Southampton Town’s first public hearing on a revised water protection plan was scheduled for Tuesday night.
The hearing was to be the first one since October, when the Town Board voted not to adopt the plan as a local waterfront revitalization program, or LWRP, which would have required state and federal approval. Saying the town can accomplish the same goals while keeping the local authority, the board intends to incorporate the roughly 350-page document into the town’s Comprehensive Plan instead.
The water protection plan highlights 13 key points in restoring water quality in Southampton Town. Over the past several weeks, the Department of Land Management has been editing it to remove references to a waterfront revitalization program, at the same time tailoring it to the town code.
The Southampton Town Board has been reviewing the water protection plan for four years. Town officials chose to focus on all the town’s waterways, not just its coastline, as is traditional with most LWRPs. The content of the plan remains mostly the same as when it was drafted as an LWRP, focusing on local wildlife, surface water and groundwater, erosion, farmland, beach access, commercial and recreational fishing, and shellfishing and local fisheries.
The board held public hearings on the plan throughout the year. While there was little if any controversy about the content of the document, board members Christine Scalera, Brad Bender and Stan Glinka questioned the need for an LWRP and whether adopting it would mean relinquishing local control to the State Department of Environmental Conservation. The same board members also said they felt rushed to make a decision on the plan.
Councilwoman Bridget Fleming and Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst—both of whom are leaving the board at the end of this year—disagreed, saying the town may lose federal grant opportunities by not adopting an LWRP, although Ms. Scalera has said the town can apply for the grants anyway.
Previously, Town Planning Administrator Kyle Collins has said the plan would be tweaked to remove the LWRP language. The work is being done by the Urban Harbors Institute of Massachusetts, a company hired using grant money that was designated to explore an LWRP, although not necessarily to adopt one.