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Fresh Pond site gets second look as a town acquisition

JULIE LANE PHOTO The view from Vincent Novak’s backyard overlooking Fresh Pond.
The view from Vincent Novak’s backyard overlooking Fresh Pond.

The Town Board could reverse a decision recommended by the Community Preservation Fund Advisory Board (CPF) not to purchase property on Fresh Pond.

The CPF Advisory Board turned down an offer to buy the site owned by Vincent Novak at 48 Lake Drive because there is a house on the property and custom has dictated that land purchased with CPF money should be vacant.

Money for the CPF comes from a 2 percent tax that buyers pay when purchasing East End properties and is used to purchase open space for preservation and to fund water protection programs. The CPF Advisory Board reviews possible purchases and makes recommendations to the Town Board.

Members of the Fresh Pond Neighborhood Association and others came before the Town Board at its Tuesday work session to plead for a reversal, saying the property should be purchased.

The house could be razed and the land preserved as part of the effort to improve the quality of water in Fresh Pond.

Peter Grand, a co-chairman of the neighborhood association, argued that the house has a cesspool that may be the cause of some pollution leeching into the pond.

Mr. Novak denied that his cesspool is leeching any wastes into the pond, saying he just spent $3,000 to have it checked and it’s working well. He noted that he had been considering putting in a nitrogen-reducing septic system, but learned that would entail digging a new well since there’s a requirement to separate wells and septic systems that the current location won’t allow.

A year ago, a report on the pond’s water quality revealed a high level of fecal coliforms. Fecal coliforms result from two sources — wildlife, such as geese that frequent the pond, and inadequate septic systems that result in untreated or poorly treated human waste reaching the pond.

Mr. Novak said he can give town officials until Labor Day to buy the property as a CPF acquisition or he will rescind his offer.

Two former town supervisors — Hoot Sherman and Alfred Kilb Jr. — both spoke favorably about the town acquiring the site for open spaces.

Mr. Sherman said that when creating a large piece of protected land, you start with a small piece. If other properties become available around Fresh Pond, that contributes to enlarging an area that would not be developed and become a source of septic wastes affecting the water in the pond.

Buying the house and land and taking down the house would provide usable access to the pond and help clean it thorough natural processes, Mr. Kilb said.

The town would have some liability that could be reduced by taking a step in the direction of improving the water quality, he added.

“This land would help reduce the problem,” Mr. Kilb said. “Don’t miss the opportunity.”

Passing on the acquisition that would enable the neighborhood association to take another step toward keeping the Island as pristine as possible would be a mistake, John D’Amato said.

He and others pointed out that every effort that can be made to reduce septic wastes on the Island is a benefit, not just for those who live near Fresh Pond, but to all town residents.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Mr. D’Amato said about acquiring the property.

Calling Fresh Pond one of the Island’s jewels, James Eklund prefaced his remarks after several others had spoken by saying he would add “one more poke at a dead horse.”

“It’s not so dead,” Supervisor Gary Gerth said. He acknowledged that he at first thought encouraging the acquisition could set a bad precedent for the town, but has been convinced that he needs to take a second look.