer system.

“I know this is not going to be done overnight,” Mr. Siska said. “It’ll take a few years of investigating and then, if approved, another two years of installation.”

In terms of the Comprehensive Plan, Mr. Siska said he only saw a need to revisit the zoning code of the plan. As a former member of both the Village Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, Mr. Siska has had experience in dealing with residents trying to maneuver around the zoning code, he said.

“Everyone picks out little parts of the code,” Mr. Siska said. “We need to sort out the language.”

Mr. Siska still has ideas about improving the downtown area of the village, such as trying to attract more “mom-and-pop” stores to fill vacant spots and attract visitors during the slower months. Whatever comes about, Mr. Siska insisted that being a board member is not a solo effort.

“It’s all a collaborative effort in getting things done and agreeing upon things,” the incumbent said.

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