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Jun 11, 2019 10:13 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village Candidates Debate Top Issues On Friday

Southampton Village Trustee candidates Joe McLoughlin,  Mark Parash and Andrew Pilaro.  DANA SHAW
Jun 12, 2019 11:16 AM

Southampton Village mayoral and trustee candidates, at a debate on Friday, discussed their takes on major issues, including a polluted centerpiece lake, the empty storefronts along Main Street and Jobs Lane, and a lack of affordable housing options for the next generation.

The debate, which was hosted by The Press and moderated by Executive Editor Joseph P. Shaw in a roundtable structure, took place at the Southampton Arts Center in front of a nearly filled room.

Incumbent Mayor Michael Irving, 65, and Village Planning Commission member Jesse Warren, 36, are facing off for the top seat. Mr. Warren waged a write-in campaign for village trustee in 2017, garnering 151 votes—a strong showing but not enough to get him elected.

Sparring for two open seats on the Village Board: Joseph McLoughlin, 29, also a member of the Planning Commission; Mark Parash, 48, the owner of Sip ‘n’ Soda; and Andrew Pilaro, 49, the president of CAP Properties Limited.

Mr. Irving and Mr. Warren rarely saw eye to eye on many of the topics discussed on Friday, including adding sewers to the village.

In 2014, Mr. Irving said, the Village Board met with H2M Architects and Engineers to come up with a plan to install sewers and a water treatment plant in the village, but the board backed off when officials could not figure out who would pay the $34 million to have it installed.

Mr. Warren, who owns a clothing retail store on Main Street called Tenet, said he and the other business owners “unanimously” want to see some sort of septic and water treatment improvements, in order to be able to offer more restaurants and “experiential activities” at night.

He accused the board of not having the will and energy to get sewers in place, as Westhampton Beach has. He said Westhampton Beach Village Mayor Maria Moore attended many of the meetings between H2M and Southampton Village in 2014, took the plan back to her village, and was able to get it rolling.

“Business owners, residents and visitors all want it,” he said. “Westhampton Beach showed it can be done.”

Mr. Irving did not say he was against putting in a water treatment system, but said the technology has changed and there is, instead, a way to hook up groups of businesses to cluster systems that can treat the wastewater.

Mr. McLoughlin said a centralized treatment plant is not the way to go, but cluster systems could work, as did his opponents Mr. Pilaro and Mr. Parash. The latter said the village is missing dining options, and cluster systems may be able to provide some of those options, or even upstairs apartment opportunities.

Mr. Pilaro echoed his running mate Mr. Parash, adding that a $35 million price tag in 2014 may have strapped the village for money, risking its AAA bond rating and racking up interest. He said it was probably good to wait, and now look into cluster systems.

“I honestly believe the best system for the village is clustering,” said Mr. Irving, explaining that businesses could create private partnerships and share the costs.

The candidates also talked about numerous vacant storefronts in the village.

Mr. Irving announced during the debate the addition of 20 new businesses in the village recently, including two new restaurants, two exercise facilities and 16 retail locations.

“We have a very vibrant and exciting strong community in Southampton,” he said.

To continue working to improve the vibrancy, Mr. Irving said he created a committee to try to re-brand the village by promoting restaurants, the village’s walkability and retail shopping.

Mr. Warren countered, “If you believe our village is vibrant, it does demonstrate that there is a bit of out-of-touchness going on here.”

He later said he would consider imposing a vacancy tax on shop owners who intentionally leave their stores empty—and Mr. Irving agreed with the idea.

Mr. Warren said the village could do more to connect with the public by using technology like photography, video and social media.

The two youngest candidates, Mr. Warren and Mr. McLoughlin, were asked about the village being closed off to their generation, in terms of affordability.

Mr. McLoughlin said he lives in the home he grew up in, but when the Town of Southampton assesses property at full value, it makes it tough to live there because taxes rise every year.

Mr. Warren agreed that it was expensive to live in the village, and that has led to the exodus of his generation. He pointed to another issue: “There’s a lot of McMansions, and such, being built,” he said. “I would like to address our zoning, so that we don’t have a 10-bedroom home being built on a medium-sized property of land.

“I would like to see, instead of a 10-bedroom monstrosity, I would like to see five two-bedroom cottages on the property, so people of our generation can afford to rent and live in these places,” he added.

A 60-unit affordable housing complex being proposed behind the Southampton Full Gospel Church on County Road 39, Mr. McLoughlin suggested, was not the solution to the affordable housing problem, even though affordable housing is needed.

Mr. Parash and Mr. Pilaro agreed that having affordable housing is necessary, but caution needs to be taken. Mr. Parash was against the development feeding traffic through the Hillcrest neighborhood, which the developers have said they are looking at alternatives to.

Mr. Pilaro weighed in and said it would be important to work with the town on the project—since the project is outside the village boundaries. Mr. Irving said the village will be given a presentation on the development sometime toward the end of June.

Mr. Irving expressed concern during the debate, saying he was worried the project was being proposed as more of an affordable complex where anyone could live, but he would prefer it was limited to current residents.

Another hot topic at the debate was the health of Lake Agawam. While all of the candidates were in agreement that the lake was polluted, they differed on ways to improve its health.

Mr. Irving’s approach has been to follow the village’s Comprehensive Plan and address runoff through a series of basins along major roadways leading to the lake. He also said another project on Gin Lane would address drainage at the southern end of the lake.

Now, he and Village Superintendent of Public Works Gary Goleski are looking at the sediment at the bottom of the lake, because until that is removed, Mr. Irving said, the lake will never reach a level of satisfactory water quality.

Mr. Parash said he would like to see the lake dredged, and Mr. Pilaro agreed.

Mr. Warren said he would like to see a 3-acre property on Pond Lane that was recently purchased using Community Preservation Fund money have a natural treatment center installed. He said water would be pumped to the property and filtered through greenery, treating the water before it flows back to the lake.

Mr. Irving said that could never happen because the CPF requires the space to be left unimproved.

Mr. McLoughlin’s approach to the lake would be to work with homeowners to ensure they have the required 50-foot buffer of plants between their homes and the lake. The buffers offer filtration, like Mr. Warren’s proposed idea.

The future of the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital campus, which is privately owned and has a sewage treatment plant on site, was also discussed. In the next five years, the hospital is expected to move to the Stony Brook University campus in Shinnecock Hills.

All agreed that they should work with the hospital to come up with a plan as to what should happen with the property, whether the village taps into the sewer plant, or the property is converted to houses with green space.

All candidates will participate in a meet and greet on Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. that will be broadcast live on WPPB from 53 Hill Street. The event is open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

The election will take place on Friday, June 21, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Levitas Center at 25 Pond Lane.

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Rain Drops Keep Fallin' On My Head.
By themarlinspike (430), Northern Hemisphere on Jun 11, 19 8:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
Southampton Village outlawed bicycle riding on Main Street and Jobs lane in favor of car parking. Talk about discouraging healthy and green transportation while promoting SUV’s and parking. Traffic congestion is the #1 cause of air pollution and is the biggest quality of life problem in the Hamptons. Candidates should get with the times like the rest of the world and be progressive.
By Non-Political (118), Hampton Bays on Jun 12, 19 4:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
You make a good point, but bicylce riding restriction on busy areas was put in place a long time ago. (New bike lane markings were just done on Hill Street.)

http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/Southampton-Village-Surrounding-Areas/72067/Southampton-Bike-Lanes-Removed-Village-Cites-Safety-Reasons

SHV was the first village on Long Island to ban gas leaf blowers (GLBs) over the summer starting this May, avoiding carbon and particulate matter from getting into our lungs and the ...more
By Liftup88 (8), Southampton on Jun 12, 19 9:59 PM
They outlawed bike riding because these idiots were running people over.
By chief1 (2747), southampton on Jun 12, 19 10:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
Bikes running people over? Show us statistics and facts. Fact: Cars are the leading cause of pedestrian deaths and there are no efforts in outlawing cars.
Bike lanes were painted wrong on Hill Street, btw.
By Non-Political (118), Hampton Bays on Jun 12, 19 11:55 PM
Less cars and more bike pedestrian traffic on main St and Jobs lane.
By mychildmatters (70), SOUTHAMPTON on Jun 13, 19 8:48 AM
Another day, another accident on CR-39...
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (718), southampton on Jun 13, 19 9:44 AM
Vote Jesse, Mark & Andrew.

Get business back in Southampton Village
By Draggerman (924), Southampton on Jun 16, 19 3:44 PM
VOTE JESSE WARREN FOR SOUTHAMPTON VILLAGE MAYOR ... HE WILL BRING VIBRANCY BACK TO THE VILLAGE.

VOTE JOE McLOUGHLIN FOR SOUTHAMPTON VILLAGE TRUSTEE ...JOE IS ALREADY VERY KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT THE WORKINGS OF THE VILLAGE AND IS READY TO GO ON DAY ONE.

VOTE MARK PARASH FOR SOUTHAMPTON VILLAGE TRUSTEE ... AS A BUSINESSMAN, IN THE VILLAGE, MARK UNDERSTANDS WHAT THE VILLAGE TRULY NEEDS..
By HamptonClassic (101), Southampton on Jun 17, 19 8:57 PM
The Hampton Classic, Horse Show, Bridgehampton