Longtime Mastic Beach resident Bob Miller has spent months knocking on doors with the help of other volunteers circulating a petition to unincorporate the village and rejoin Brookhaven Town.
Miller, 49, says he has collected more than 1,600 signatures from residents, which he hopes will result in a villagewide referendum on the question of whether Mastic Beach should disband.
Incorporated six years ago this month, Mastic Beach, which sits along the Great South Bay, is the state’s newest incorporated village. If residents vote to dissolve it, Mastic Beach would be the first to be unincorporated on Long Island since 1991.
Following state law, Miller said he will deliver his petitions to the village clerk on Tuesday.
State law requires 10 percent of the 7,912 registered voters in the village to sign the petition in order to move forward with a referendum. Those signatures must be verified by the village clerk. Miller said that shouldn’t be a problem.
“This way we can send a strong message that we want the village gone,” Miller said of his effort.
When told of Miller’s efforts, Mayor Maura Spery said, “He’s certainly in his legal right to file the petition. The village clerk will certify the petition if the signatures are valid.”
Spery declined to speculate on the village’s future, but described Mastic Beach as a “nightmare and disaster.”
“I’m only in favor of the village staying if it is funded correctly,” the mayor said.
Village trustee Joseph Johnson wants the village to continue.
“It’s foolish to dissolve,” he said. “It would cost us more money to dissolve and it’s intellectually dishonest for anyone to say that this is in the best interest of Mastic Beach.”
If residents ultimately vote to rejoin Brookhaven, Mastic Beach would become the first Long Island village since Pine Valley in 1991, a tiny village opposite downtown Riverhead, to unincorporate.
Christopher Sheldon, a village trustee during Pine Valley’s two-year run, said: “It sounded like a good idea and it was a good idea. But soon things changed. . . . There were all types of problems.”
Before the incorporation of Mastic Beach in August 2010 on a 1,797 to 1,385 vote, residents had expressed concerns over illegal rentals and absentee landlords, among other issues. Since incorporation, the village has been plagued with financial issues, including the overspending on a road paving contract of $400,000.
Moody’s Investors Service recently downgraded Mastic Beach’s municipal bonds six levels to noninvestment grade or junk status and the village has laid off employees.
Inaugural Mayor Paul Breschard resigned midway through his first term because of health issues. In all, the village has had three mayors, six treasurers, five attorneys and three clerks.
“We have what we need, and we’re moving forward with it,” Miller said of his fight to dissolve.
HOW TO UNINCORPORATE
Under New York State Law, an effort to unincorporate a village must include these steps:
- Petitions must have signatures from at least 10 percent of registered village voters or 5,000 signatures, whichever is less. Ten percent of Mastic Village would be 791.
- Once the village clerk confirms the validity of those signatures, the board of trustees has one month to enact a resolution setting a date to have a referendum.
- Within 90 days of that, a summary of the petition must be published once a week for four consecutive weeks before the referendum.
- If the vote is to dissolve the village, the trustee board has six months to adopt a reorganization plan to rejoin Brookhaven Town. Voters can organize a petition drive to hold a referendum on the reorganization plan.
- If the vote is not to dissolve, any future effort on the question of incorporation can’t take place for four years.