As 2013 winds down and East Hampton Town Board members wrap up, supervisor-elect Larry Cantwell is just beginning.
With only a little more than a week left before he takes the reins from current Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, Mr. Cantwell said on Thursday that he is anxious to get started.
“I want to hit the ground running to the extent that we can,” he said. “I’m energized and looking forward to it.”
Working out of his home and his car, Mr. Cantwell has filled his days with multiple meetings with constituents, groups and others who “want to make a suggestion, offer help or have issues they want on the agenda,” he said.
At the moment, he is busy selecting the town attorney’s team, but said he couldn’t disclose his choices yet.
Mr. Cantwell, heading a mostly Democratic Town Board in 2014, said he has also had a number of meetings with the incoming members—Fred Overton, Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, Peter Van Scoyoc and Sylvia Overby—that have been constructive.
So far, he said he feels that the new board will be cooperative, despite the unavoidable issues that will arise over his time as supervisor.
“I’m not naive enough to think there aren’t going to be different choices or that there won’t be disagreements and some contentious issues we have to address,” he said. “My New Year’s resolution would be that it’s done on a professional, cooperative and respectful basis going forward, and I will do everything I can to help that happen.”
Looking ahead, Mr. Cantwell made no bones about how he feels about a number of different town issues, including the recently proposed senior housing overlay district.
Developers of a luxury senior housing development at 555 Montauk Highway in Amagansett have proposed a new zoning district that would allow the density and number of housing units to increase in order to create senior living communities in the town. It has been a contentious issue, and while Mr. Cantwell said that there is certainly a market for a high-end, high-density development, he does not support the creation of a new district.
“The financial benefits would accrue to the developer of such land,” he said. “From my point of view, there are many properties between $1 million and $1.5 million. I don’t see its value to the community as a whole.”
Knowing the East Hampton Airport has had its opponents as well, he said the issue will never go away, but that there are ways to get to the bottom of the problems there by addressing airport finances and the quality of life for those affected by airport noise.
“The immediate objectives are to do a financial analysis to project what revenue and expenditures there will be to operate and whether there is any ongoing operating profit available to fund capital improvements to keep the airport safe,” he said. “Secondly, we will complete a professional noise analysis to collect data and figure out what restrictions can be legally supported.”
He said these goals will be started on earlier in the year while he pushes to replenish Montauk beaches.
This fall there had been an ongoing discussion about how to use federal funds to shore up the ocean beach in downtown Montauk, which will continue in the new year. In recent years, town officials have acknowledged that the beach needs to be protected from future storms, but how has been the issue.
Mr. Cantwell said that he wants to see replenishment completed in his time.
“I do not support a rock wall with covered sand,” he said. “I support a geotube, reinforced dune to get as wide of a beach as we can get. I will make a commitment to carry out that project.”
He said in the longer term, he wants to see Ditch Plain replenished as well, explaining that he will press the state and the federal governments to come up with funding.
“From the basic information I have, we’re talking about a multimillion-dollar project to do something at Ditch Plain that is really meaningful,” he said. “Funding from town funds is beyond the town’s means and we need state and federal help to do that.”
Mr. Cantwell also plans to tackle deer management, and said he is not averse to some degree of hunting to decrease the seemingly ever-growing population of deer. Citing the destruction of farmland, forest understories and private property, as well as the danger deer can cause on the roads, he said culling could be the solution to control the population.
“I have some sympathy for those who say that no animal should ever be killed, but it’s not necessarily the best thing for the deer population or the environment,” he said. “I am not opposed to hunting deer to attain [the goal of population control], but having said that, there’s no intention that we’re here to wipe out the population.” He said he would consider contraception, but noted that it is a very expensive route.
Along those lines, Mr. Cantwell said that balancing the budget will be one of his priorities, noting that the town has a roughly $70 million budget, for which $50 million in revenue comes from property taxes and $20 million from other sources such as mortgage leases. The supervisor-elect said that in order to stay within the 2-percent tax levy cap, the town needs to look at non-tax revenue sources like leases the town has for cell towers, the airport, taxi licenses and building permit fees.
“I think we’ll need to review and see where potential revenue sources are without hurting the residents of the town in a meaningful way,” he said.
Realizing he’s got much ahead of him and so much to do, he said while he’ll do his best as supervisor, he knows he can’t tackle everything he’d like to.
“There are many tasks ahead and I will not be able to accomplish everything that I want to get done or needs to get done,” he said. “I think one of the roles of supervisor is to prioritize things that are more important. There’s a lot on the plate. We’ve got to take ‘em one at a time, try to find the best solution and move forward.”