“Decisions about East Quogue should be made by the people of East Quogue for the people of East Quogue elected by the people of East Quogue,” said Karen Kooi, co-chair of the East Quogue Village Exploratory Committee. “We are proposing a village that is sustainable.”
At an informational meeting held at the elementary school September 24, the committee unveiled a provisional budget to be able to do so, revealing residents would keep their current services and related taxes and add $.06/$1000 of assessed value — seeing a $30 a year increase in taxes per $500,000 of assessed value if choosing to incorporate.
Kooi said the group accumulated hamlet history over the last few years and coupled that with data from other villages running a similar-style government, mainly Sagaponack, but pointed to other successful hamlet incorporations like North Haven, to get plan and a budget in place.
“We’ve compiled facts, figures, actual financial history, and village law,” Kooi said. “The time for this momentous decision is now.”
The vote on incorporating will be Thursday, October 17. Voting will take place from noon to 9 PM at the East Quogue Elementary School, located at 6 Central Avenue.
Pursuant to Village Law Article 2, on Friday, October 11, between the hours of noon and 9 PM, a registration list of those qualified to vote at said election will be available for review by the public at the town clerk’s office, located inside Southampton Town Hall at 116 Hampton Road in Southampton. At that time, persons claiming to be qualified to vote whose names are not on said list may, upon presentation of proof of qualification, have their names added. Registering to vote can also be done prior voting day.
As per a 2006 court decision, committee member Jessica Insalaco said, absentee ballots will not be accepted. “That’s not our call,” she said. “We prefer to have them.”
“Incorporation is the best option to keep our community the way it is while providing opportunities to improve our quality of life,” said Kooi, pointing to the hamlet’s lack of representation in town government as East Quogue residents make up eight percent of the 56,790 people in the town. “We want to protect our school, our business district, and our taxes. We want to improve and grow in an appropriate and balanced way. Change is inevitable, but how we change is not.”
The committee’s main objective in getting that done was to come up with a thin layer of government at the lowest cost possible. There will be a mayor, trustees, and a local architectural review board made up of volunteers. The only paid position, required by law, will be the village clerk. As asked for by the town, the village would also oversee planning, zoning, and code enforcement, but will rely on the town for police coverage and public works to keep expenditures down.
This means that encompassed in the total expenses will be a full-time village clerk, a full-time building inspector, part-time code enforcement, two full-time administrative supporters, rent, office supplies, utilities, a contract attorney, planner, engineer, insurance for volunteer boards, membership fees, and grant fees. Some of these will be offset with new revenues, along with money the town has been receiving, like from mortgage taxes, building department permits and fees, franchise fees from Cablevision, sales tax, and property tax. New sources of funding would be state aid, and Water Quality Improvement Fund project money from the town’s Community Preservation Fund, which is generated through a two percent tax on real estate transfers.
During a question-and-answer portion at the end of the committee’s presentation, several asked what would happen if the village can’t find volunteers, or if those serving start to demand salaries. Many also wanted to know details such as how their homes will be assessed, and if the village would own East Quogue beaches. One person questioned why signs state incorporating will keeps taxes low when on the committee’s website — www.eqvillageexploratorycommittee.com — it says taxes will increase.
“The only way to keep taxes low in the long run or get them lower is to control your territory,” Insalaco said. “If you don’t, who knows what will happen. That’s the point. It’s a short-term cost to help you protect the long game.”
Kooi said beaches like Hot Dog would still be owned by the town, but that if a purchase is something residents would like to pursue, the village would look into it. Trustee properties would remain that way.
The committee co-chair said she doesn’t foresee any issues getting volunteers.
“We have a volunteer fire department, we have volunteer school board, citizens advisory committee, civic, chamber . . . I’m sure there’s a handful of volunteers in this room,” Kooi said. “There are people on the committee who would like to volunteer.”
As conversations grew heated and audience and committee members began to change their tone and talk over one another, residents were still convinced the idea to form a village is over The Hills planned development district. The town is expected to decide on Discovery Land Company’s luxury housing development and private golf PDD this month, and Southampton is still tied up in a $100 million lawsuit on the matter. While committee members rejected the idea The Hills decision is the driving force behind incorporation, and even said they rejected money from the company to help in their cause, those in East Quogue against the development do not like the idea that incorporation would give Discovery Land another bite at the apple.