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Sep 29, 2008 2:12 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town Board candidate Sally Pope condemns Planning Board decision

Sep 29, 2008 2:12 PM

A small group of supporters of Southampton Town Board candidate Sally Pope gathered Monday in the parking lot of a Speonk cafe, which sits atop a swath of contaminated groundwater, to decry recent decisions made by the municipality’s Planning Board involving a proposed subdivision that will be built on top of the same plume.

Ms. Pope, a Democrat and a 25-year resident of Remsenburg, began her press conference at the Trackside Cafe on North Phillips Avenue by summarizing recent events surrounding the pollution, known as the Speonk Solvent Plume. She then criticized how Southampton Town Planning Board members have allowed Tom Datre, the developer of the proposed 57-lot Woodfield Gables subdivision that targets 160 acres, to proceed with his plans even though no one yet knows the extent and toxicity of the plume.

In her speech, Ms. Pope emphasized that Town Board members should have followed a stringent review process before appointing town residents to serve on Planning Board.

Before his candidate’s speech, George Lynch, an advisor on Ms. Pope’s campaign staff, noted that the Town Board can still pass a resolution that alerts all town residents about the contamination that lies under the proposed subdivision. “The Town Board has a responsibility for the health and safety of the town,” he said.

Ms. Pope is challenging Republican Town Board member Dan Russo of East Quogue, who was appointed in February to complete the unfinished term of Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, in the November general election. The winner of that contest will have to seek reelection next year to a full four-year term on the board.

In early September, the Planning Board was expected to rescind an earlier decision on the Woodfield Gables application and mandate that Mr. Datre complete an extensive and expensive environmental study of the property. Last month, the board simply amended its earlier decision by requiring that the application include the most recent data about the contamination. In order to protect future homeowners from potentially dangerous fumes, Mr. Datre has offered to install vapor barrier guards below the new homes.

Ms. Pope noted on Monday that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which is still investigating the source and extent of the plume, has stated that those exposed to such chemicals are prone to suffering diseases that attack the kidneys, liver and nervous system.

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Russo said the resolution suggested by Mr. Lynch would lack “teeth” in terms of stopping the construction of the subdivision or requiring a more stringent environmental review of the property, the latter being what most hamlet residents desire.

Mr. Russo said concerned home owners who disagree with a decision made by a government agency or board can always pursue litigation to rescind a decision.

However, Mr. Lynch noted that Mr. Russo and other Town Board members are responsible for protecting the quality of the town’s water. He also noted that Mr. Russo’s legislative assignment is overseeing the town’s water districts and handling other public water issues involving the Suffolk County Water Authority.

Mr. Russo countered that he serves only as the liaison for the Hampton Bays Water District, which “doesn’t serve water to Speonk.” Homes in the hamlet are either hooked up to private wells or connected to public water.

“There are no issues with the water in Hampton Bays,” Mr. Russo said, adding that he does not agree with the Planning Board’s decision on the Woodfield Gables application. “But if there’s contaminated groundwater affecting residents, I’m concerned and will act on it,” he said.

Ms. Pope said that if elected to the Town Board, she would require disclosure of the plume to potential home buyers in the Woodfield Gables development. She said warnings should appear on the deeds.

“The sellers should be required to distribute a written statement about the plume,” Ms. Pope said. “It should be in the hands of real estate agents.”

Remsenburg resident Joe Garrison, who attended the press conference, noted that full disclosure of the plume could stymie financing for Mr. Datre’s project. “If you have disclosure, it would be toxic to any bank for lending,” Mr. Garrison said.

In addition, Ms. Pope suggested that the town approve a building moratorium along Speonk-Riverhead Road in Speonk, the road that runs parallel to the land that is owned by Mr. Datre. However, Jeremiah Collins, the president of the Remsenburg/Speonk School Board, noted that such a building ban would not apply to applications that have already been signed off by the town.

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Welcome to Brownfield Gables!!!!
By CommonSense (71), Southampton on Oct 21, 08 9:51 AM
The entire board should be replaced. Bowing to a developer who has made a poor choice in land purchase and now has the towns authority to procede with his next step in creating what could be Long Islands own Love Canal.
A coment from a member of the Pemsenburg-Speonk school board when asked about the site was "Let the buyer beware" Whats wrong with these people? And they all want our votes. G.T.O . Get them out !!!
By fed up (1), Remsenburg on Oct 30, 08 10:28 AM
I wonder if RUSSO will pull a no show for the rest of the year like his good friend PATRICK SKIPPY HEANEY did last year. Tissues are on sale at king kullen this week. Nice bill boards loser
By real town resident (4), hampton bays on Nov 16, 08 6:59 PM