Around Southampton Town Hall: Town Intends To Buy Development Rights To Eastport Farm

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Southampton Town and the Peconic Land Trust will soon partner in the purchase of 14 acres of farmland in Eastport.

The Peconic Land Trust intends to pay the owner of the property, Mary Raynor Dibble, some $1.2 million for the title to the land. The Trust will then sell the development rights to the town for $690,000, retaining ownership of the farmland.

Trust President John v.H. Halsey said the group would then probably seek to resell the land to a farmer at a reduced price, as has been the PLT’s stated mission in recent years.

Ms. Dibble’s family has farmed land in Eastport since the mid-1600s. Some of the family history was emotionally recounted for the board by Franklin Raynor, who owns a portion of the same farm field that divides the three lots Ms. Dibble owns.

“I donated the barn back in 2001 and … I go in there the last couple years and I get tears in my eyes,” Mr. Raynor said. “There’s a plaque in the back that goes from Thurston Raynor all the way down to me.

“Three or four generations jumped in the hay in that barn, including myself when I was young,” he added.

Mr. Raynor said he has resisted selling his portion of the land, despite financial difficulties that nearly cost him is birthright on at least two occasions, because of the sentimental value to his family.

“I don’t worship money, I worship my friends and family,” he said. “I don’t want to sell my grandfather’s house. That’s worth more to me than any piles of money.”

Attorney Richard Bartell, who declined to say whether he was representing a particular individual legally, said a well on the property was installed by a party other than the land’s owner and could pose a title problem for the Trust and the town. He asked if the owner of the well would be compensated in some way.

The money for the purchase of the development rights by the town will come from its Community Preservation Fund, raised through a 2-percent tax on all real estate transfers and dedicated specifically for the purchase of open space, farmland and historic resources in the municipality.

Rumba Road Issues

The Southampton Town Board will hold a discussion requested by Councilwoman Bridget Fleming of possible measures to address traffic safety concerns on Canoe Place Road where it passes the popular, but tiny restaurant Rumba, in particular.

Ms. Fleming on Tuesday took the rare step of placing a resolution on the board’s official agenda, calling for the work session discussion, a move she seemed to indicate was made necessary by the reluctance of other board members to discuss any possible further curtailments on the restaurant’s business.

“I’m just trying to figure out how to get a discussion about this dangerous situation,” Ms. Fleming said. “There was a work session last week and we put it off … because there’s been a reluctance on the part of the board to have a public hearing on it.”

Board members have scuffled over whether any steps need to be taken to address problems caused by the restaurant, which is approved for less than 20 patrons at a time, but is routinely crowded with many times that number. Septics, parking and traffic obstructions have also been chronic problems over the years, though the restaurant has taken steps, like shuttling customers to the restaurant by bus and boat, to alleviate some of the issues.

“From my personal perspective, we have worked very closely and a number of traffic calming procedures are being taken there and we’re monitoring it,” Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said of the Rumba situation.

Ms. Throne-Holst voiced similar opposition to taking action against the restaurant last summer when the rest of her Town Board colleagues voted to authorize the Town Attorney’s office to seek an injunction against the restaurant if it did not reduce the number of customers it allows at one time.

Ms. Fleming noted that the bus that the restaurant uses to shuttle customers from a parking lot off Montauk Highway, a half mile away, had recently flipped over, injuring three passengers, after it rear-ended a car trying to make a turn into a private driveway near the restaurant.

“I can’t even get a public discussion even though a bus turned over and it’s a very narrow road around a big turn, and a restaurant is operating at 10 times capacity,” Ms. Fleming said.

Former Supervisor Linda Kabot, who is running to unseat Ms. Throne-Holst this fall, warned that board members should be listening and discussing all concerns brought to them by the public.

“Some of you might feel conflicted discussing the issue because it has to do with Rumba restaurant, which is very popular,” Ms. Kabot said. “But they should be discussed and government officials should hear out those concerns.”

Crash Victims File Suit

The occupants of the car struck last month by a truck driven by a Southampton Town Parks and Recreation Department worker, who was later charged with DWI, have filed a notice of claim against the town, announcing their intention to file suit over their injuries.

The claim does not list what monetary damages that the victims would be seeking.

The notice filed with the Town Clerk’s office states that the plaintiffs—Lorraine Vassallo and Dana Vassallo Juron—both suffered injuries to their heads, necks and backs, though it also says the “extent” of their injuries is unknown. The document also states they both have incurred hospital, medical and other expenses related to the incident.

The driver of the town truck, Kevin Fennel, was arrested by Southampton Town Police shortly after the accident, which occurred at 11 a.m. on a Saturday. Mr. Fennel, a part-time seasonal employee for the town, was fired after the incident.

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