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Mayors oppose Huntington proposal to take over underwater land

Huntington Town wants jurisdiction over underwater land in

Huntington Town wants jurisdiction over underwater land in villages such as Northport. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Huntington's attempt to take jurisdiction of underwater lands of the town’s villages, as it pertains to boat moorings, is facing opposition from mayors.

Mayors from Huntington Bay, Lloyd Harbor and Northport say the town has no legal right to take jurisdiction and are seeking clarity on the proposed changes.

They all expressed disappointment that they were not notified of the proposals before public hearings were scheduled.

“While the Village of Northport was not included in any discussions about this change, it leads me to believe it was purposefully done,” Northport Mayor Damon McMullen said during the hearing.

The Huntington Town Board held two public hearings March 10 regarding updating the marine conservation and regulation of marine structures and harbors and waterways chapters of town code.

Town Attorney Nick Ciappetta did not respond to a request for comment.

Among the code amendments proposed are clarifying that the Town of Huntington Board of Trustees and the Town of Huntington own underwater lands bounding the town, including the underwater lands within incorporated villages; providing a definition of a mooring and transient mooring; requiring a mooring permit from the town’s maritime services department for placement of moorings on underwater lands within 1,500 feet of the shorelines of the incorporated villages of the town; and the procedure to get a mooring permit.

McMullen said for years the town has tried to take jurisdiction from the village but a 2004 opinion from the state solicitor general, backed by the state attorney general at the time, says the town cannot have jurisdiction over village underwater lands 1,500 feet from the shore.

He also questioned how the town would spend the $40 fee charged for each mooring permit and money collected from summonses. 

"I'm asking if they are collecting $40 is this to clean the beaches or water, to collect derelict boats, plant sea grass, restock oysters," McMullen said. "Where's it going?" 

He also wants to know if there is a legal agreement between the town board and the town trustees — two separate entities — that gives the bay constable the authority to issue tickets for underwater land violations. Huntington trustees are charged with overseeing underwater lands.

"What gives them the right to have the bay constable write a ticket? If I didn't pay my rent the police would not write me a ticket, the landlord would take me to court," McMullen said. 

Attorney John Ritter, who spoke at the public hearings as a representative for Lloyd Harbor Village, asked to be notified by town officials of any changes that would affect the village, as had been the practice for the past 35 years.

He also said town officials have no authority over Lloyd Harbor underwater lands and that it was unclear if they were trying to intrude on the village’s exclusive jurisdiction.

“We’re here tonight not to oppose your jurisdiction over proper mooring and anchoring, what we’re here for is clarity,” Ritter said. “We read this law only recently, and we think there’s some ambiguity to it.”

An attorney representing Huntington Bay Mayor Herb Morrow requested a meeting between town and village officials before any changes are adopted.

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said after the public hearing that he would be in touch with all the mayors.

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