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Public split on Ram’s Head Inn dock —Hearing closed, Town Board discussion to follow

Following a day when Islanders were peppered with information from fellow residents on the proposed Ram’s Head Inn dock plan, there was an indication that a vote on the issue would happen at Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting.

But Deputy Town Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams, who presided over the public hearing, made it clear from the start of the 90-minute session that no vote would take place.

Instead, after hearing from residents about why, or why not, the Town Board should approve the proposed dock, the hearing was closed with a promise that the Board would discuss the issue at the Jan. 17 work session.

Ms. Brach-Williams presided over the public hearing since Supervisor Gerry Siller and Town Attorney Stephen Kiely had to leave the room to avoid a conflict of interest.

Both men are being sued by Inn owner Aandrea Carter for work ordered last May by the Town Board that blocked off and dismantled part of the Causeway dock that had been used by the previous Inn owners.

The current plan is to use an adjacent dock, known as the Bennett dock, but add two 40-foot floats to it for stability. The Bennett dock had for about three decades been used by the Inn before the Bennett family split the property. When that happened, it became a residential rather than commercial dock.

Some residents argue that it should not be treated as a commercial dock now. Others maintained it would be fine to be used commercially, but added floats should not be allowed. Still others argued delays have been long and the Town Board should approve the dock that Ms. Carter has said is an important part of her business.

Linda and James Eklund, who owned the Inn for decades before selling it to Ms. Carter, spoke about the history of the use of the Bennett dock and later use of the Causeway dock.

Several speakers expressed disgust at the Town Board’s order to block the Causeway dock and destroy planks leading from the dock to the shore. Ron Jernick, a member of the Public Works Department crew that performed the work dismantling the dock, said he objected to what was done, but as a town employee he had no choice but to follow orders.

Those in the room who went to the podium and others who participated via Zoom offered mixed messages:

• Approve the application because it’s vital to the survival of the business and Ms. Carter has demonstrated responsible operation, even hiring a launch operator who shuttles customers from their boats to the Inn, carefully ensuring their safety and refusing to allow those with large boats or boisterous, party boat passengers to get to the Inn.

• Conversely, permitting the dock plan as it stands is too extreme and would attract much more unwanted boat traffic to Coecles Harbor.

Some who favor approval of the dock said the Ram Island Association doesn’t speak for most area residents. But Ram Island Association President Marc Wein said he likes the Ram’s Head Inn and Ms. Carter, but the reason the association opposes the planned dock is that it fails to comply with local and state codes and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regulations.

The association isn’t asking for any favors, Mr. Wein said. All he asks for, he said, is that plans for a dock comply with codes and environmental regulations. Ms. Carter said she cares about the environment and safety issues as her operation of the Inn has demonstrated.

She denied accusations that the shoreline has been eroded by the boats coming to the Inn. Erosion has been natural and results from winds that in stormy weather hit the shore, she said.

Depending on whether they favor or oppose the proposed dock, speakers credited Ms. Carter with creating jobs for Islanders, or said she primarily hired those who don’t live on the Island.

Ultimately, it’s a battle between those who argue it’s time to move forward and approve the dock or more time is needed to explore facets of the plan that could have a major impact on the area.

Must the Town Board answer all questions posed by residents before acting on the application? Attorney Timothy Hill, who is advising the Board on the application, said it’s necessary to give the public an opportunity to weigh in, but every question doesn’t have to be answered.

No other comments will be heard and no letters or other information will be accepted, Ms. Brach-Williams said. That angered resident Pam Demarest, who said she had never received answers to her questions about the application filed on behalf of Ms. Carter by marine contractor Jack Costello.