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Jun 24, 2009 4:48 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Cemetery expansion continues to hit obstacles

Jun 24, 2009 4:48 PM

If the land swap had been approved, Mr. Werner said it would have allowed the Cemetery Association to offer an additional 1,500 graves, or 9,000 ash interment sites. At the present time, there are fewer than 30 plots available at the cemetery. There are so few plots remaining that people are allowed to buy them, at $1,250 each, only on an as-needed basis.

According to Mr. Werner, the Cemetery Association began negotiating the land swap with the Trustees in August 2006. Mr. Werner said that, during a public meeting that month, the Trustees verbally told his board to go ahead with its land purchase, suggesting that they were amendable to swapping properties.

“It would have been a good idea for everybody,” said Mr. Werner, adding that he believes that the Trustees are caving to the demands of neighbors who live near the Trustees’ land and Beaver Lake.

But the minutes from that August meeting show that the Trustees agreed only to inspect their property, suggesting that they would need to verify that the swap could be completed. Mr. Shultz, who attended that meeting, said this week that he could not recall the specifics of a conversation that occurred nearly three years earlier.

“We were just tossing around options they had,” Mr. Shultz said. “Everything was left up in the air.”

Mr. Tymann, who did not win his seat until 2007, said his fellow Trustees insist that such an accord was never reached. Still, Mr. Tymann said he has been working with Mr. Werner on alternatives and is recommending that the Cemetery Association swap its land with another nearby property that is owned by Southampton Town. That 2.5-acre property, which was purchased in 2001 using Community Preservation Fund money, is located on the south side of Montauk Highway and just east of the 7-Eleven on Mill Road in Westhampton.

But Mr. Werner said he holds little hope of gaining access to that site, noting that there are numerous restrictions on that property as well. Mary Wilson, the manager of Southampton Town’s CPF, said it would be difficult, though not impossible, to approve the suggested swap. She explained that in order for the deal to go through, she would need permission from both the Town Board and New York State Legislature, and then the measure would have to be put up for a public referendum.

“It is highly unlikely but not impossible,” Ms. Wilson said of the proposed land swap involving the town-owned property.

As a result, Mr. Werner said he is sticking with the Cemetery Association’s Plan B: developing its own landlocked property. To that end, he intends sometime over the next few months to request permission from the Southampton Town Planning Board to change the zoning of the land from residential to cemetery. Once that step is completed, Mr. Werner said he will worry about securing access to the property from the Trustees.

Cindy Harbison, whose home is on Lakeside Lane and located just south of the undeveloped land that is 
owned by the cemetery, said she opposes the idea of the graveyard expanding into what is now a residential neighborhood. “It’s not appropriate,” she said.

Instead, Ms. Harbison suggested that the Cemetery Association should attempt to gain access to its landlocked property from Station Road. Mr. Werner said that is not an option since it would require that his group cut through privately owned land.

Citing the many obstacles now before him, Mr. Werner said he remains bitter that the deal with the Trustees fell through. He also insists that the Trustees simply caved to the demands of homeowners on Lakeside Lane, who did not want the cemetery encroaching into their backyards.

“This has to do with the homeowners, not the environment,” Mr. Werner said. “We care about the water, too.”

Mr. Tymann said that simply is not the case. The Trustees’ land, which was given to them following the approval of the Lakeside Lane subdivision in the late 1970s, has multiple restrictions that forbid its development.

Others in the community, meanwhile, said they are upset with the unwillingness of the Trustees to work with the Cemetery Association. Former Westhampton Beach Mayor Arma E. “Ham” Andon, who owns a plot in the cemetery, said he is angry that the land swap was never finalized. A World War II veteran who has spoken at numerous Memorial Day ceremonies held in the graveyard, Mr. Andon said extending the lifespan of the burial ground should be of utmost importance to everyone living in the greater Westhampton area.

“This is a shame, because the prior Trustees had given them a green light, or else the cemetery wouldn’t have gone ahead like they did,” said Mr. Andon whose late wife, Ruth, is buried in the cemetery.

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Why would the Town Trustees ever even say that they would make such a land-swap?
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Jun 25, 09 10:12 PM
“It’s reckless to have a conversation and then buy land.”

Sure is if the Trustees aren't reputable enough to be relied upon.

Yeah, I know -- always get it in writing!
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jun 26, 09 2:13 PM
Franks W says:

Yeah, I know -- always get it in writing

That is rule #1 in Real Estate. When dealing with a government entity I would go further and ask to see a resolution of some sort. I think the cemetary group jumped the gun here.
By Terry (380), Southampton on Jun 26, 09 5:04 PM
If the Trustees met with the cemetery association to discuss the land trade, where are the minutes of the meeting? Who was at the meeting and exactly what was promised? The Trustees have private meetings with others at closed meetings and make promises, like with Dockers.

I can't believe the Cemetery Association would purchase a piece of land to trade with the trustees without a verbal agreement. The people on the cemetery association board are honorable people.

By Bob Whyte (48), Hampton Bays on Jun 27, 09 6:44 AM
1 member liked this comment
Yes, Mr. Whyte, and it's very troubling to think that the Southampton Town Trustees, might be less than honorable.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jun 27, 09 10:34 AM
Bob and Frank - firstly, the minutes are public record. Go check them out for yourselves. I think you'll be surprised - I checked them and all that the Trustees said was that they would look into it and see what restrictions there were on the land. Which leads me to the real issue at hand that you're ignoring. The land that the cemetery wants was given to the Trustees to protect. What don't you understand about that? The cemetery cannot obtain and develop our parcel, plain and simple. We've offered ...more
By briantymann (31), westhampton beach on Jun 28, 09 9:49 AM
2 members liked this comment
While the minutes of Trustees meetings are public record, you should be aware that the Minutes are not necessarily accurate reflections of the meetings. The Minutes are prepared by the Trustees and approved by them at the following public meeting. The prepared Minutes therefore contain the written representation of what was said at each meeting according to HOW THE TRUSTEES which to record what took place at the meeting, not according to a court reporter's literal, word-by-word recording of what ...more
By BigChase (2), Southampton on Oct 17, 09 4:30 PM
"The cemetery cannot obtain and develop our parcel, plain and simple."


"Our parcel?" Whose parcel, exactly? If you are a Trustee, why don't you identify yourself by name??

And if you ARE a Trustee, then by "our land," it is the Town's land, right?

And my understanding of this matter -- subject to clarification by any of the parties involved -- is that there was to be a land swap, and that there is such a mechanism in place, as well as precedent.

I ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jun 29, 09 8:04 AM
The following are three separate web links and a portion of the related material.

Far beneath the busy cityscape of New York's lower Manhattan lies a centuries-old cemetery. The burial ground, discovered in 1991 by construction workers, contains more than 400 remains of what is believed to be the first group of African slaves brought to the city. It also tells a little-known story of early New York.

The ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jun 29, 09 8:39 AM
1 member liked this comment
Gordon is a great guy-but he's plain wrong about this issue. The trustees have to protect this land as they agreed to when they accepted it.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jun 29, 09 9:44 AM
1 member liked this comment
Frank, you ask me to identify myself - my screen name is briantymann. With a space in between, it is Brian Tymann. I am a town Trustee.

By "our land", yes you are correct - it is land entrusted to the Town Trustees on behalf of the Freeholders and Commonality of the Town.

As I do with all people, with very limited success, I invite you to call me and meet me at the site so I can give you the full picture. 287 5717. I thank you for your interest in this matter.
By briantymann (31), westhampton beach on Jun 29, 09 1:53 PM
I thought your sign in name pretty well identified you-guess Frank needed more hel than just your name
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jun 29, 09 2:25 PM
It is stunning that Eric Shultz can say, if the problem isn't solved soon, "I'm going to go to the Town Board and ask them what they're going to do about it", considering the ardor with which the Trustees have defended their prerogatives over the centuries. Whenever the Town Board has remotely threatened to trespass on their jurisdiction, the Trustees have reacted ferociously, and rightly so. But now Mr. Shultz seems to want to have it both ways, demanding a solution from the Town Board. He is ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jun 30, 09 1:14 PM
2 members liked this comment
See my comment above about the difference between the recorded Minutes and what is actually said at public meetings. The Trustees control how the actual testimony at each meeting is summarized in the recorded Minutes and thus there are often large discrepencies between what is said at the meetings and what is recorded in the Minutes.

When in dispute, one should ask to review the audio tape recordings.

Often what the Trustees commit to and what the Trustees say at the public meetings ...more
By BigChase (2), Southampton on Oct 17, 09 4:36 PM
I'd still like to speak with you, Turkey Bridge. I don't think any conversation is pointless. Have you asked the two gentlemen you plan to vote for how they would handle this? My guess would be that they would see it the same way the 5 Trustees do now. Perhaps not, but I certainly wouldn't base my vote on spite or a guess - it's nto going to solve this issue. True, what was said in the past is important to some degree, but do you think our stance on not swapping the property is wrong? You seem to ...more
By briantymann (31), westhampton beach on Jun 30, 09 5:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
They (the Trustees) have usually been a reactive group only rising to action when threatened or at election time. And it is most interesting that Mr. Tymann has been chosen to defend the Trustees (who would take this issue on as the spokesperson voluntarily) when he was not there and has the LEAST intimate knowledge of the event. Who is afraid of the daylight?
By foodie (74), Remsenburg on Jun 30, 09 5:47 PM
We're speaking with each other right now, Mr. Tymann. We don't need to take our conversation private, we don't have anything to hide. You say I'm dwelling on the past, but when a court has to determine the cause of an auto accident, it focuses on the past because that's when the operative event took place. It's the same thing here, since the operative event that caused the misunderstanding was in the past, that August 2006 meeting that you didn't attend because you weren't a Trustee yet. You ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jun 30, 09 8:37 PM
2 members liked this comment
Turkey Bridge,

the transfer of public property to an unincorporated cemetery association is not a simple matter for an oral agreement.

The requirement that agreements for the sale / transfer of real property must be in writing is founded upon the understanding that the significant rights that are being transferred should be in writing so there can be no misunderstanding or disagreement.

For the cemetery association to claim it was relying upon oral representations should ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jun 30, 09 10:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
The contention that the property is "landlocked" is of doubtful validity.

There is the doctrine of easement by necessity which permits an owner of property that has no access to a public road to obtain an easement to reach the road. That would require a court action to establish ($$$), and it is questionable whether such an easement would be created that would accommodate funeral processions under that doctrine.

Maybe that is why the 2 acres went for $200,000.

Is the ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jun 30, 09 11:01 PM
The problem, Publius, is that you're citing and applying legal principles -- correctly, I believe -- but this is more than a legal matter. (To the extent that it is a legal matter, it presents a he said/she said factual issue, a question for the jury, and my jury vote, as stated in a previous comment, is that it's not believable that the cemetery association could have been so foolish as to go ahead and buy land based only on the ephemeral representations recorded in the Trustees' minutes -- there ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jul 5, 09 9:11 PM