An undercurrent of tension marked last evening’s Village Board of Trustees meeting over two contentious issues. Feathers flew over the perennial topic of flood mitigation. The evening’s discussion yielded little in the way of concrete conclusions as several residents grilled the board over damage control.
The other main conflict addressed concerned the condition of Cove Road and whether the village is willing or legally able to either fix or patch up the massive potholes, which have turned into “craters,” said Jane Herzog, president of the Cove Road Homeowners Association.
The crux of the matter is that although the road is private, it serves a public function when the residents open it to outside traffic, since it leads to and offers a byway to the in Orienta Point, easing congestion along the Post Road. Last Monday, the to outside traffic, shocking local residents.
The homeowners are reluctant to fix the road, which is estimated to cost somewhere around $400,000, said Mayor Norman Rosenblum. Residents are asking the village to at least patch up the road, which the municipality has done for the past two decades, according to residents, usually around the time of the annual Turkey Trot 5K run.
Although appreciated by Cove Road residents, the village's actions appear to have been illegal since public funds cannot be expended to fix or maintain a private road, said Village Attorney Michael McDermott. Yet, village vehicles are still required to service the homes along the road and several have sustained damage that required public expenditures to fix.
There are around a dozen private roads in the village, but almost all of them are dead ends or cul-de-sacs, said Rosenblum, however, “this one is used as a thoroughfare, so it’s a public road in essence,” he told Patch.
The board held a work session with residents last Monday, after which Cove Road residents reopened the previously barricaded road. The board, however, seemed stymied by the issue and went into executive session to determine if it could share a draft of an engineers’ report (they could not, since it hasn’t been adopted by the board).
Despite a precedent set by the village that residents claimed entitled them to ongoing maintence, the board was adament that the village could no longer patch potholes despite past actions. Also citing precedent, McDermott said that in 1946, residents offered Cove Road to the village to make it into a public road, but the village refused to assume responsibility. He is unsure about the legal status of any deeds or easements and requested that residents send him their covenants for review.
With neighborhood tensions on the rise, the last thing anyone wants is to have neighbor fighting neighbor, said Andrew Spatz, acting vice president of the Orienta Point Association. He invited everyone to attend a meeting scheduled for Nov. 7 at Hampshire Country Club to address the issue.
“The fact that this courtroom is a quarter filled is not indicative of the interest and concern over Cove Road,” he said.
Trustee and Deputy Mayor Louis Santoro said that even if the village is prohibited from patching the road, the board could pass a local ordinance requiring the Cove Road homeowners to make the road adhere to certain standards to and make it acceptable for passersby.
But that would be like “pouring salt on the wounds,” said Rosenblum. “You would have to tell every other private road to do the same thing.”
Herzog said that as enrollment has increased at Hommocks and at the private , and as membership at the Hampshire Country Club has remained steady, the road sees more traffic than ever, up to 300 to 400 cars on a typical school day, she said.
When asked why the residents didn’t permanantly close the road to the public, Herzog told Patch that “we are probably moving in that direction.”
In a step toward becoming entirely self-sufficent, Herzog said the Association was also considering making repairs without using outside contractors, a move that was sure to seal Cove Road's fate.
“If we do fix the road, we would likely close it," she said.