Trustees Scold Cemetery Board

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Trustees Scold Cemetery Board

Clearly rankled by the on-going public rela­tions siege against them by the Westhampton Cemetery Association, the Southampton Town Trustees got some measure of satisfaction yes­terday when Association representatives came before them and again attempted to obtain ap­proval for a "land swap" which would allow all cemetery lands to remain contiguous.

(See Trustees again deny land swap....)

As most know by now, the local burial ground is running out of room... and what cemetery isn't?... and intended to exchange an undevel­oped two-acre parcel near the Westhampton site for another, adjoining two-acre parcel owned by the Town Trustees.

The "deal" didn't go down, with the Association crying foul and charging the Trustees with re­neging on an agreement to accept the Assoc­iation's proposal, and the Trustees exclaiming "What deal???"

While the discussions... which the Association feels were negotiations... had been on-going for two years, they didn't turn contentious 'til this past January when the Trustees rejected the plan, citing the "environmental value" of their parcel.

It's been open warfare since then, with Association Director Gordon Werner spear-heading the assault on the Trustees with mostly unreadable space advertisements in The Southampton Press Western Edition, others chiming in with their views on the weekly's Letters page, and even a mailing.

This came to its latest head at Town Hall Mon­day, in front of an unusually large gathering of local notables... Trustee challengers Chris Gar­vey and Bill Pell, Town Board members Anna Throne-Holst and Sally Pope (each on the bal­lot this November), and former Westhampton Beach Mayor Arma E. "Ham" Andon were ob­serving... as Association counsel Tom DeMayo was repeatedly dressed down by the Trustees.

They were, in a word, "miffed" at Mr. Werner's campaign, and each Trustee expressed himself on the issue.

What they don't appear to have done, however, is taken a vote and rendered a formal decision so that the Association can proceed to the next stage of its remedy.

Neither side has been looking especially good in this dispute:

  • Why would the Association purchase the parcel they wish to exchange with­out something formal (in writing!) from the Trustees?
  • Why are the Trustees being particularly obdurate about making the swap when their "reasons" for not doing so don't hold up to scrutiny?

There are other elements at play here, of course.

  • A community association from the other side of Cook's Pond which is against the swap for purely petty reasons.
  • A portion of the Cemetery's title reads that ownership of the graveyard would revert to Southampton Town once all of the burial plots are filled.

(This is not to suggest that the Trustees' obduracy is a backdoor "land grab," it just looks that way.)

This unseemly situation needs to be resolved as quickly as possible... and certainly before this Fall's campaign season hits its stride.

Or do the Town Trustees, Republicans all, think that Messrs. Garvey and Pell and the ladies Throne-Holst and Pope were there yesterday for entertainment purposes?


1. Ray Overton said...

Dean, thank you for calling the wetlands area in question by its appropriate name – Cook's Pond, not Beaver Lake. Unfortunately, the lesson in this whole affair is that if a politician or group of politicians promises something, get it in writing and signed by each board member prior to committing any money. Goes with the old joke, how do you tell if a politicians lying?

Never heard it called "Beaver Lake;" Beaver Dam Lake, perhaps, even Bellringer's Pond on occasion, but it's always been Cook's Pond to me, just as that section on Brook Road 'tween Westhampton Beach and Quiogue will always be Cranberry Marsh. The old ways die hard with me.

And yeah, always get it in writing! In this instance there should have been a Board resulution before the Association made any commitments to anything.
– Dean

2. Hunt Marckwald said...

What the Trustees don't want the cemetery group to know is that, under New York Highway Law, there is no such thing as a "landlocked" piece of property. Been there, done that!

3. EastEnd68 said...

Politians did nothing wrong here. Willing to consider does not mean approval. Gordon jumped too fast this time. And thanks for the history lesson about correct names of areas.

I concur that Mr. Werner (and the Association) moved precipitously, especially given that there was no resolution offered and carried by the Board of Trustees.

But at this juncture, assuming arguendo that you are reasonably correct about the "willing to consider" part, it doesn't seem like they were really all that willing, does it?.

And I don't know that charges (back fence, of course) that a certain homeowners group somehow put the fix in holds any water, but there's something odoriferous around Cook's Pond.

And I must say that your assertion "politians did nothing wrong here," is risible as almost by definition they rarely do right.

But then I don't think that three, perhaps four, of that Board are all that political.

4. Lou said...

This article does not represent the facts presented at the meeting. The Trustee land was turned over for protecting this land as a park. I find it interesting that this was not noted in this blog. The Trustees did their job. This is not the place for a cemetery. There is other land that should be used to serve the community for years to come. The landlocked property is also protected land, and it cannot be disturbed. The Cemetery Association and the Town need to work together to find a solution for all involved and stop trying to turn land into a cemetery that is "park" land and protected for many environmental reasons. It's time to move on. Dean, you really missed the important aspects of the meeting. Very one-sided and misleading to the public. You need to to your homework.

I have reviewed the blog item en toto and find it to be both accurate and balanced, considerably more so than your overtly partisan Comment.

Additionally, some of your assertions are without merit, expecially "(t)his is not the place for a cemetery." Ye Gawds and little headstones, Lou, there's already a cemetery there, one which predates by decades every home in the Lakeside subdivision!

That the parcel in question is "protected land" is also a matter of some contention.

Your accusations in respect to "miss(ing) the important aspects of the meeting," "(v)ery one-sided and misleading" and "homework" are little more than sniveling because I did present two sides instead of jumping on the Lakeside bandwagon and castigating the Association.
– Dean

5. EastEnd68 said...

Your point well taken — Trustees did nothing wrong.

We shall see.

6. Ray Overton said...

The amazing part to me is that the Trustees, who are all fired up about protecting this little area, had originally signed off on it being a parking lot to provide access to Cook's Pond so people could canoe there. As horrified as they now are that graves may be built adjacent to the pond, they were also the ones to approve the access road to the Lakeside community that travels only a few feet above the head waters for the Pond. And they allowed all this building within what had always been wetlands/marshlands. I would rather have these guys be truthful and actually say we didn't expect there to be such an uproar from the neighbors in the Lakeside community than come up with some garbage that they are protecting these pristine wetlands.

The pristine aspect of this land was eliminated when the developer was given approval to subdivide the property and build this community. Now, members of that community seem insulted that a cemetery even exists adjacent to them (a cemetery that has been there since the 1700s). Plain and simple NIMBYism.

Quite honestly, I'm not sure which alternative I would enjoy more. The Cemetery Association gaining the rights of way that they are lawfully entitled to for their current property or the Trustees reconsidering their stance on the adjoining property and swap the Cemetery Association's land or the Town Board interceding to find a means to swap the Town land between Montauk Highway and Mill Road with the two acres the Cemetery Association owns.

This land was going to be the site for the Senior Center prior to the purchase of the Bauer property on Mill Road in June. The Bauer property provides plenty of room for all services including the pool, but, of course, with the current economy, those facilities now seem like a pipe dream.

It was observed several years ago that there were only a handful of people around with any sort of institutional knowledge of the area... I'd be pleased to include the name of Ray Overton in that shortening list.

This seems to be the start of a lengthy, costly and polarizing legal battle... I have elsewhere been accused of "not doing my homework" on this issue, so I intend to speak with several other interested parties.

7. Lou said...

There must be some land that could be used as a new cemetery that would not disturb our wetlands and wildlife. There is a better solution. I'm sure that the Cemetery Association and the Town of Southampton can find a solution if they would work together.

And there's the rub... "new cemetery!" Such a designation would require a whole additional, and lengthy, NYS approval process.

Also, I'm not quite sure what you mean by "our wetlands and wildlife." Given what has actually been proposed, the first is a convenient fiction on your part, and the second has yet to be demonstrated.

So, I'm doing "my (additional) homework," Lou, and you are quickly becoming one of the better arguments for the Cemetery Association's position.

But I'm on it, I'm on it.
– Dean

8. EastEnd68 said...

I have never found Dean's blog to be mis-leading, Lou. You owe Dean an apology for that comment.

Thanks, but Lou seems to be a bit myopic on this issue.

I'm still wondering exactly how he came to "Very one-sided and misleading," though. He has yet to offer any specifics, so I conclude that he would only be happy if I promulgated the Trustees'/Lakeside position.
– Dean

9. Lou said...

The Trustees cited many legal reasons for not approving the land swap. The Trustees are trying to do the right thing for the residents of Southampton Town. With that said, I do apologize Dean. I read your blog again and realize you were balanced and represented both sides. I just felt that some really important aspects of the meeting were left out. I know I am repeating myself, but there is a better solution that will work for everyone involved.

Fair enough, Lou... apology accepted. (I re-read the original entry upside down and backwards and couldn't discern anything "one-sided and misleading.")

I would also note that if the Trustees were able to "cite many legal reasons for not approving the land swap" Monday, then why not in January 2007 when they told the Cemetery Association "get back to us when you have something to swap?"

The odor endures, Lou, and the Trustees appear "trying to do the right thing" less for the residents of Southampton Town than for those of the Lakeside subdivision.
– Dean

10. Mrs Genetics said...

What about sharing the Bide-A-Wee pet cemetary{sic} with humans? Adopt a critter and get 10% off on a plot large enough for man man's{sic} best friend.

If you're trying out material for Kara's amateur talent show, hire a new writer.

11. Lou said...

Perhaps the current Trustees never said "get back to us when you have something to swap."

I just checked, and what they actually said was "Come back to us when you have something to swap."

In your initial Comment today, you stated that "You need to to your homework." Physician, heal thyself!

You have nothing factual to bring to this, Lou, only your own bias. Get back to me when you have something substantive.

12. Lou said...

And you think just because a member from the Cemetery Association stated that the Trustees told it{sic} "come back to us when you have something to swap" means it was in fact said? Is there proof? I think your position about this issue is coming through loud and clear.

  1. That's not what I wrote.
  2. What I did write was "Get back to me when you have something substantive," yet you have utterly failed in that regard.
I fly no false colors regarding my "position." If you read with a more detached eye, you'd know it's simply that neither side is looking good in this matter.

I get the distinct impression that this is an emotional issue with you, and whether you know it or not you are weakening the Lakeside position with your flailing assault.

For my part, I'm not inclined to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed adversary, so you're probably better off carrying your juvenile ripostes over to the 27East thread. Better luck there, young sir.
– Dean

13. Lou said...

I'm really confused about your response because you did write "come back to us when you have something to swap" in the response to comment number 11. Anyway, I agree it's time to move on. I enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the great work.

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