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Hamptons Life

Aug 27, 2014 12:39 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Judge Rules That Lawsuit Against Town Over Bridgehampton Barn Decision Can Move Forward

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Aug 27, 2014 1:41 PM

In a ruling filed last week, U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt gave Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick’s legal team the OK to move forward with a lawsuit against Southampton Town and individual members of the Planning Board and Agricultural Advisory Committee seeking to reverse a ruling prohibiting him from building a barn on his Bridgehampton property.

The ruling, which was handed down on August 19 in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District struck down a motion filed by the town to dismiss the suit—which was originally filed in February against the town in general, as well as six members of the Planning Board and 15 members of the Agricultural Advisory Committee—on several legal points, finding that Mr. Lutnick’s suit had merit.

Mr. Lutnick twice applied for permission to construct a barn on his property on 545 Halsey Lane in Bridgehampton, which lies within an agricultural overlay district. Such districts were first established by the town in 1972 and later amended in 1994 to prohibit all construction within the districts except those permitted by the Town Board as “accessory and incidental to agricultural production.”

The lawsuit, seeking $20 million in damages, is unique in that it implies that the individual members of both boards should be held personally responsible for the losses incurred by the plaintiff and applicant.

The town’s motion to dismiss, filed in May, charged that “failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,” according to the court’s memorandum.

The court’s ruling now allows Mr. Lutnick’s team to proceed in advancing the case against the individual members of the two boards by establishing that they infringed on property rights in an “arbitrary and irrational manner,” according to the memorandum.

“The property owner [Mr. Lutnick] is happy with the court’s decision and happy to pursue the case,” says Michael Giusto of Neufeld & O’Leary, the firm representing Mr. Lutnick.

Highlighted in the Plaintiff’s study is a parcel located across the street on 445 Halsey Lane, on which “the Planning Board had approved 19,305 square feet of agricultural structures—more than 70 percent larger than sought by the Plaintiff—situated on an agricultural reserve parcel of only 13.3 acres,” according to the memorandum.

Mr. Lutnick purchased the 40-acre property in 2003 for just over $15 million. He first applied for construction of a 11,250-square-foot barn in 2006 to use for agricultural purposes servicing an existing 3-acre apple orchard.

He later amended the application to include a slightly smaller barn and an expanded agricultural use that totaled 10 acres of orchard and a vineyard. The Planning Board, under advisement of the Agricultural Advisory Committee, felt that the size of the barn was not appropriate for the proposed agricultural use. Instead, the AAC suggested their own amended application for the construction of a 2,400 square foot barn, which would also require the baseball diamond and jungle gym that Mr. Lutnick built when he purchased the property to be removed.

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The Town never wins these cases. They make up zoning laws and violate property rights against those who do not have deep enough pockets to take them on. When the Town comes across someone with the resources (money) to fight them, they generally lose. Its only a matter of time before their Rental Permit law goes down in flames.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Aug 27, 14 1:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
For god's sake, Southampton, don't tuck your tail between your legs and run like a dog AGAIN!

What's the point of enacting legislation if you prostrate yourselves every time someone with deep pockets threatens you.

Alternatively, why not just specify by statute that residents with incomes of more than a million dollars a year are exempt from local law?
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Aug 27, 14 1:43 PM
2 members liked this comment
"FAILED TO STATE A CLAIM UPON WHICH RELIEF CAN BE GRANTED". who is the attorney that filed the town's motion to dismiss? and are we paying for this BAd representation? you bet your butts we are and will probably have to indemnify the board members as well. was this outside counsel or in house? think there is a lot of explaining to do on the part of the town attorney's office and the town board who would have given the case to outside counsel. things are rotten in denmark and also soouthampton
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Aug 27, 14 5:33 PM
and what about that new super large horse barn built in Hayground off Newlight that I never read about any plans, etc. and which is now advertising as a full service barn with a professional trainer. can't miss it opposite LIPA or PSEG past the field, place is huge and is advertised in all the new glossy mags.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Aug 27, 14 5:38 PM