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Jul 8, 2009 12:27 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Board to extend moratorium, lapse not likely to have effect

Jul 8, 2009 12:27 PM

The Southampton Town Board is expected to vote Friday to renew the Hampton Bays moratorium—which expired June 30—through the end of this year.

The two-week gap between the initial expiration and the expected renewal, however, will have no impact on the hamlet or the environmental impact study running concurrent with the moratorium, according to Town Supervisor Linda Kabot.

The supervisor explained that there are no applications far enough along in the process to be approved during the two-week lapse, and any application submitted during those two weeks would be subject to whatever new guidelines are established by the environmental study of the hamlet, which will be completed when the moratorium is finally lifted.

A public hearing on the topic will precede the Town Board’s vote on Friday.

Mike Benincasa, the town’s chief building inspector, concurred with the supervisor and said the two-week lapse would not result in the hamlet being swamped with a flood of development applications. “I can’t issue a building permit until somebody has planning approval, and no one is going to get planning approval in that short amount of time,” Mr. Benincasa said.

There will be one change made to the moratorium when it is renewed, Ms. Kabot said, an addition aimed at expediting the process for those seeking exemptions where there is no change of use. Site plan approval, if it has already been granted, will not be required a second time for changes in tenants, or if a new tenant is coming into an existing, but unoccupied building.

“If it’s just a matter of new signage and tenants want to go in, then they won’t have to go through all that red tape,” Ms. Kabot said.

For example, there is office space available in the western sector of the hamlet on Montauk Highway next to Villa Toscano restaurant. Ms. Kabot said if someone wanted to occupy that space they would not have to jump through hoops to seek an exemption from the moratorium, which includes a $500 fee.

The reason for the two-week lapse in the moratorium, Ms. Kabot said, is that there was some confusion about its start date. The moratorium was put in place in June 2008. Two months later, its scope was broadened after hamlet residents complained it covered too narrow an area. Even before the moratorium was enacted, residents had petitioned town officials for a more comprehensive building ban, arguing that the proposed borders failed to capture much of the over-developement that, they said, was negatively impacting the community.

“The adoption date in June triggered the 12-month moratorium,” Ms. Kabot said, adding that officials in the Department of Land Management—which was overseeing the moratorium—erroneously assumed that the 12-month period began in August when the moratorium was amended. “The two weeks is a non-issue, but staffers should have paid a little more attention,” the supervisor said. “When we expanded the boundaries, we did not expand the time frame.”

Although the supervisor said the Town Board is ultimately responsible for setting and lifting moratoriums, Land Management officials should have kept the board better informed.

“We have a lot on our plates and can’t keep track of everything,” Ms. Kabot said. “But I don’t want to pick on Land Management. It’s really neither here nor there. The two-week gap will have no effect.”

Town officials have argued that the moratorium must be extended to allow for further study of how future development and growth will impact Hampton Bays, and the Town Board has been discussing it since March.

Initially, the moratorium’s boundaries reached from Jones Road in the east to Peconic Road in the west—with a focus on three sectors of the hamlet: the western sector, running from Jones Road to Route 24; the central sector, or the hamlet center, along Montauk Highway from Route 24 to the intersection of Ponquogue Avenue and Squiretown Road; and the eastern sector, stretching from that intersection across the Shinnecock Canal to the hamlet’s border. In August, the borders were broadened from Jones Road into Tiana Bay reaching as far south as Oakwood Road, and a new boundary was drawn from Shinnecock Road in the north to the Shinnecock Bay in the south, and from Gardners Lane extending east to the water. North of Sunrise Highway, the Peconic Road marker remained, but the boundary was extended past Newtown Road in the west and from Sunrise Highway into the Great Peconic Bay.

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