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May 18, 2016 11:52 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Village Expected To Sign Off On Eruv Settlement Next Month

May 18, 2016 12:52 PM

After nearly nine years of polarizing debate, heated arguments and lawsuits, the eruv issue could finally be settled once and for all.

Officials representing Westhampton Beach confirmed this week that the village—the only municipality sued by the East End Eruv Association that has not yet reached an out-of-court settlement with the group, which has been pushing for the religious boundary’s creation for years—is close to signing an agreement that mirrors those already inked by Southampton Town and Quogue Village.

Brian Sokoloff, the Carle Place attorney who has been representing Westhampton Beach Village in the lawsuit, said this week that the Village Board is close to settling with the East End Eruv Association, or EEEA, accepting a deal that would save Westhampton Beach from potentially shelling out millions of dollars in legal fees.

The Village Board is expected to make a final decision on the settlement in the first week of June, according to Mr. Sokoloff, who declined to share the specific terms of the accord, though he did say it is similar to an agreement previously signed in Quogue Village. According to Mr. Sokoloff, some of the language has been changed because, unlike in Quogue, Westhampton Beach never actually denied an application for an eruv.

In an earlier interview, Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore confirmed that the settlement on the table was essentially the same as the one offered, and eventually accepted, by both the Southampton Town Board and the Quogue Village Board within the past several months. She did not return calls or text this week regarding the topic.

Yehudah Buchweitz, the Manhattan-based attorney representing the EEEA, was not immediately available for comment on the pending settlement. He did note during a prior interview that his group had offered a settlement with Westhampton Beach.

In a letter dated May 13, 2016, provided by Mr. Buchweitz’s office, Mr. Buchweitz and his associate, Robert G. Sugarman, explain that the two parties do expect to reach an accord in the next few weeks.

“The parties’ counsel have worked out language they expect their clients to approve,” the letter reads. “The attorney for the Village of Westhampton Beach has indicated he expects the Board of Trustees of the village to authorize signature at the next public meeting of the board, which will occur on June 2, 2016.”

The issue dates back to February 2008 when the Hampton Synagogue on Sunset Avenue in Westhampton Beach filed an application with the village asking its permission to install markers, called lechis, to demarcate the borders of the religious boundary. In the face of mounting opposition, the synagogue eventually pulled the application later the same year, stating that it would tweak its proposal before resubmitting it. In 2011, a new group, the EEEA, took up the fight on behalf of the synagogue but, this time, asked that the eruv’s boundaries extend beyond Westhampton Beach and into the hamlet of Quiogue in Southampton Town and Quogue Village.

Separate applications filed by the EEEA with Southampton Town and Quogue Village were denied on the grounds that the lechis would violate each of their respective sign ordinances. The EEEA sued both municipalities, and also Westhampton Beach even though the group never filed a formal application there, with the town and Quogue Village both eventually agreeing to settle after the courts threw out their arguments.

The boundary was installed in Westhampton Beach in summer 2014 when U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Tomlinson ruled that the village could not stop the EEEA from contracting with Verizon and the Long Island Power Authority to use their poles.

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