The Brookhaven Town Board on Tuesday approved a lease agreement for the rental of the former Carmans River Kayak and Canoe Center in Brookhaven, but not without its intended use coming into question by members of the public and lawmakers.
Under the lease agreement, Brookhaven resident Brad DeSantis will make about $70,000 in capital improvements to the site including a new dock, landscaping work, and a nature and educational center that will be open to members of the public. DeSantis will rent the site, which is located across the street from the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, for about $26,000 and run a kayak and canoe rental business. Residents with their own kayaks will not be affected by the lease agreement and will be allowed to access the site for free.
But Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization President MaryAnn Johnston questioned whether the property, which was preserved by the town in 2008, could be reused as a kayak rental center again because open space funds were used in its purchase, something she contends implies only passive use. Johnston also alleged the property had previous issues with a cesspool leaking into the Carmans River.
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko said that the information board members have from the town planning and law departments, as well as the State Department of Environmental Conservation indicate a kayak and canoe rental is an appropriate use for the property.
Councilman Tim Mazzei also questioned Johnston’s argument about the cesspool and questioned if anything could be done to safeguard the property from releasing effluent into the river such as the placement of a pump-out station.
John Turner, the town’s director of environmental protection, said he could not recall any issue with a cesspool, although he did point out the site had a fuel tank that needed to be reclamated.
“This is the first time I am hearing about this,” he said.
Like Johnston, Councilman Dan Panico also questioned whether leasing the property out for a retail use would be an appropriate for a property purchased with open space funds. Panico questioned how passive the use of the center would be in light that other areas such as the Nissequogue River in Smithtown utilize rentals, but they are mobile and the bathrooms are also self-contained port-o-potties. “So you can argue that is more a passive use as opposed to what is going on here,” he said.
But Councilwoman Connie Kepert, whose district includes Brookhaven, argued the merits of DeSantis’ application. “I think this is a good application,” she said. “I think it will get more people on the river, more people to appreciate what the Carmans River is and I am not quite understanding what the point is.”
Brookhaven Parks and Recreation Commissioner Eddie Morris also touted the merits of DeSantis’ proposal by pointing out it would not only allow greater access to the river, but it would place a presence at the property and ward off past problems such as squatters and looters. “I think it is a win-win for the town,” he said. DeSantis was not immediately reachable for comment by deadline.
The lease agreement came on the heels of the board sending a home rule message in support of State Senate and Assembly bills, which will put into place measures to protect the Carmans River Watershed including expanding the core preservation area of the central pine barrens region. "I'm glad that town residents will be able to soon enjoy canoeing and kayaking from this gateway to the Carmans River, one of our most beautiful and natural resources," said Supervisor Mark Lesko after the vote was taken. "We also expect the existing building, which has steadily deteriorated, to be refurbished."