‘Boos’ for Impound Yard

Site ‘historically compromised,’ board member says
Holding signs and yelling “Shame!” and “No!” a chorus of opponents registered their objections on Tuesday to the Sag Harbor Village Board’s plan for a vehicle impound yard adjacent to the Long Pond Greenbelt. Jamie Bufalino

Moving forward on a plan to build a vehicle impound yard on a site adjacent to the Long Pond Greenbelt, the Sag Harbor Village board awarded a contract for the lot’s construction at a meeting on Tuesday. Aidan Corish, who has been the only member of the board to oppose the project, registered the sole “no” vote, but the room was filled with people who voiced objection to the proposal. Some yelled, “shame,” and “no,” as the board voted to approve nearly $100,000 for the lot’s construction.

They believe the environmental health of the greenbelt, part of an ecosystem of coastal plain ponds, will be negatively impacted by the impound yard. 

The village intends to use part of a 24-acre site off the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike to build an 80-by-60-foot paved parking lot, where vehicles seized by the Police Department would be stored. The plan was approved by the Southampton Town Planning Board in June, and, in October, the village board authorized an engineering firm to begin preparing for the lot’s construction.

In defense of the proposal, Mayor Sandra Schroeder referred to a report from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which determined that the location of the impound yard would be sufficiently far away from freshwater wetlands, and that the project would not likely pose a threat to endangered species that inhabit the area, such as the tiger salamander. 

Over the years, the village has used the parcel as a place to dump the leaves gathered during seasonal cleanups. It has also allowed the PSEG utility company to use the property as a temporary parking lot for its trucks. Southampton Town leases another part of the land for its recycling center.

“It’s a historically compromised site,” said James Larocca, a village board member, explaining his vote in favor of the measure. 

During the public hearing before the vote on Tuesday, a long procession of people, including Diana Kolhoff, the president of the Sag Harbor School Board, Dai Dayton, the president of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, and April Gornik, vice president of the Sag Harbor Partnership, expressed their disapproval of the vote. 

Ms. Kolhoff suggested that the school board could work with the village to find a workable alternative, including, perhaps, using a section of a school parking lot, which is often empty during summer, as a site for the impound yard. Mr. Larocca and Kenneth O’Donnell, the deputy mayor, dismissed that idea, pointing out that impounded cars need to be properly secured to safeguard evidence for the police. 

During her time at the podium, Ms. Dayton said that she was disappointed that board members had convinced themselves that the greenbelt would not be negatively impacted by the project.

Ms. Gornik asked Mr. Corish to state his reasons for opposing the project. He cited environmental concerns, and said he did not believe the village had exhausted its search for an alternate location. 

“I agree,” responded Ms. Gornik. “It seems like there’s a growing sentiment that if we could all work together, there could be a better solution found.”