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Jun 9, 2008 2:00 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays moratorium adopted

Jun 9, 2008 2:00 PM

The adoption of the long-awaited commercial development moratorium in Hampton Bays nearly went down to defeat on Tuesday when two members of the Southampton Town Board, Dan Russo and Anna Throne-Holst, decided to vote against its adoption.

Their stand came after passionate pleas from concerned residents that the moratorium, as proposed, was too narrow in scope. Councilman Chris Nuzzi said he agreed with his two colleagues that the moratorium should have been more inclusive, but in the end he felt something was better than nothing. “I wanted to at least get the ball rolling,” said Mr. Nuzzi, who cast the deciding vote in the 3-2 approval of the moratorium.

Of particular concern to Mr. Nuzzi was the number of motels and hotels being converted into condominiums in the Hampton Bays community. Though a public hearing has been set for July 8 to discuss a townwide ban on such conversions, Mr. Nuzzi said he believed, as did Mr. Russo and Ms. Throne-Holst, that these developments should have been included in the Hampton Bays moratorium.

Mr. Russo and Ms. Throne-Holst wanted to stop the proposed moratorium from being approved and instead draft another proposal that came closer to addressing the concerns raised by hamlet residents.

“I’d would have liked to go back and present a new proposal closer to what they have been asking for,” Ms. Throne-Holst said, “and in the meantime not entertain any further applications for development.”

But the town’s chief planner, Jefferson Murphree, argued that a moratorium on condo conversions was necessary townwide, not just in Hampton Bays. “You can’t separate one hamlet from another,” Mr. Murphree said.

Town Supervisor Linda Kabot said she too would like to see a wider moratorium, but that would require a new hearing and public notice process. She said the town could adopt a separate ban on condo conversions, which would satisfy those who are unhappy about the present moratorium.

“The net result is that we will have two moratoriums running together,” Ms. Kabot said.

“But what if that moratorium doesn’t go through?” Mr. Nuzzi said. “It wouldn’t be the first time that happened.” Mr. Nuzzi said he wanted to add the proposed ban on motel/hotel conversions into the recently adopted corridor moratorium.

As it is now adopted, the Hampton Bays moratorium, which focuses on the commercial strip along Montauk Highway, amounts to nothing more than a corridor study in the minds of residents who fear their community is being destroyed by runaway development.

The area affected by the new moratorium is confined to the commercial stretch along the Montauk Highway corridor running from Jones Road on the west to Peconic Road on the east. During the 12-month freeze, the town will not consider applications for subdivisions, changes in zoning, or site plans.

Excluded from the moratorium, due to previous litigation, is the 50,000-square-foot Stop & Shop supermarket, to be constructed on the corner of Route 24 and Montauk Highway. Also exempt is Arborview, an 8-acre 50-unit senior citizen condominium complex on Montauk Highway near Allomara Road.

The Town Board set the public hearing to suspend conversions of motels and other existing structures, such as beach cottages, into condominiums for July 8.

Supervisor Kabot said the moratorium on condo conversions could be imposed as early as July. “There have been a lot of these conversions going on,” Ms. Kabot said.

The reason for the large number of such conversions, according to Mr. Nuzzi, is that provisions in the Town Code make such conversions relatively easy. Currently, the Planning Board allows buildings in Resort Waterfront Business zones and Motel zones to be converted into condos. “The result is that transient housing is becoming permanent housing, which suddenly increases the population,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “That has an immediate impact on schools and emergency services.”

Also set for July 8 is the public hearing to discuss a proposed moratorium along the commercial corridor of County Road 39 that runs through the hamlets and village centers of Shinnecock Hills, Tuckahoe, North Sea, Southampton, and Water Mill.

If enacted, that moratorium would affect properties along the thoroughfare zoned for residential, commercial, and industrial uses. A study of the area will run concurrent with the moratorium and will look at the cumulative impacts of land use proposals along the highway. While focusing on future development along the road, the study will also incorporate the area within a half mile of County Road 39.

The study will also evaluate alternative rezoning scenarios. According to town planners, the Highway Business District, created in the 1960s, that governs a portion of the corridor, needs to be updated to conform to current development.

The study area also contains properties targeted by the private sector for rezoning. Some development proposals along the corridor include the potential relocation of Southampton Hospital, a King Kullen supermarket, and a national bank.

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