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04/24/15 2:00pm
JO ANN KIRKLAND PHOTO | Dering Harbor Village Hall.

JO ANN KIRKLAND PHOTO | Dering Harbor Village Hall.

The Dering Harbor Village Board has approved an increase in its 2015-16 budget of 1.9 percent – from $318,680 budgeted in 2014-15 to $324,800 — or a difference of $6,120.

The vote followed a public hearing on Saturday morning, April 21 in Village Hall at which Mayor Tim Hogue reviewed the proposed budget, line by line, for the six residents who attended. He said the budget remained relatively flat for the coming year with some exceptions. (more…)

10/16/13 2:23pm

JULIE LANE PHOTO

A large majority of Dering Harbor’s approximately 40 eligible voters live elsewhere most of the year, but that hasn’t stopped many from declaring the village home base when it comes to choosing where to register.

“My vote matters here, it doesn’t matter in the city,” resident Patrick Parcells said, explaining why he lists Dering Harbor as his primary residence.

That’s the case for many others, according to Mayor Tim Hogue.

“You can make a difference in a small community,” Mr. Hogue said. But those with other residences in Connecticut or New Jersey are likely to bypass calling the village home because their states have lower income tax levels than New York State, he said. Still, he estimates about 40 people are on the village’s voting rolls.

Mr. Parcells not only prefers voting in Dering Harbor, but tried to wrest a Village Board seat in 2012. He ran at large with three others — two of them incumbents — for two open seats. The two incumbents were re-elected.

He and others have charged there’s a lack of transparency in village government and too many decisions about village life are in the hands of too few.

He’s also charged there are some illegal laws on the books. He points to two in particular — one affecting regulations of moorings and docks, enacted in 2012; and the other affecting rentals in Dering Harbor, enacted in 2005.

Resident Rob Ferris is in the same camp. “When you pass a law, you have to make sure it’s legal,” he said, Some laws on the books targeted specific individuals and sometimes laws failed to grandfather in existing situations, he added.

“That’s not an indictment of Tim Hogue,” Mr. Ferris said about the mayor. “It’s an indictment of us.” If people fail to go to meetings and to pay attention to what’s happening around them, they have only themselves to blame, he said.

As for the two laws some villagers challenge, Mr. Parcells said the rental law was aimed at one resident, James Goldman. (Mr. Goldman refused comment.)

The law gives the mayor and trustees decision-making power over who can rent in Dering Harbor and is aimed at prohibiting seasonal house sharing. It references particularly group rentals that the law says could be “hazardous, unsafe, unsanitary and unhealthy” and could “interfere with the quality of life” in the village. Rentals may be permitted by the Village Board based on whether a group of renters resembles a traditional family “in theory, size, appearance and structure.”

There are residents, who if they don’t quibble with the terms of the 2012 law pertaining to moorings, argue the village has no right to control docks. That interpretation is open to debate. Shelter Island Town renders final decisions on dock building and repairs, but the village law skirts that issue, dealing with only surface water issues affecting safety, the environment or aesthetics. Town Waterways Management Advisory Council Chairman John Needham said his members haven’t faced a Dering Harbor dock building project in several years, but he believes the village rightly controls water surface issues. Village attorney Joseph Prokop has been non-responsive to requests for comment.

Charles and Martha Baker spent seven years fighting to build a porch on their Dering Harbor house, only to finally win their battle thanks to a decision made in the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court in 2000. Throughout those seven years they watched others win approvals with no difficulty. The record shows the Bakers have also had battles over fencing, changes to a dock and parking.
Mayor Hogue maintains that decisions handed down by Dering Harbor boards are rendered even-handedly.

It was back in 2005 that resident Esther Hunt, one of the village’s few year-round residents, told the ZBA during a hearing that members were appointed and not elected and accused them of being “very dictatorial.”

That the few who do challenge village government publicly are able to rally support from about half their neighbors may foretell the future of a more transparent village government. But it doesn’t answer the financial question some have asked about how to increase the tax base or cut spending.

A neighbor just outside the village, who said she spoke with Mr. Hogue about a suggestion by Mr. Goldman to invite surrounding property owners to become a part of the village, questioned why anyone would want an additional layer of government.

Anne DeStefano said she asked the mayor how she would benefit by joining the village was told she would get garbage collection services.
“I pay $25 a month now,” she said. “Why would I want to pay an additional $2,500 in taxes?”

When she sold real estate, she said it was very hard to market properties in Dering Harbor because of the extra layer of taxation.

“I don’t think they’re going to have any takers,” Ms. DeStefano said about the suggestion to bring other taxpayers into the village.
For those who live there, many said they knew about the extra taxes when they bought, but chose Dering Harbor because they felt it would increase their property values. Those residents point to the existence of an Architectural Review Board that ensures no changes will be made to surrounding properties that aren’t in line with the overall architectural style of the village.

Others, such as Mr. Goldman, see it as redundancy and question why separate planning and zoning boards provide better services than they would get from the town.

Still, there is no move afoot to dissolve the village government. Rob Ferris, despite his own concerns, perhaps sums it up best for many.

“Mostly … we all need to take a deep breath,” he said. “The village is a very special place.”

10/08/13 2:38pm

PETER BOODY PHOTO | John Colby Jr. at home in Dering Harbor, command center of Bricktower Press.

Sunfish sailor, skier, fan of Glen Cove’s and Dering Harbor’s architectural history, John Colby Jr. of Dering Harbor is a one-man-band who serves as editor, publisher, buyer, IT guy and book-stacker of Brick Tower Press, a David that is suing a Goliath called Apple for its use of the “iBook” brand.

Mr. Colby, 54, has been using the brand for some of his books since 2007, when he bought several pieces of the late publisher Byron Preiss’s bankrupt businesses as one of its creditors. Preiss had first used the name in 1999, back in e-book pre-history, when he developed interactive titles that relied mostly on CDs.

As Mr. Colby explained it recently, the name originally derived from a 1938 comic book series called “I, Robot,” which Preiss invoked for a compilation he published of Isaac Asimov short stories about feeling, thinking robots. The celebrated sci-fi stories were the bases for the 2002 film of the same named starring Will Smith.

Now “iBooks” refers to hundreds of titles Mr. Colby acquired through his Preiss purchase. He’s not looking for a billion-dollar settlement. All he wants from Apple is a letter of apology and the chance to sell his titles through Apple’s iBook electronic bookstore.

He lost the first round of the suit. It’s now on appeal with arguments to be heard in January. “I don’t understand her reasoning,” he said of the summary judgment against him handed down by Judge Denise L. Cote, the same judge who found Apple guilty of conspiring to fix e-book prices with other publishers. “It just makes no sense to me,” said Mr. Colby.

It’s good for him that his dispute with Apple isn’t likely to come up at a Dering Harbor Village Board meeting in the village, where Mr. Colby serves on the Zoning Board of Appeals, of which he is chairman, and the Planning Board, of which he is a former chairman.

He and his wife Betsy and kids Marnie and John III (known as Cole) moved full-time to the village from Park Avenue three years ago after having been weekenders for about 20 years. Marnie and John both attend the Ross School now.

“When I get angry or upset, I volunteer for something,” he explained with a laugh during a talk on the porch of the shingle-style, high-peaked house with pool he designed himself more than 10 years ago.

The goal was to put up something bigger than the three-bedroom house he and his future wife had bought in 1988 in Hay Beach; after they married and their son was born, it suddenly seemed very small. He wanted something that looked as if it had been built at least 100 years before, like the so-called cottages and carriage houses that once dominated Dering Harbor.

He presented the plan himself to the Architectural Review Board. “They were more interested in the photovoltaic panels on the roof than the architecture and its influences,” Mr. Cole remembered.

The board approved his design but with a request: Wouldn’t he like to serve on the board? He said yes and he’s still serving on the ARB.
So it goes in village with something like 24 households.

Mr. Colby grew up in Glen Cove. His late father was a major name in the textile business, creating and selling the jean brands Sasoon and Guess. John went to local schools and had a paper route; the architectural relics around town of grand old country estates, where he delivered the Long Island Press, fascinated him. One of them was a brick tower where the granddaughter of one of the tycoons lived. That tower and the granddaughter would prove important to John, in both his business and family life.

John got to know Shelter Island — as well as the field of publishing — through his mother‘s sister, May Morse, who with her husband Ed owned a home on Bay Shore Drive for many years. The Colbys, who had built a house in Montauk but eventually sold it, were frequent visitors. May and John’s mother Jomarie now live at Peconic Landing; Ed and John’s father have passed away.

May came to the Island because so many others in publishing had places here; she had worked for Doubleday since the 1940s. When John Jr. decided as a student at Syracuse University that he wanted a summer job interning for the company, she helped him land a place in the royalty department in Garden City, where sales and returns were marked on cards by women who had been with the company since the 1930s.

A finance major, he continued with Doubleday full-time after graduation, working in various departments in Garden City and later on Fifth Avenue overseeing the company’s transition from manual to computerized record keeping. Sent to a graduate program at CCNY by the company, he became a master of algorhythms used to predict book club sales, which were crucial to profitability.

As chief financial officer and secretary of the bookshops division, he developed the digital “architecture,” as he calls it, that connected Doubleday’s 50 or so retail stores with headquarters so sales could be tracked in real time. Only Doubleday could do it back then — the only reason why the company knew to buy more copies of an obscure title called “The Hunt for Red October” by an unheard-of fellow named Tom Clancy. Doubleday’s buyer had bet the book would be a hit and had bought 1,000 copies from its publisher, the Naval Institute Press. That was half its meager print run.

The buyer was right. Mr. Colby’s data proved it so the company knew long before it ran out of inventory it needed to buy more copies.
Doubleday was sold to the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann in the late 1980s, and in 1990, the day before he and Betsy Brabb (a fellow skier he’d met on a trip to Killington) were married, Bertelsmann sold Doubleday to Barnes & Noble. They already had a CFO so Mr. Colby got a job with the British Company Dorling Kindersley, helping to create its American imprint.

“In 1991, we did 21 titles and the next year we did 60,” he said. “I thought, doing all this work, that I wasn’t having as much fun as I’d had at Doubleday. And that I could do it all myself. All I needed was an author and a couple of books. So in 1993, my wife wrote the first title, a cookbook” called “American Chef’s Companion.”

He knew cookbooks never get stale — they keep selling forever.

Brick Tower Press was born, named after that old brick tower in Glen Cove that was an architectural relic of the old J. R. Maxwell estate. Living in the tower was one of his Long Island Press subscribers, Maxwell’s granddaughter Marnie, for whom John had mowed the lawn and done other chores over the years.

His daughter is named for her and there’s an urn by his driveway that was one of a group of cement urns that adorned the estate’s main gate.

A sense of the past is important to Mr. Colby. “Being a publisher,” he said, “you have sense of what came before, how you got to where you are. That’s especially important in Dering Harbor,” where he designed a house intended to fit in with they way it used to be.

12/03/12 12:00pm

PETER BOODY PHOTO | Dering Harbor Mayor Tim Hogue taps resident  Jason Weisenfeld for the Zoning Board of Appeals.

At least a dozen Dering Harbor residents attended the monthly meeting of the village trustees on Saturday, November 17,in Village Hall to hear an update on water-related issues, road safety measures and committee appointments, among other items.

Mayor Tim Hogue announced that he was recommending, with the trustees’ support, that resident Jason Weisenfeld be asked to serve as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Mr. Weisenfeld had previously been appointed to the Planning Board but agreed to step down from that position to accept the ZBA appointment, a more demanding assignment, the mayor noted.

He will make a new appointment to the Planning  Board by the December meeting, Mr. Hogue said.

The board announcement caused considerable discussion by a number of residents, particularly with regard to having in place a process that would ensure broader representation on the three village boards (Planning, ZBA and Architectural Review). “The village would benefit from a better defined process,” Patrick Parcells said from the audience.

Mr. Hogue said that the process initiated this year would be implemented again as terms expire and vacancies come up. “There are new faces on all three boards now,” Mr. Hogue commented. “We’ve made a commitment to expand” participation.

Some residents indicated that the application procedures put in place, such as individual interviews, were not always followed and wanted some assurance there would be adequate notice of openings and other factors built into the process.

The mayor said that until recently there has not been a pool of applicants to chose from. Village residents, primarily here for the summer, did not necessarily want to get involved in village governance on a regular, year-round basis. The fact that this year at least 10 residents had indicated an interest in a board appointment was a positive development, he said, but at the same time current board members should not feel “defensive” either about their long-term service.

The board took formal action on Mr. Weisenfeld’s appointments and ratified the terms of office of the other four ZBA members.

Mr. Hogue announced he was continuing to look at speed bump alternatives for Shore Road — particularly those that would provide a channel for bicycle traffic. At the very least, he said, the speed bumps currently in use during the summer could be extended the length of the roadway.

Audience members raised other questions about traffic speed monitors, lower speed limits in the village as well as stricter enforcement of speed limits. Following a discussion of the legal issues involved in setting speed limits — for example, state law only permits 20-mph limits under certain circumstances — board members were in favor of recommending a new local law that would establish a 25-mph limit throughout the village. Shore Road is already posted at 20 mph. The law would be subject to a public hearing before the trustees put it to a vote.

On the subject of traffic and safety, the mayor said that county workers had inadvertently extended their painting of double lines on a portion of Manhanset Road within village limits. The county has offered to continue the line painting through the rest of the village.

Board members voted unanimously to accept the offer; it could help with one particularly dangerous curve on that roadway, one trustee said.

ALL ABOUT WATER
A shift in the wind during Hurricane Sandy’s second high tide helped reduce flooding and other damage to the village’s waterfront properties. “We came through relatively unscathed,” Mr. Hogue said. Estimates of the damage and cost of clean-up are being drawn up now and, where appropriate, will be submitted to FEMA for possible reimbursement.

An RFP to dig a second well, recommended by the Suffolk County Department of Health, was sent out last month but has resulted in zero responses, Mr. Hogue said. The storm could be a factor, as well as the fact that more of the eastern end of the North Fork is now on Suffolk County water, which has put at least one major well company out of business. “We will renew our efforts,” he said.

Dry wells are being considered to reduce flooding on Shore and Dering Woods roads. There will be some CHIPS money available to help defray costs, Mr. Hogue said.

GATE/FENCE DECISION DEFERRED
The board considered an application submitted by Patrick Parcells to install a gate in an arched opening of his beech hedge located just south of Havens and Manhasset roads. The board’s review and recommendation is the first step before an application goes before the ARB for a decision. [A November article in the Reporter was incorrect in stating that the trustees were forwarding Mr. Parcells’ application to the ARB.]

Mr. Parcells’ proposed double-door gate is 6.5 feet tall and 13 feet wide.

Mr. Hogue read excerpts from an email sent by Mr. Parcell’s neighbor, Ken Walker, who was opposed to the gate because of its size, among other reasons, and the fact that the beech hedge is a village landmark and “needs to be maintained, not altered.”

In response to several audience comments, Mr. Parcells said that the width of the fence would remain the same as the current opening and that the gate posts, while higher, would be placed where the existing posts are now.

Mr. Hogue referred to a number of passages in the conservation easement that was drawn up between Mr. Parcells and the Peconic Land Trust in 2003 when Oriole Farm was subdivided. He was concerned that the proposed gate may not be in compliance with either the spirit or the letter of that document. The mayor said he didn’t see how such a large gate, intended only for pedestrian use, could be built without doing damage to the hedge, which was specifically protected by the conservation easement.

Mr. Parcells suggested asking the Peconic Land Trust to have a look at his plans.

Mr. Hogue said he wanted more time to review the application, to consider if something “smaller in size” and more appropriate in the relation to the hedge, could be designed. The application is not being denied, he said; there will continue to be  discussion.

OTHER BUSINESS
• Recreational setbacks: John Colby was asked by the board in September to look at whether the village code requirement of 75-foot setbacks for pools and tennis courts was reasonable for smaller properties.
Mr. Colby reported that his preliminary recommendation in October was to consider different setbacks for lots in Residential District A (3 acres) and District B (1 and 1 1/2 acres).
Mr. Hogue said there would be an opportunity for public discussion before any code changes are proposed. Mr. Parcells suggested that residents be given the option to submit their comments in writing as well.
• For the record: Trustee Linda Adams said that she wanted to make it clear she had never argued against making board agenda available to village residents as reported in a recent community email newsletter. She requested a correction be made in the newsletter.
The next meeting of the Board of Trustees will be held on Saturday, December 15 at 10 a.m. in Village Hall.

09/21/12 10:00am

A larger than usual crowd showed up again for the regular monthly meeting of the Board of Trustees in Dering Harbor on Saturday, September 15. More than a dozen residents gathered in Village Hall to hear the board’s recommendations on road safety, an initial discussion of zoning setbacks for recreational uses and the announcement of the mayor’s proposed appointments for the coming year.

Mayor Tim Hogue followed up on last month’s report of the Road Safety Committee. In Committee Chair Linda Adams absence, he recommended trying out a single speed bump marketed as “The Big Bump” to address concerns that the existing are not effective.

“We can get one right away, see if we like it,” the mayor said, and then be in a position to install them along the length of the roadway next season.

He also proposed ordering, on a trial basis, red and white traffic posts to place at either end of each bump, which would discourage drivers from trying to drive around it.

More details about last week’s monthly Village Board meeting in Dering Harbor will appear in the September 27 edition of  the Reporter. The story was held from the September 20 edition because of space limitation.