The town board, scheduled to vote on a modified plan for the Carmans River, did not on Tuesday night. There was a death in Councilwoman Jane Bonner’s family and because Bonner was the lead introducer of several Carmans River resolutions, Supervisor Mark Lesko withdrew them. 

Councilwoman Connie Kepert told the Advance that one of her biggest problems in one of the proposed resos was extending the Pine Barrens Core, something that has resonated with the residents who live in Yaphank especially. That move would have meant taking property for a transfer of development rights (TDR) swap when residents already in that position haven’t been able to redeem them. She had also hoped to propose the bond to purchase more land in the Carmans. That would help protect it. Lesko had pitched $40 million, a big-ticket item. “It’s a lot of money,” Kepert said. “We’re dealing with a tough budget but if we’re saying it’s in danger, I think it’s the only equitable way to do it.” 

Councilman Dan Panico has been working with planning director Tullio Bertoli to correct the redeemable TDR conundrum. “The town needs a workable multifamily code,” he said. “The key ingredient is insuring that the traditional change of zone procedure still occurs. Under the original plan, if they were going to go forward with the receiving areas, it makes sense to identify the areas first, have community meetings and get consent from a majority of the residents, then have a change of zone hearing and adopt it in that matter.” 

Kepert said that procedure, a change of zone deliberation, is the board’s most important power. “I’m on board with them,” said Councilman Tim Mazzei of the TDR situation and the change of zone deliberation by the board. The plan isn’t dead but it should be voted on, one resolution at a time, instead of shoveling through one big glut. “I think that’s what we’re looking at,” Mazzei concurred.

There’s a lot to consider, particularly when there are county intentions to sell land in the watershed area. There are some fine proposals in the mix, including identifying specific sites that can be remedied for stormwater runoff that would reduce the nitrogen level in the Carmans, and Kepert pointed out that the river’s corridor does have a lot of open space around it already. 

A public hearing will likely be set on Sept. 20 for October. Ladies and gentlemen of the town and the county, as you deliberate to close budget gaps, don’t shortchange the health and safety of the residents of this area — already mightily burdened — with convenient science talk or facts that don’t tell the whole story. A lot of people huddled together on this plan.

We wish you well on getting it right.