Lesko moves to protect
Newsday May 17, 2012
By SOPHIA CHANG
Leaving the town board out of the
process, Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko has asked the
state to extend the Pine Barrens Core to protect the
Carmans River watershed.
The state Pine Barrens Commission
unanimously passed his motion Wednesday, sending the
proposal to the State Legislature for consideration.
The proposal would extend the
mapped boundaries of the Pine Barrens Core to include
3,500 acres in the watershed. If approved, development
would be prohibited on those acres and stricter state
water quality standards applied to the river.
"The Carmans River is a precious
state and federal resource and the standards that apply
to the Pine Barrens should apply to the expanded core
around the Carmans River," Lesko said in a statement.
He said later that town board politics and the delay in
crafting a new plan compelled him to seek state help.
"This is a classic case where we need state
pre-emption," Lesko said. "A third of the river flows
through a federal preserve. I'm asking the state to
pre-empt the local level to protect the river."
Plans to protect the ecologically
delicate Carmans River, stretching from Middle Island to
Bellport, have been the subject of contention among
Brookhaven officials. Last month, Lesko withdrew his
plan to allow developers to build higher-density housing
away from the river in exchange for property in the
watershed. Opponents, including board members,
feared Lesko's plan would lead to overdevelopment and
proposed a new $30 million plan to fund preserving
"critical watershed properties" and other waterways in
Brookhaven, based on input from town meetings to be held
in the next few weeks.
Pine Barrens Society executive
director Richard Amper, who supported Lesko's plan for
the Carmans River, said this move may influence town
board members to act faster. "The town board
majority has made no showing in the past 18 months that
they are moving ahead with a mechanism to protect the
Carmans River," Amper said.
Councilwoman Connie Kepert blasted
Lesko's move, which she said was not communicated to the
board and negates the point of the upcoming community
meetings. "Apparently, the supervisor is going
forward without input from the community," she said.
"The big problem for the folks I represent is that this
plan takes away their property rights" Kepert said,
comparing Lesko's move to "using a hammer where a
scalpel will be the appropriate tool."