Featured Story
05/17/17 10:00am
AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO  Suggested one-hour parking spots would be against the fence and just past the gate as Route 114 curves down to Bridge Street.

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO Suggested one-hour parking spots would be against the fence and just past the gate as Route 114 curves down to Bridge Street.

A plan to create more one-hour parking spaces for Bridge Street businesses was met with approval by four Town Board members, skepticism from one and outright dismissal from a member of the audience.

Angelo Piccozzi, representing his family’s businesses on Bridge Street along with six others who petitioned the board to approve the new spaces, presented the idea at the Tuesday work session. Mr. Piccozzi outlined a plan that would create six one-hour parking spaces on the east side of Route 114 as it curves up the hill across from the gas station. (more…)

Featured Story
01/15/16 8:00am
COURTESY PHOTO | The town often has to wait months for payment of garbage bag sales from the IGA.

COURTESY PHOTO | The town often has to wait months for payment of garbage bag sales from the IGA.

Tuesday in its work session, the  Town Board took up the issue of the IGA ordering town garbage bags but taking months to pay the town back. The other handful of retail outlets that sell the bags pay upfront when they’re ordered through the Highway Department, and keeps 10 percent of the sales.

(more…)

09/18/12 2:19pm

PETER BOODY PHOTO | Town Attorney Laury Dowd, left, with Councilwoman Chris Lewis at a Shelter Island Town Board session.

Shelter Island Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty has named Town Attorney Laurie Dowd to be the town’s representative on the new Peconic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund Advisory Opinions Bureau, the creation of which was recently announced by two East End state legislators.

The supervisor made the appointment in response to a September 7 letter from Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who established the panel along with State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle. Both legislators were architects of the original state law that, in 1998, authorized each of the five East End towns to establish a Community Preservation Fund to be supported by revenues derived from a town-by-town 2-percent tax on most real estate transactions.

The money is for funding the acquisition of land for preservation as well as some of the administrative and maintenance costs of the program.

The 11-member Advisory Burea’s function will be to provide legal opinions and interpretations about the proper use of Community Preservation Fund money and properties. Since 2008, when news broke that the town of East Hampton had “borrowed” from its CPF funds to pay municipal operating costs, Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle have worked to clarify the original legislation’s rules and to provide mechanisms through which questions can be answered about proper procedures.

07/05/12 3:09pm

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Town Attorney Laury Dowd at a Town Board work session.

Anyone who has attended more than a few town meetings is likely aware of the many roles Laury Dowd, 60, plays on Shelter Island. Not only is she the one and only town attorney, a post she has held for 10 years, but she also advises the Zoning Board of Appeals, spearheads the town’s MS4 stormwater runoff compliance program and is working on bringing the town’s Solid Waste Management Report up to date.

As is often the case in a small town, the potential for conflicts of interest is ever-present. “Certainly that potential exists,” she said. “So far, it has not” been an issue “because there hasn’t been anything pressing,” she said.

If she found herself in a situation where there were a disagreement between the Town Board and ZBA, for example, she would recuse herself from the ZBA’s service and have it hire special counsel, she said.

Why isn’t she functioning as Planning Board attorney instead of the town hiring Anthony Pasca, a partner at Esseks Hefter & Angel LLP in Riverhead?

“I’ll give you the old Shelter Island answer,” she said in a wide-ranging interview last Thursday: “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

Asked to what extent politics affects her job, she replied, “Politics is an essential part of the job. Everything I do is directed by politicians.” But that doesn’t mean it colors the information she provides, she said. She sees her role as giving specific legal advice.

In March, she told the ZBA to open a new public hearing on whether or not to allow Chequit Inn owner James Eklund to demolish the “Summer Cottage” behind the main inn that dates back to 1890 and replace it with a replica. That wasn’t part of the original plan that had been publicly advertised and aired, she argued, so a new hearing was necessary. ZBA members, feeling there was no need to re-hear the case, told Mr. Eklund he could go ahead.

“I shrug it off,” Ms. Dowd said of rejected advice. What does bother her is people making public comments she knows to be incorrect. Then she has an internal debate: “Do I correct or do I just listen?” she said.

She doesn’t want to appear to be arguing with people and tries to be open to hearing other points of view, she said. But when information is inaccurate, she admitted, it’s difficult to hold her tongue.

“Sometimes the dithering, I go crazy over,” she said, referring to prolonged circuitous discussions. “I’m not a very patient person,” she said.

Tackling so many diverse subjects is the best part of the job, Ms. Dowd said. She loves the fact that no two days are the same and that she’s always learning.

She readily acknowledged that she doesn’t know a lot about the technical aspect of the stormwater runoff projects but her role is to approach the administrative side of managing them, she said. She documents the town’s work in case of a state audit so she can show compliance with state and federal requirements to protect waterways from pollutants.

Ms. Dowd said she wanted the town to take an active role in demonstrating ways to deal with stormwater runoff by removing blacktop and repaving its own parking lot with a porous material that would absorb rainwater. There are Green Innovations grants through the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation that could cover much or all of the cost of such a project, she said. By demonstrating both the attractiveness and effectiveness of a porous surface in the Town Hall parking lot, the town would encourage residents to consider using similar materials for their own driveways, she said.

Before she moved here full-time, the woman with the many town hats had been coming to the East End from Huntington, where she grew up, since childhood. She spent summers on Goose Creek in Southold.

“Shelter Island was always a place of fun,” she said about her attraction to this town. Her father was a builder responsible for many of the Victorian houses constructed here in the 1970s.

While the Island is a special place for her, a piece of her heart belongs to California, where she went to school at the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law. She practiced municipal law in Sacramento, Modesto and Calaveras County, returning to help care for her father when he developed prostate cancer in the mid 1990s. She was initially Southold Town attorney from 1994 to 1998 and assumed the Shelter Island job when it opened because that’s where her dad was living.

Because of the warmer climate in California, she expects to spend her retirement years there, opting for a university community to keep her mind stimulated and a good medical community to treat whatever future physical maladies she might face with age, she said. Early in life she developed arthritis, affecting her knees, feet and ankles. She can’t imagine spending winters in the Northeast later in life, she said.

Meanwhile, she is very active outside of her demanding job, training service dogs for Canine Companions for Independence; serving as secretary and a past president of the Lions Club; getting her hands in the dirt at the Community Supported Agriculture program at Sylvester Manor; and exercising to stay limber.

12/01/11 3:00pm

At the insistence of John Sieni, co-owner of La Maison Blanche inn and restaurant, the Town Board took the unusual step of reconvening after an executive session Tuesday to hear his complaint that Town Attorney Laury Dowd had mishandled and improperly delayed his application to the Zoning Board of Appeals to install a pool and patio at the inn.

Mr. Sieni called his application a “no-brainer” and told Ms. Dowd that he “would have started a month ago” on the project “before you derailed the whole thing.”

In the end, the board and other town officials helped Mr. Sieni avoid red tape and delays by getting his application moved on to the agenda of the Zoning Board’s next meeting.

Mr. Sieni, who is in litigation with the town over a previous Zoning Board decision involving the inn, charged that he shouldn’t be required to go to the Zoning Board at all — as the Building Department, in rejecting an application for a building permit, told him to do — in order to build a pool with a patio and fence at La Maison Blanche, a pre-existing, non-conforming business use in a residential zone.

The case has some parallels to the lawsuit Mr. Sieni has pending in State Supreme Court, challenging a Zoning Board ruling last winter that found his use of a driveway on a former residential lot to serve La Maison Blanche constituted an illegal expansion of a pre-existing, non-conforming business use.

After a back and forth discussion, Mr. Sieni called the Reporter from the board room to see if the town could submit a legal notice after deadline to get his case on the agenda of the Zoning Board’s next meeting on December 14. After the Reporter accepted the notice, Ms. Dowd called Zoning Board Chairman Doug Matz on a speakerphone in her office to win his assent for adding Mr. Sieni’s case to the December 14 hearing schedule. He agreed. Mary Wilson, the town Building Department permit administrator, wrote Mr. Sieni on October 26 to advise him that the pool constitutes an expansion of a non-conforming use and under the town code it requires the approval of the Zoning Board.

After he applied to the Zoning Board, Town Attorney Dowd on November 18 wrote him to say his application could not be processed without further information, including a survey consistent with a plan approved by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. “The survey should clearly show the dimensions and setbacks from property lines and hotel of the pool, patio and fencing,” she wrote.

In heated exchanges with the board on Tuesday, Ms. Wilson denied that the Building Department actually considered the pool an expansion of a pre-existing use, Ms. Dowd and Ms. Wilson clashed about their handling of the case and Mr. Sieni argued the pool was an “accessory use” and not an “expansion” of the business.

He charged that the town attorney had exceeded her authority in finding his application to the Zoning Board incomplete.

Mr. Sieni said he had been told by Supervisor Dougherty to bring his problem to the Town Board work session at 2 p.m. Tuesday but he said he had found the board room doors closed because the Town Board had gone into executive session.

When the board members agreed to open the meeting again and hear Mr. Sieni, Town Board member Peter Reich called the press back to Town Hall as required by the Open Meeting Law. The Channel 22 video camera was not turned back on for the extra meeting period.

At the meeting, Ms. Wilson called Ms. Dowd’s November 18 letter “concocted.” From the audience, she said that “the Building Department does not agree that this is an expansion of use.”

“The Building Department has just done a 180,” Ms. Dowd replied.

“Why did I get bumped to zoning again?” Mr. Sieni asked the Town Board. He compared his application to the Chequit’s pending application before the Zoning Board for a pool and patio, which need variances for inadequate setbacks. He said he didn’t understand why his application had to go to the ZBA if setbacks were not an issue.

Ms. Dowd said that, in both cases, the “concerns are about pools themselves not just the setback.” She added, “The permit you need is a special permit” … the ZBA “needs to take a look at those problems and make sure it fits in nicely with the neighborhood.”

Councilman Peter Reich said he thought that Zoning Board Chairman Douglas Matz, who was not present, had not wanted a repeat of the “Pike job,” a property in the Heights that was redeveloped on the basis of an incomplete survey that had been signed by the ZBA; the reconstruction violated setbacks and now requires further variances.

“I don’t need relief; all I need is a permit,” Mr. Sieni said.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty said that he felt the Zoning Board chairman had made the decision that Mr. Sieni’s application was incomplete, which resulted in Ms. Dowd’s letter. “We have to back him up,” the supervisor said of Chairman Doug Matz’s decision.

Building Department head Bill Banks suggested from the audience that Ms. Dowd’s letter be rescinded, which the Town Board members discussed.

If the letter for La Maison Blanche were rescinded, they said they would also have to rescind a similar letter that went to the Chequit about having to apply to the Zoning Board.

Ms. Lewis asked if there was any way of “meeting the applicant halfway.” She asked if the Zoning Board could set a hearing for January. Member Ed Brown favored an accommodation too.

Supervisor Dougherty reminded them that any talk with Mr. Matz should not be seen as a town “directive” to the Zoning Board. “They’re an independent entity,” he said.

After further discussion, it was agreed that if the Reporter would accept a late legal notice, Ms. Dowd would call Mr. Matz.

Town Attorney Laury Dowd, interviewed after the meeting, said Chairman Douglas Matz had come into her office on November 18 and the two had “looked at” the survey attached to the application where he had “pointed out deficiencies” of the survey, including hand-drawn elements, and that “based on his instruction” Ms. Dowd had sent her letter to Mr. Sieni.