After Delay, Flanders Group Approves Dozens Of Membership Applications

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It appears that the dust stirred at last week’s Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association meeting has settled, for now.

More than three dozen residents who submitted applications to join the organization have been approved, about a week after learning that the forms they submitted at the end of March had not been processed in time for the group’s most recent meeting, denying them the right to cast ballots in the organization’s annual board election.

“We would like to better the place we live in,” said Antoinette Vodola of Flanders who, like many others who applied for membership last month, did so in opposition to FRNCA’s support of a proposed residential garbage district in the tri-hamlet area.

FRNCA’s bylaws state that membership applications are due by March 1 in order to vote in the April elections, though the group’s current president, Vince Taldone, said he normally accepts applications on a rolling deadline. In this case, however, he said he simply did not have enough time to confirm that those looking to join the group also own or rent property in one of the three hamlets, or own a business in those communities, which is the main qualification for membership. Annual memberships cost $20 for individuals, $30 per family and $75 per business.

“If people think I purposely did nothing, they’re wrong,” Mr. Taldone said Sunday. “Frankly, I didn’t know what this was and I needed time to process them.”

The bylaws do not state how long FRNCA has to review applications, but in light of what’s happened, Mr. Taldone said he wants to discuss an amendment with membership that would state a specific deadline to review applications.

The deluge of applications came after the Southampton Town Board announced a bid package for the proposed garbage district, an idea sparked nearly three years ago and endorsed by FRNCA’s Board of Directors. Residents who oppose the district banded together to form a Facebook group called “Flanders Homeowners Against Town Garbage Pickup” to inform others about the proposal.

At the April 13 FRNCA meeting, those residents came to voice their concerns in front of town officials who were presenting information on the garbage district, which would require a majority approval from homeowners in order to be created. A public meeting for all homeowners in the district is being planned, but a date has not yet been confirmed. A public vote has not been scheduled yet either.

Those who rushed to submit their applications, meanwhile, say they are starting a new movement within the group and intend to stay involved even after the garbage district debate has been settled.

“I hope that this will unite us, bring us together to look at exactly what has to be done in Flanders,” Ms. Vodola said, explaining that she would like to propose projects to assist the homeless, hungry and elderly in the area.

Raymond Normoyle III, another Flanders resident and new FRNCA member, said he would like to put more effort into gathering community input.

“Last year, the Flanders Little League was disbanded, and no one knew about it,” he said. “That’s something you’d think a community organization would print out fliers and have members pass them out in the community. Same thing with the garbage.”

Both Mr. Normoyle and Ms. Vodola said they want to see more community outreach in the community, which is something Mr. Taldone is on board with.

“I think this will be a blessing in disguise,” Mr. Taldone said. “These people are all pretty vocal, so when we need them to yell and get people to notice, they’ll be more helpful and more a part of us and what we do than they realize.

“If they start hearing more about the things we work on … a lot of them, I think, will say, ‘I’m interested,’ and attend meetings,” he continued. “Then I have more people involved and that’s a huge help.”

Mr. Taldone said he and Ron Fisher, one of the residents leading the charge against the garbage district, are planning to sit down soon and chat about the future of FRNCA.

Mr. Fisher could not be reached for comment this week, but has expressed in the past that he would like to see the Facebook group grow into an outlet for concerned community members and utilize that information to drive the focus of FRNCA. His brother, Frank, owns Go-Green Sanitation in Southampton.

Still, the anger displayed at this month’s meeting has left a sour taste in the mouths of some residents.

“I would have joined, but now I question the whole thing,” Nikki Sacco of Flanders said. “Normally, I would be one of the first ones to get in there … having seen what went on, I don’t think so.

“When it comes to real issues, I think they would press people’s opinions and wishes,” she continued, referring to the current board. “They do more disservice to the community than outreach. If they didn’t turn people off to such an extent, they’d have more participation.”

The group’s next meeting—scheduled for Monday, May 11—will feature a presentation of plans to revitalize Riverside from Riverside Rediscovered and Renaissance Downtowns, the community group and master development company, respectively, that have spent the past year developing an action plan to attract new businesses and families to the hamlet.

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