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Oct 21, 2009 12:05 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays residents push for longer moratorium

Oct 21, 2009 12:05 PM

Planners at Town Hall are scrambling to complete work on a comprehensive environmental impact statement for Hampton Bays before the moratorium on building in Southampton Town’s most populous hamlet expires on December 31.

But the town also has to contend with a notice of claim regarding the moratorium filed by Water Mill attorney William Esseks of Esseks, Hefter & Angel LLP on behalf of R Squared HB LLC, the Melville-based development firm looking to demolish the Canoe Place Inn and construct condominiums and a catering hall in its place. The firm, led by cousins Gregg and Mitchell Rechler, filed the claim—typically the precursor to a lawsuit—with the town in late September. The notice says that the moratorium interferes with the firm’s property rights and also claims that the moratorium is unconstitutional and illegal.

“Our project has been stalled for over 19 months, most recently by a building moratorium that was more about halting projects than devising solutions,” Gregg Rechler wrote in an e-mail, sent via his spokesperson, Lloyd Singer at Epoch 5 Public Relations in Huntington. “The Southampton Town Board failed to complete studies in a timely fashion that were to be undertaken pursuant to the moratorium.”

The Hampton Bays Civic Association, however, is looking to extend the moratorium into next year so that the comprehensive environmental impact statement, known as a draft generic environmental impact statement, can be completed. The moratorium began in June 2008 and was extended once this summer.

“We want the moratorium extended for another three months,” Mary Jean Green, the president of the civic association, said at a Town Board work session Friday morning.

Ms. Green explained that there is too much work to be done to the draft environmental statement before lifting the moratorium. If building is permitted in the hamlet before the environmental statement is vetted by community organizations, makes its way through the public hearing process and becomes law, drastic changes could happen in the hamlet, she said.

Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, however, was hesitant to extend the moratorium into 2010, explaining that the current economic downturn makes continuing the ban a tricky move.

“It’s very serious to extend a moratorium in an economic recession,” Ms. Kabot said. “It’s an issue.”

Later in the meeting, the supervisor said that the town could potentially have moratoriums on more specific issues, such as hotel-motel conversions to condominiums. The civic association argued that those conversions are adding too much density to the hamlet.

Ms. Kabot also reminded the civic association that the McDonald’s and new Stop & Shop on Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays were products of a lawsuit initiated over a moratorium.

Freda Eisenberg, the assistant town planning and development administrator, said during the meeting that she and the consultants hired to complete the environmental study would need about three more weeks to complete it. Then community organizations need to make comments on the draft, then those comments have to be incorporated into the document, and then the document has to make its way through public hearings. Ms. Kabot noted that the town has spent more than $200,000 on the study so far.

The Town Board and civic members, however, do not agree on issues brought up within the documents that will eventually come to compose the comprehensive environmental impact statements.

One issue, for example, is planned development districts in Hampton Bays. The civic association is staunchly against all planned development districts, including the Rechlers’ idea for the Canoe Place Inn and Tiana Commons, a 72-unit condominium complex with 20 additional rental units located over a variety of retail shops. Tiana Commons is owned by Robert Morrow and planned to be located on 19.5 acres just west of the new Stop & Shop on Montauk Highway.

Town Attorney Dan Adams explained that if the moratorium lapses without the draft statement being codified, those projects will go through the Town Planning Board under the current laws.

“If the moratorium expires, and the study is not done yet, they get to continue with their application and they’re processed accordingly with whatever law exists at that time,” Mr. Adams explained. “There’s not a lot of drama there, that’s just the way it is.”

But the civic group sees Hampton Bays as being under siege from developers who will increase the density of the highly-populated hamlet, causing environmental degradation, traffic, and other negative impacts.

At Friday’s meeting, Hampton Bays Civic Association member Eve Houlihan played a CD from a Planning Board meeting in 2007 to show the density growth the hamlet is facing.

“The hamlet is going to explode,” said Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty on the recording of the meeting. He was speaking about the high number of applications for hotel-motel conversions to condominiums in Hampton Bays.

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Hampton Bays can't afford to extend the moratorium in an economic downturn. The town board needs every penny of application and permit fees and increased property tax revenue that it can generate to try and fill in the giant financial crater they dug. Plus all those upisland contractors need the work. Gotta help them, too. They give SH politicians a lot of money.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 21, 09 10:05 AM
Moratorium- Greek for "I do not know how to govern" We do not elect the civics. Our Town Board has made them a governing body. Ridiculous.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Oct 21, 09 2:11 PM
The Rechler's claim that the town delayed them for 19 months. The moratorium wasn't 19 months long? The Rechler's are asking to build more than they could "as of right". They knew this when they purchased the property. There was no guarantee that they would get what they want. The town has zoning for a reason. Why every one thinks it is ok to ignore the zoning and building whatever the builder wants is a mystery. If the Recherler's built what they could "as of right", they would have been ...more
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Oct 25, 09 10:06 AM
Yes, but they are staying they have been stalled for 19 months. Part of the reason is because of them, nothing to do with the town. Since they are threatening to sue the Town one is lead to believe that it is all the Town's fault. It isn't.

By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Oct 26, 09 9:38 AM