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Jun 23, 2008 10:43 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays moratorium may be widened

Jun 23, 2008 10:43 AM

Residents of Hampton Bays, unhappy with the borders of a recently enacted moratorium in their community, had a final chance to voice their desires for a wider coverage area at a public scoping session held by the Southampton Town Board on Friday, June 20.

And according to Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, they just might get their way after all.

For nearly three hours, Ms. Kabot and members of the Town Board listened to comments and complaints about the moratorium enacted on June 10 and the simultaneous environmental study being conducted by the Hauppauge-based Cashin Associates.

Though that study, known as a Generic Environmental Impact Study, includes the entire hamlet, the 12-month moratorium adopted on June 10 focuses only on the commercial corridor that runs along Montauk Highway—from Jones Road in the east to Peconic Road in the west.

The town’s chief planner, Jefferson Murphree, said the purpose of the scoping session was to focus the GEIS on potentially significant adverse impacts on the community and to eliminate consideration of those effects that are irrelevant and inconsequential. “Scoping also affords the opportunity for public input to ensure that important environmental issues and factors are not overlooked,” Mr. Murphree said.

Community activists such as Bob McAlevy, president of the Hampton Bays Civic Association, have argued for months during public hearings on the moratorium that the radius of the moratorium’s map as defined by the town’s Department of Land Management is far too narrow. “We’re being carpet bombed by overdevelopment,” Mr. McAlevy said during Friday’s session, echoing the sentiments of the dozen or so residents in attendance.

The public outcry, according to Ms. Kabot, has not fallen on deaf ears, as evidenced by the narrow 3-2 vote on June 10 to adopt the moratorium. Town Council members Dan Russo and Anna Throne-Holst voted to kill the proposed plan and return to the drawing board to produce a new map more in keeping with the wishes of the community. Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, who said he agreed in principle with that view, cast the deciding vote to enact the moratorium arguing that he wanted to “at least get the ball rolling.”

All along, Ms. Kabot’s argument has been that, although she too would like to have seen a wider map drafted by town planners, to increase the coverage area at this point would require a new public hearing process. At the same time, Ms. Kabot has emphasized the importance of being able to “legal defend” a moratorium as it is, in her view, one of the broadest powers the Town Board can exercise. “Suspending property rights is something you don’t do lightly,” Ms. Kabot said. “You have to have a good reason.”

However, after Friday’s scoping session, Ms. Kabot said she was open to widening the moratorium’s parameters and that she and her colleagues on the board would consult with Town Attorney Dan Adams as to how it could be done without jeopardizing the new ban already in place. “If we can’t legally justify whatever we do, then we risk losing the entire moratorium to a lawsuit,” Ms. Kabot said.

What’s missing from the current moratorium, according to the Hampton Bays Civic Association, are the inclusion of all parcels within the hamlet on which three or more residential units could be constructed, a ban on all Planned Development Districts, or PDDs, and all commercial and industrial developments throughout the hamlet.

Ms. Kabot said that it was within the authority of the Town Board to accept or deny applications for PDDs, therefore, rendering their inclusion in a moratorium unnecessary. “We are not entertaining any PDDs at this time,” Ms. Kabot said.

As for commercial and industrial developments, Ms. Kabot said she didn’t want to restrict all such developments in the hamlet. “Do we want to hold up a restaurant from expanding a parking lot or adding a refrigeration unit?” Ms. Kabot said. “We have to be judicious when we suspend property rights.” She added that the majority of commercial and industrial developments occur within the Montauk Highway Corridor, which is contained in the current moratorium.

Ms. Kabot said the residential concerns, such as the construction of more than three houses per lot and the sizes of those constructions in relation to the land, would be discussed by the board with town planners.

One suggestion championed by the Civic Association that seemed to grab the attention of Ms. Kabot and the Town Board was the potential purchase of lots along the Montauk commercial corridor with Community Preservation Funds. This strategy, according to community members, would create needed green space at either end of the corridor and would provide scenic enhancements at various mid-points along the commercial strip.

Also of great concern to the members of the civic association is the health and future protection of the hamlet’s waterfronts. Mr. McAlevy said he would like the GEIS to include an analysis of the community’s water and bays. He has petitioned for a Harbor Overlay District similar to the one in the Town of East Hampton. “We have to look at the number of toilet flushes,” Mr. McAlevy said. “Cesspools leak into the water killing our fish and polluting our bays.”

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