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Sep 11, 2018 2:21 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Deer Fencing Applications In Sagaponack Stall Ahead Of Potential Moratorium

Susanna Herrmann, land management specialist at En-Consultants, and her client Jeff Waeschle, the property owner's representative for 351 Bridge Lane LLC, at the Sagaponack Village Board meeting on September 10. JD ALLEN
Sep 11, 2018 3:21 PM

Kim Lippman went to the Sagaponack Village Board meeting Monday expecting her application to install an 8-foot-tall deer fence around her agricultural preserve on Parsonage Lane to be approved.

She left empty-handed.

Village Attorney Anthony Tohill said he was not prepared to draft a resolution with any decision from the board, with a public hearing and potential adoption of a 90-day moratorium on deer fencing applications for agricultural properties being held next week. The measure would give the board more time to discuss possible amendments to the code to clarify how the village handles applications for fencing in the first place.

In fact, Mr. Tohill said Ms. Lippman’s application, as well as another application for a deer fence around 351 Bridge Lane, “authored the moratorium,” and he encouraged the Village Board, which doubles as the Planning Board, to draft legislation on deer fencing and what determines its need.

“I don’t want you to feel like you are being singled out—but you are being singled out,” Mr. Tohill said.

The problem many residents have with such fencing is that it limits the view across sweeping Sagaponack landscapes, which is why opponents of Ms. Lippman’s plan requested the moratorium. Traditional 8-foot-high fencing is intended to keep deer, which have been devouring and devastating farmland throughout the village, out of agricultural properties.

“We will not deny any application made by a bona-fide farmer to protect his crop,” Mayor Donald Louchheim said. However, the question the board is ultimately raising: Who is a bona-fide farmer?

A land in agricultural production is determined based on a minimum amount of income that is earned from crop sales, according to state agricultural and markets law. The village does not have the appropriate language in its code to clarify what land is in agricultural production.

Ms. Lippman and Jeff Waeschle, the property owner’s representative for 351 Bridge Lane LLC, both contend they qualify as bona-fide farmers based on the state’s definition of agricultural production.

Mr. Tohill recommended that the board adjourn both applications, because the applications would be denied—for an undisclosed reason—while the board sought to work out new village laws during the moratorium.

John Tarbet, Ms. Lippman’s attorney, asked for a decision to be made, even if it meant the board turned the application down. The board refused to act.

“That sounds like a moratorium to me,” Mr. Tarbet said.

Mr. Tohill said the board was not required to act on either application at this time. Also, current applications would not be immediately exempt from the moratorium.

Although the exemption isn’t required by state law, Mr. Tarbet argued it is commonplace for municipalities to excuse current applications from being affected by moratoriums, out of fairness.

The property owners may be able to apply for an exemption after the moratorium has been approved. According to the village’s public notice on the proposed moratorium, an exemption can be granted if the owner will experience “undue hardship” from the moratorium; if the exemption won’t have an adverse effect on village goals; if the proposal is in “harmony with the existing character of the village”; if a property owner has an extreme circumstance; and if it won’t defeat the goal of the moratorium.

Neither applicant said they want to pursue legal action against the village at this time.

Mr. Tarbet said what Ms. Lippman could do—if she was “feeling spiteful”—would be to put up a 6-foot-tall stockade fence around her property and eliminate the view across her agricultural preserve. That does not require village approval.

The public hearing on the proposed moratorium will be at 3 p.m. on Monday, September 17.

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