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Jun 13, 2008 4:40 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays moratorium to be discussed at June 20 scoping session

Jun 13, 2008 4:40 PM

Members of the Hampton Bays community will have an opportunity this week to voice their comments and concerns about the recently adopted moratorium that runs through the commercial corridor in the hamlet.

A public scoping session will be held at Town Hall on Friday, June 20, at 1 p.m. to discuss the moratorium and the environmental impact study that is being conducted while the development ban is ongoing.

The main purpose of the scoping session will be for the community to suggest planning objectives and to air their concerns about the scope and content of both the present moratorium and the environmental impact study.

In a narrow 3-2 vote, the Southampton Town Board enacted the moratorium at its regular meeting Tuesday, June 10. Town Board members Dan Russo and Anna Throne-Holst cast the two dissenting votes, swayed by repeated complaints from Hampton Bays residents who argued that the area of the moratorium is too narrow.

During numerous public hearings, community activists petitioned the Town Board to expand the boundaries of the moratorium map, which is currently restricted to areas outside the commercial strip along Montauk Highway. The year-long moratorium, which affects an area from Jones Road in the west to Peconic Road in the east, suspends the acceptance, processing and approval of applications for zone changes, subdivisions, and site plans pending before the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Conservation Board, and Town Board.

In response to complaints that the area is too narrow, Town Supervisor Linda Kabot has requested that the town’s chief planner, Jefferson Murphree, present the Town Board with a new map to expand the moratorium. “Such action needs to be balanced with our duty to protect property rights and advisories issued by the Suffolk County Planning Commission, given the amount of moratoria enacted within the town,” she said, explaining her hesitation to immediately widen the boundaries.

According to Ms. Kabot’s office, a Notice of Hearing, required to widen the existing moratorium, may be introduced at the Town Board’s next meeting Tuesday, June 24, with a possible hearing on July 22.

The Town Board voted unanimously on April 8 to adopt the present map for the building ban; however, after that time, the public outcry grew. Hamlet residents who had been asking the Town Board for relief from overdevelopment for years were upset that the ban, in their view, failed to address construction along the hamlet’s waterfront, which is not in its business district, and the number of motel conversions into condominiums in their community.

Despite the fact that a public hearing was set for July 8 to begin debate on a townwide ban of these condos, Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, along with Mr. Russo and Ms. Throne-Holst, felt that a proposed moratorium on condo conversions should have been included into the one adopted by the Town Board at its meeting earlier this month.

Ms. Kabot argued that once the moratorium on condo conversions is enacted—according to town planners, that could happen as early as July—the expanded moratorium would essentially be achieved. “The net result will be both moratoriums running at once,” Ms. Kabot said before the Hampton Bays moratorium was adopted on Tuesday.

Responding to Mr. Nuzzi’s request to overlay the condo conversion ban into the Hampton Bays building ban, Mr. Murphree said that the conversions of motels into condominiums was a townwide issue and could not be confined to any single hamlet or community. To that, Mr. Nuzzi argued that the condo conversion ban was only slated for a public hearing, and that there was no guarantee it would be enacted. “It wouldn’t be the first time that has happened,” he said.

Mr. Nuzzi said he was concerned that if the motel conversion ban failed then those developments would continue to plague the Hampton Bays community, where the majority of such developments are located.

Though agreeing in principle with Mr. Russo and Ms. Throne-Holst, who favored going back to the drawing board and drafting a new map closer to the wishes of the community, Mr. Nuzzi said he voted to adopt the moratorium because he felt “something was better than nothing.”

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