An effort to disband the Village of Mastic Beach took another step forward Thursday when a petition calling for a public referendum on the issue was deemed valid.
Village Clerk/Administrator Susan Alevas said she had validated more than 900 signatures on the 161-page petition, which had been submitted last week by village resident Bob Miller.
About 800 valid signatures on the petition — or 10 percent of the village’s approximately 8,000 registered voters — were required under New York State law to ask the village board to consider a referendum.
If a referendum date is set, and the village ultimately disbanded by voters, Mastic Beach would be the first on Long Island in 25 years to dissolve since Pine Valley in the Town of Southampton.
Mayor Maura Spery did not return calls for comment. Three of the five village board members – trustees Joseph Johnson, Anne Snyder and Chris Anderson – have said they oppose disbanding the village. Anderson could not be reached for comment. Snyder declined immediate comment.
Johnson said he will vote to set a date for the referendum, though he opposes the movement to dissolve. The next scheduled village board meeting is Sept. 20.
“I am a big advocate that people have the right to a choice. I only pray they make the right one,” Johnson said Thursday in a telephone interview. “I think that going backward is never the way of progress and the people should really see the value of local control and sovereignty.”
Miller, who spearheaded the petition drive, said a referendum could be held in December or January under state guidelines.
“People have spoken. They want a vote,” said Miller, adding he had spent about two months collecting signatures. “If they say keep it, we keep it.”
Alevas, in an interview, said she had notified village board members that she had validated 916 signatures out of 1,474 presented by Miller. She said Village Attorney J. David Eldridge would advise the board of the next steps that must be taken. Alevas declined to comment further.
Under state law, the village board has 30 days to set a date for a referendum on whether to once again become a hamlet under the domain of Brookhaven Town.
Proponents of disbanding the 6-year-old village say Mastic Beach is incapable of managing its finances properly, pointing to a budget crisis this year that led to dozens of village employees being laid off. Mastic Beach’s credit rating was reduced to junk bond status earlier this year.
“We don’t have the tax base to sustain the village,” Miller said. “We have to decide whether we have the tax base to sustain the village or go back to the Town of Brookhaven.”
Opponents of disincorporation say the village should be able to manage its own affairs. They blame Spery for the village’s financial woes and have called on her to resign.