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Town Board explores ways to license beach vendors

JULIE LANE PHOTO Councilman Paul Shepherd told his colleagues Tuesday he doesn’t think there’s a way to cover every eventuality of businesses operating at town beaches and parks.
Councilman Paul Shepherd told his colleagues Tuesday he doesn’t think there’s a way to cover every eventuality of businesses operating at town beaches and parks.

Talk, but no action — at least not yet — on two issues that trouble Town Board members: how to control commercial operations at beaches and parks on the Island and how to limit single-family houses from being used as hotels or B & Bs.

Both were on Tuesday’s Town Board work session agenda.

There have been various businesses at beaches from ice cream vendors to, most recently, an RV-sized massage spa parking on Shore Road.

Town Attorney Laury Dowd drafted an application vendors would need to file with the town to obtain permission for such operations, but it quickly became obvious, in Councilman Paul Shepherd’s words, that it’s impossible to create regulations that would deal with “every eventuality.”

Councilman Peter Reich asked if regulations should apply to only land or water operations, such as an ice cream vendor who once plied his wares from a boat off Crescent Beach.

Mr. Reich’s concern was that without clear definitions, some businesses could “fall through the cracks” and result in problems.

“Let’s not create loopholes,” Mr. Reich said.

If the town did opt to require vendors to file contracts to operate at beaches and parks, the paperwork would likely deal with seasonal limits, insurance to protect the town from any liability and maintenance of areas around the operations.

The housing issue resulted from a plan to construct a single family dwelling on Montclair Avenue that had eight bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, shower and wet bar. It was the presence of the wet bars in the rooms that raised speculation last month about what the owner had in mind.

Building Permits Coordinator Mary Wilson brought the issue to the board last month and the application has been since referred to the Suffolk County Board of Health Services.

But with other East End communities struggling with currently unregulated “airbnbs,” the board wants to ensure the Island is protected from unforseen problems.

While the town could impose codicils limiting use of what is defined as a single family house, Building Inspector Bill Banks told the board that even if a judge knew about an illegal operation going on, it would still be incumbent on the town to prove it.

“You need to nip it in the bud now,” Councilman Ed Brown said.

“This really is an extraordinary design,” Councilwoman Chris Lewis said about the proposed house on Montclair.
“I’m not sure if there is a solution, but I think we need to find one,” she said.

In other business:
• Supervisor Jim Dougherty announced that representatives of the United States Geological Survey would be at next Tuesday’s work session to discuss proposals for testing water quantity and quality. The town already pays $13,500 for monthly monitoring of test well levels, but the Water Advisory Committee has been discussing with USGS representatives ways to implement water quality testing as well without unwarranted expense.

The full plan the USGS has proposed could run as high as $50,000 a year.

“I think it will creep into the budget process,” Mr. Dougherty said.

• Ms. Lewis spoke about the need to repair or lease a new dishwasher for the Senior Activity Center. The dishwasher is fairly new, but no longer under warranty and cost between $4,000 and $5,000, she said. The repair bill is $1,400, but the contractor from Coram wants his money before the job is started.

Board members balked at that. Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar said it’s difficult to provide a check in advance of work being completed.

Ms. Lewis said she would look into the situation further before returning to the board with a suggested solution.