Hampton Bays CAC opposes proposed code changes

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A proposed amendment to the Southampton Town Code that could potentially increase the size of homes built on small lots has met the ire of the Hampton Bays Citizens Advisory Committee.

Slated for a vote by the Town Board next week, the proposed change tweaks the town’s “Pyramid Law,” which regulates the height of a building in relation to its property lines. If adopted, the law would raise the base of the pyramid by 4 feet, allowing homeowners on small lots to possibly add another bedroom or a second floor, renovations that they would not have been permitted to do before without the approval of the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals.

At their meeting on Tuesday night, the Hampton Bays CAC members were under the impression that the law had already passed, and so was their guest, Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst. In fact, the Town Board members had only voted to close the public hearing on the law on April 22, and they will not vote on the law itself until this Tuesday, May 13, at a public meeting.

John Zuccarelli, the CAC chairperson, said the committee strongly opposes the amendment. “We felt, even though it was a law that was written for all of Southampton, its major thrust was in the hamlet of Hampton Bays,” he explained.

Hampton Bays has more small lots than most, if not all, of the villages and hamlets in Southampton Town, so it would be disproportionately affected by the law, Mr. Zuccarelli said.

The committee fears that the law will allow houses to get much bigger in Hampton Bays. “It will change the character of the area from rural to more urbanized,” he added.

Ms. Throne-Holst said she understands concerns of overdevelopment, and recognizes the prospect that some homeowners might capitalize on the new law by expanding their homes to maximize what they can earn by renting them. But she said the building department has assured her that the law, for the most part, will help the “little guy.”

The law will benefit those families that need the extra space to provide a bedroom for a child or elderly parent, and cannot afford the $3,000 to $4,000 in fees associated with securing a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, according to Ms. Throne-Holst. Those applications are usually rubber-stamped anyway, she added, so the law would not only alleviate a financial burden on the families, but a time burden on the zoning board.

Considering the committee’s opposition, Ms. Throne-Holst said she was glad the law had not passed yet, as she now has more time to consider it. The councilwoman said the committee’s concerns are evidence that the Town Board should hold a public work session on the issue of small-lot development as a whole, rather than looking at the issue in a piecemeal manner. She said she has suggested it to the board in the past, and will bring it up again at Friday’s work session.

The second biggest issue raised on Tuesday night was the prospect of a moratorium on development in Hampton Bays along its main corridor—Montauk Highway between Jones and Peconic roads.

The Town Board will hold a public hearing on the moratorium on Tuesday, May 13. Ms. Throne-Holst said she expects the moratorium to pass unanimously, either on Tuesday or soon thereafter, if board members decide to delay the vote to provide more time for the public to submit written comments.

Ms. Throne-Holst said she is ready to approve it immediately. “It’s overdue for some careful planning.”

The proposed 12-month moratorium would suspend applications concerning corridor properties before the zoning, planning, conservation and town boards, according to a April 29 press release from Town Supervisor Linda Kabot.

During the moratorium period, planning consulting firm Cashin Associates of Hauppauge will conduct a study of the effects development will have on community character, traffic and the environment. In addition, the firm will prepare an environmental impact statement that will act as the framework for future development.

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