Business as usual

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Not content with the money flowing in from their flawed tax reassessment, Southampton Town has now fulfilled former Supervisor Patrick Heaney’s dream rental law that further reaches into residents’ pockets and seriously threatens their privacy.

Justifying this heinous and intrusive law is the Gothic overstatement that the town “determined” that serious conditions exist due to “non-owner occupied residential dwelling units,” or in plain English, “your house if you want to rent it.” They declared that serious threats exist from the “renting and occupancy of such dwelling units (houses) to the occupants and the neighbors” and that “overcrowding and misuse may have a negative impact on various taxing districts … and create potentially hazardous conditions for police, volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel and town public safety and building officials.”

Give me a break.

We are asked to give away our rights without any evidence at all that vague “serious conditions” exist, to believe that the town has grappled with its conscience and its “ethics” and was forced to enact an invasive, abusive, income-producing, unconstitutional law for the public good and—even more laughable—to protect the integrity of taxing districts and the safety of its hapless enforcement personnel and volunteer firefighters.

These opportunistic and overblown buzzwords (the adding of EMS personnel to the mix of the endangered is meant to evoke terrorism) are code for the “Hispanic problem.” This problem, of course, exists only at night when the Hispanic population needs to eat and sleep; it is not a problem during the day when they are working for the local “squirearchy,” often in the same “serious conditions” the law refers to.

And while the people who can’t afford to rent decent housing here are targeted by this stupid law, which also serves as a cover for all the others this law is aimed at, namely those owners who chose to be “non-owner occupied residentials,” or landlords for a month or two over the lucrative summer. Here is the cash cow that will bring in a stream of permit fees and fines to justify the hiring of even more personnel.

What is glaring in this law, as it was glaring in the reassessment, is that commercial properties are unaffected by it. The town and its grossly misnamed Public Safety and Building officials (almost as bad as calling their taxpayer-supported arm of the real estate industry the “Planning Department”) do not concern themselves with the serious conditions caused by businesses. Businesses that may rent to many tenants, decrease taxation and do seriously affect the health and safety of their neighbors are not up for scrutiny. Your house and financial records are.

Under this law, more than one mailbox or antenna can bring the vigilantes down on your house. However, while obvious signs of overcrowding on commercial sites such as sub-tenants’ increase in trucks with different logos, increased noise, workers coming and going at all hours, fall under the radar of the volunteer firefighters and safety officials as do raging and unreported fires, stench and asthma-producing spores are not a concern of the town.

Town officials who cannot identify a business use they won’t embrace, no matter the cost, to the community, yet think themselves competent to define and legislate people’s living arrangements in the name of “family.” Patrick Heaney is gone but his aura lingers on in this obnoxious law as well as in the blatant power grab in the Planned Development District law amendments.

Change? Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi is leading the Town Board by the nose and it is business as usual.

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