As part of our “5 for 5” series — designed to help GreaterPatchogue.com readers better navigate the 2015 Elections — we asked incumbent Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert to give us five great ideas, or policy goals, that could be set in motion in the next five years.
Kepert, 65, of Middle Island, is a former teacher, and civic leader. She is currently serving her fifth term as Brookhaven Town councilwoman for the Fourth Council District. She is running for re-election on the Democratic, Working Families Party, and Women’s Equality lines. Election Day is Nov. 3.
Keeping street safe
Keeping residents safe on our roadways is an important power of the Town Board. To ensure that our streets are safe places to be, I spearheaded the initiative to adopt a Complete Streets policy within the town. This policy requires that the highway department evaluate all new roadways, or roadways undergoing construction, for the addition of traffic calming measures.
Complete Streets Legislation requires safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. Included in complete streets policies are sidewalks, bike lanes, accessible pedestrian signals, and curb extensions.
We have already begun implementing this legislation throughout Brookhaven Town.
I have made it my priority to work toward the continued implementation of the Complete Streets policy, which will make our roadways safer for all users and reduce the reliance on automobiles as the sole mode of transportation.
Vacant, abandoned houses, also known as “zombie homes,” are visual blights that systematically reduce property values, diminish quality of life, and oftentimes create health and safety concerns for the surrounding neighborhood.
These derelict homes are a growing epidemic throughout New York, particularly on Long Island.
During my years in office, I have worked closely with our town law, building, and waste management departments to enforce our town codes, ensure these properties are properly maintained and demolish those zombie homes determined to be structurally unsound and a threat to public safety.
Many of these demolished buildings are have been from within the Fourth Council District, including a fire-damaged home in Medford, three structurally-unsound houses in Bellport, and the derelict site of the old Island Squire dinner theater in Middle Island. I look forward to continuing to work to make certain that these abandoned homes to do not negatively impact the economic health and public safety of our local communities.
Creating sustainable places
Guiding the way our communities grow and develop is one of the most important powers of the Town Board. Land use plans are a way for residents to come together to create a vision for their community.
The Middle Country Road Land Use Plan, which encompasses the communities of Coram, Middle Island, and Ridge, is one such plan. During my tenure in office, I have overseen four phases of rezonings along the Middle Country Road totaling 2,042 acres, or 322 total parcels. These upzonings represent an impressive reduction of sprawl and strip commercial development along the corridor.
The Bellport Land Use Plan, which resulted from a community visioning process in 2009, was adopted in October of 2014. I moved forward the first phase of rezonings to implement the recommendations of the plan in July. This first phase focuses on the rezoning of parcels along Montauk Highway, from Bellport Avenue to North Dunton Avenue, which will create the Bellport and Hagerman hamlet centers and form a downtown, main street look.
The Medford community has also worked hard to develop a vision which must now be transformed into a land use plan.
Land use plans require focus, dedication, and commitment in order to bring the community recommendations to fruition. I will continue to work with community members and our town planning staff to make the vision of communities within the Fourth Council District a reality, while implementing smart growth policies, reducing sprawl development, and creating attractive downtown destinations.
Better parks for our children
Working to provide positive recreation opportunities has been a priority of mine since taking office.
As the mother of three and a former Longwood teacher, I understand the importance of ensuring that a variety of recreational services, programs and facilities are available to our children. That is why, during my time on the Town Council, I have invested in improvements and upgrades to the parks within the Fourth Council District, including refurbishing the multi-purpose fields and installing an ADA compliant playground at Martha Avenue Park, upgrades to the fields and installation of new bathrooms at the Medford Athletic Complex, upgrades and the addition of a spray park at Robert Rowley Park, the installation of new playground equipment at Children’s Park, Bartlett Pond Park, and Swezey-Avey Park, and planned improvements and updates at Wave Avenue Park in Medford.
I strongly support the ongoing advancements and improvements in our parks and facilities because investing in our youth is one of the most important and valuable investments we as a community can make.
Restoring the bay to health
The recent opening of the new inlet after Hurricane Sandy has greatly improved the water quality in Bellport Bay. This past year, I worked closely with the newly-formed group the Friends of Bellport Bay (FoBB), to take advantage of this opportunity to further improve the health of the Bay’s ecosystem.
The town provided 100,000 seed oysters to the organization, which were placed along Ridge Island and will be monitored by the group over time. Shellfish are important to improving the quality of the bay because they filter nitrogen and particulates from the water.
Brookhaven Town recently announced a partnership with Suffolk County in a combined effort to plant eelgrass, which is critical to the success of shellfish in the bay, and a commitment of over $100,000 to continue shellfish restoration efforts.
I am excited to carry on this partnership and move forward this restoration project in the coming years.