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Litigator joins Dering Harbor legal defense team

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Dering Harbor Village Hall.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Dering Harbor Village Hall.

A second law firm, this one specializing in litigation, has been hired by the Village of Dering Harbor in a lawsuit brought against the village by three residents over ownership of strips of land between their properties and village roads.

After a 90-minute meeting on Saturday spent largely discussing a proposed noise ordinance, Mayor Tim Hogue and the two trustees present, Heather E.G. Brownlie and John H. Colby Jr., emerged from a brief private conference with Village Attorney Joe Prokop and approved a retainer for Hamburger, Maxson, Yaffe & McNally of Melville at a rate of $290 per hour.

Earlier this year the board had hired Lance R. Pomerantz, a Sayville attorney who specializes in title work and has been paid about $17,000 for research. The disputed parcels are remnants from an early development scheme that called for village roads to be 60 feet wide. The roads have never been paved beyond their current narrow widths. The excess was long ago offered to adjoining property owners, but in some instances may have remained under village ownership. The lawsuit arose when a couple sought to plant a hedge along Shore Road on land of uncertain ownership.

Prior to the board’s action, some residents expressed concern about continuing the legal fight against Brad Goldfarb and Alfredo Paredes. Martha Baker, who owns a home further down Shore Road, joined them in their suit.

“It sounds like another lawyer has been hired, and at what cost we don’t know,” resident Karen Kelsey said. “It’s no secret that a lot of residents are adamantly opposed to this litigation, despite the fact that we’re paying for it.”

“But there are a lot of people who are very supportive of what we’ve done in terms of defending ourselves,”

Mr. Hogue replied, adding “there are issues involved that go beyond just these properties.”

The board will wait until summer residents return before enacting the proposed noise ordinance, and will hold open the question of whether to limit hedge heights. During Saturday’s discussion, residents made numerous references to emails that have been circulating between trustees and the public. Mr. Hogue deferred to Mr. Prokop to respond to a request from the Reporter about whether these emails were part of the public record.

“Emails that the village receives or sends are a public record,” he said, prompting Bridgford Hunt to repeat a complaint he has made before.

“I’d like to mention, again, that I disagree with the use of emails for conducting village business and for generating ideas,” Mr. Hunt said. “It completely defeats the purpose of the open meeting law and doesn’t allow people who might be stakeholders in an issue to hear and attribute comments from other people on the issues.

“I made my comments about the hedges here and everybody here has had a chance to hear them,” he said. “All of these other comments that come by email, I’m not privy to them. I don’t know the attribution, I don’t know the state of play … it’s really improper.”

In other business, the board decided that the date of village elections will remain the third Tuesday in June; some residents had asked to move it to a weekend when more of the community’s 70 or so voters are present.

Also, using parks funds, the village planted a Chinese Elm in the Dering Lane traffic island. Stephanie Deutsch requested that the mayor consider using parks funds to clear fallen trees from the village’s wooded buffer along Manhanset Road in her Dering Woods neighborhood.