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Story - News

Sep 18, 2012 5:38 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

County Slaps East Hampton With Notice Of Claim Over Route 114 Drainage Project

Sep 18, 2012 6:45 PM

Suffolk County says it intends to sue East Hampton Town for removing “large quantities of valuable topsoil” from farmland on Route 114 in East Hampton to which the county owns the development rights. The town was trying to relieve flooding in Hansom Hills, a residential neighborhood directly across the street, by putting in a drainage basin at the farm.

“The unlawful excavation and removal of topsoil rendered the land in question unusable for farming and substantially diminished the value of the land, which was paid for by Suffolk County taxpayers,” said Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone in a press release issued late Tuesday afternoon.

“There are much cheaper and more environmentally sound ways to resolve the flooding issue than by hauling away for sale some of the finest agricultural soil in the State of New York,” said the Suffolk County planning director, Sarah Lansdale, in the release.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Town Councilwoman Theresa Quigley have said they did not 
realize at the time that the 
county had purchased development rights to the land in 
1988. According to Ms. Quigley, she and Mr. Wilkinson personally knocked on the door of the property owner to ask for permission to install the drainage basin.

The town issued a stop-work order for the project this summer once it discovered that it needed approval from the County Farmland Committee, and county and town officials met to discuss the details on August 1. Earlier this month, the Town Board discussed how to restore the soil and also alleviate the flooding, with Town 
Budget Officer Len Bernard estimating that the cost could be $95,000—not including, Ms. Quigley said, another $35,000 in engineering fees. Officials said at the time that the county would be willing to hold off on restoration to incorporate a new design that would improve drainage.

“It certainly isn’t the template for good county municipal relationships for the county to file a lawsuit,” Mr. Wilkinson said on Tuesday, particularly about what he described as 
an “honest mistake” and “especially when there’s no amount justified for correction.”

Dated September 14, the notice of claim from the county arrived at his office by FedEx late on Monday, the supervisor said, accompanied by what he called a “snippy” greeting from Deputy County Executive John Schneider.

“This whole thing smells political,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “I wonder whether we’re giving someone a chance to ride in on a white horse to save the day.”

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Fill it in with leaves.
By Local dad (51), North Sea on Sep 18, 12 5:51 PM
Bill Wilkinson needs to quit talking and negotiate a settlement. The county has the law on its side, and holds all the cards. In that circumstance, the wise path is to swallow one's pride and work it out, not to call what appears to be a strong lawsuit "political" and "snippy".
EH taxpayers will be the ones to pay for the Supervisor's lack of discretion.
By East End Golfer (9), Montauk on Sep 18, 12 6:54 PM
Why would a "greeting" from the Deputy County Executive accompany a lawsuit? Usually the suit is just served, and maybe with a cover letter by the attorney representing the complainer (in this case it would be the County Attorney) - why some appointed official? It does kind of smell, especially since the County has DONE NOTHING in TEN years to correct the problem created by the land they say they control. Remember, to this point the County has DONE NOTHING when private and public property was ...more
By hohum123 (91), springs on Sep 18, 12 8:55 PM
As I said below it's not the County's problem - it's the problem of the Town who is responsible for the Road. Additionally, while the County owns the development rights, they don't own the actual property (i.e. they don't have the deed). If you want to blame someone and not blame the Town (because you clearly have a bias), then blame the bona fide property owner.

The County's claim is that the soils are protected under the Development Rights purchase program along with various farming ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 18, 12 9:28 PM
Edit: As VOS points out - it's the States problem as they are the authority for Route 114. Even more reason why the Town shouldn't be involved
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 19, 12 8:07 AM
Slow down Nature, and read more carefully? EH Town did the drainage work (not NYS) so even though 114 is a state highway, the Town is a logical party to this action.
By PBR (4946), Southampton on Sep 19, 12 8:28 AM
But the Town had no responsibility to do the drainage since it's a state road. So why were they involved at all?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 19, 12 9:03 AM
"An honest mistake"? I wonder how many town residents have gotten away with that excuse.
By dnice (2345), Hampton Bays on Sep 18, 12 7:15 PM
The town is too busy making laws to save drowning dogs, and wondering where deer live.
By chief1 (2768), southampton on Sep 18, 12 7:46 PM
Is this how the Republican leadership saves money for the taxpayer.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Sep 18, 12 8:17 PM
These are the elected officials (Wilkinson and Quigley) that had the initiative to FINALLY do something about a problem that has resulted in continuous destruction of taxpayer property in Hansom Hills due to the uncontrolled run off that floods their basements, erodes their foundations, flattens their landscapes and on public property cracks roadway, creates potholes (and danger) and destroys right of ways.

A ten year problem was engineered to be corrected. Ironically the sump would ...more
By hohum123 (91), springs on Sep 18, 12 8:45 PM
Government officials can't touch land that they don't own and you want to pat them on the back.
By dnice (2345), Hampton Bays on Sep 18, 12 8:49 PM
Unfortunately you are incorrect - it's not the County's problem if the road is flooding. The Town is responsible for the road and the Town is responsible for handling the drainage. Now, if the Town needs land from an adjacent property owner - they have to legally obtain it. Not knock on someone's door and then assume they have the OK and excavate soils and do whatever they please.

County is 100% correct on this one - the Town simply didn't do their homework.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 18, 12 9:25 PM
Why is the Town responsible? Route 114 is a state highway, shouldn't the State be the entity alleviating drainage problems?
By VOS (1224), WHB on Sep 18, 12 10:37 PM
You're right VOS - I wasn't paying attention. State should be responsible - Town should forward all complaints to the state, even further reason that they shouldn't be involved
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 19, 12 8:07 AM
Kind of what I said.
By dnice (2345), Hampton Bays on Sep 19, 12 7:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
"...hauling away for sale some of the finest agricultural soil in the State of New York."

Wasn't that actually the case with the vast majority of it?

No farms, no food stupid.
By Mr. Z (11551), North Sea on Sep 18, 12 10:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Where did that topsoil go Bill? Friend a yers? Kin? Maybe you should put it back and ask for a do-over.
By we could run this town! (129), the oceanfront trailer park on Sep 19, 12 12:24 AM
2 members liked this comment
Yeah.... Where did the topsoil go???? I think if you follow the money, you will get the answer(s).
By rrc1049 (63), Bridgehampton on Sep 19, 12 7:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
I'm curious about who got the topsoil and for how much?
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Sep 19, 12 11:20 AM
I checked with the bid department at the town and they said that the company that got the soil was the low bidder of multiple sealed bidders for the project. They also said each company submitted two parts to the bids one with them taking the soil and one with the soil spread back over the adjacent property. The bid option to take the soil was like $30,000 less so the town board unanimously approved it. I then asked who was the sponsor of the resolution to accept the bid and I was told Peter ...more
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Sep 19, 12 7:00 PM
Thanks for doing all the hard work - but you're wrong on several points.

County isn't responsible for the runoff because they don't OWN the land. They're only an interested (involved) agency because they bought the underlying development rights, but they aren't the property owner.

Also, it's not akin to your cesspool example. The farm has been there probably longer than the road - it's the State's responsibility to make sure the road can handle the runoff from the farm. If ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 19, 12 7:59 PM
The road has been there in one form or another since 1840. That being said if the State is responsible for the runoff that originates on the farmland, then are you saying to the residents who have had their property destroyed that the State is at fault? And that the State should be held responsible and possibly sued by those homeowners? Also, at what point should a municipality come to the assistance of its residents when the State and County refuse to do anything? At what point must the Town ...more
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Sep 20, 12 9:37 PM
A lot of rambling in that post - This is what I said in simplified terms for those keeping score at home:

1. The State is responsible because it's their road which is the conduit for the flooding. It may seem silly or counter-intuitive, but it's not the property owners responsibility it's the states. Trust me, I'm very familiar with these types of situations.

2. The County does NOT own the farmland. Yea, the "property owner" gave them Town permission, but they didn't have ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 21, 12 8:32 AM
You have it wrong - how is that for being succinct?
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Sep 21, 12 5:46 PM
Wilkinson & Quigley make a boo-boo and the EH Republican Tag Team responds in repetitive length asserting that it wasn't their fault and that they did right even if they did wrong.

It WAS and it's going to CO$T.
By highhatsize (4147), East Quogue on Sep 20, 12 5:05 PM
It has already cost those unfortunate homeowners hundreds of thousands of dollars in destroyed property, and until Wilkinson and Quigley were willing to step to the plate on their behalf there was no help in sight. I wish elected officials in all our local Towns were willing to represent their constituents so passionately. If the County was smart they will withdraw the notice and work with the Town to fix the problem because those people in Hansom Hills also pay County Tax.
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Sep 20, 12 9:44 PM
to mrmako61:

I see what you mean. The noble motivation of the error makes the incompetency it indicates irrelevant.
By highhatsize (4147), East Quogue on Sep 21, 12 2:58 AM
So HHS what is your answer to the problem. How do you save the destruction of more property? What is your solution to the ten year old problem that neither the State, County or Town has been unwilling to address and solve for the taxpayers that have suffered thousands of dollars in destroyed property?
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Sep 21, 12 5:53 PM
HHS still trying to come up with a sarcastic answer because he never has anything to say of substance.
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Sep 22, 12 11:11 AM
to mrmako61:

“I” would vote for competent candidates for Supervisor and Councilperson and charge them with fixing the problem without violating anyone's property rights.
By highhatsize (4147), East Quogue on Sep 23, 12 12:55 AM
Whose property rights were violated? The land owner approved it. The sump would actually save soil from being washed away. The property rights of many would be protected. Once again HHS is good at criticizing but he has the answers for nothing.
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Sep 23, 12 10:53 AM
to mrmako61:

It is the county's property rights that were violated. The county owns the development rights to the patch of land from which the Town removed topsoil, substantially devaluing it. It was the failure of Wilkinson and Quigley to take note of this ownership right (as did you) that caused the suit.

Had precisely the same solution been undertaken competently, the Town would have requested permission from the county to dig the drainage basin and would have compensated ...more
By highhatsize (4147), East Quogue on Sep 23, 12 12:41 PM
If there are much cheaper and more environmentally sensitive ways to resolve the issue, then why hasn't the county suggested or implemented one of them in light of the fact dozens of people have suffered from 10 years of flooding? Where has Ms. Lansdale been? Sounds like a very weak public servant.
If someone gets fired over this it will not be because it will save the town money because they will need to be replaced and the salaries will still be there. They will be fired because the record ...more
By mrmako61 (148), southampton on Sep 24, 12 10:10 PM
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