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Oyster Bay, baymen: Meeting encouraging

Clams caught by fishermen Bill Painter and Bill

Clams caught by fishermen Bill Painter and Bill Fetzer of Bayville are pictured in Oyster Bay. (April 19, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

Oyster Bay Town officials and baymen who alleged the town abets illegal shellfishing practices said their closed meeting Tuesday was encouraging, with the town offering to work with the baymen to address their concerns.

Baymen at the two-hour meeting said Supervisor John Venditto agreed to consider changes such as upping the baymen's bushel limits and having a third party monitor the boundary separating private and public shellfishing lands.

"It went very well, considering the circumstances," said Fred Menges, 37, of Bayville. "They were definitely willing to work with us."

Menges is one of several baymen involved in litigation against the town and shellfishing firm Frank M. Flower & Sons, which leases land from the town.

"I am confident that we can amicably resolve the pending litigation," Venditto said. "If the town and the baymen continue to work together . . . we'll be well served."

Tuesday's meeting was the first of its kind since the baymen last summer filed a legal complaint alleging that Flower moves markers on the harbor boundary to its benefit and that the firm illegally harvests naturally growing clams.

Five baymen and their attorney met with Venditto and several town attorneys at an Oyster Bay facility in Syosset, said bayman Bill Painter, 50, of Bayville.

Flower was not represented at Tuesday's meeting, though company co-owner Dave Relyea, 65, of Bayville, said he met last week with Venditto.

Relyea and a Flower attorney have denied the baymen's claims, with Relyea on Monday calling the suit "a boundary dispute blown out of proportion."

Town officials at the meeting "were pretty fair," Painter said. "They wanted to know what kicked off the lawsuit. They seemed unaware of the problems."

He added Venditto made no promises, but suggested having the A. James de Bruin & Sons engineering firm regularly monitor the boundary markers and offered a town resolution that would raise the daily bushel limit placed on baymen.

The baymen want de Bruin to check the boundary more often than the town suggested and they declined for the time being the offer on an bushel limit increase, fearing overfishing, Painter said.

The town and Flower have a motion to dismiss the lawsuit slated to go before a State Supreme Court judge on May 31.

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