For perhaps the first time in their centuries worth of history, the five members of the Southampton Town Board and their counterparts on the Southampton Village Board convened their lawmaking bodies jointly on Thursday, May 9, to discuss altering their respective boundaries.
The historic joining of the boards was brought about by a request from a development group, Beechwood Benedict, to have the village annex approximately 9 acres of land that is currently part of the town, so that all of the 77-unit condominium complex the company will begin building later this year lies within the same jurisdiction.
Conceding to the annexation by the village would cost the town only about $28,000 in annual tax revenue once the project is completed, representatives of the developers told the boards, but would make the permitting, oversight and maintenance of the development vastly less complicated and would make the future residents safer.
All five of the Town Board members and four of the five Village Board members heard the arguments in favor of the line shift. After convening the hearing, Village Mayor Mark Epley conceded chairmanship of the joint board meeting to town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and then recused himself because his father-in-law, George Benedict, is a principal partner of the development company.
The design of the project shows that 46 of the units are clustered on what is currently the village portion of the lot and 23 on the town portion. Eight units are bisected by the town-village boundary and lie in both municipalities.
“That creates an administrative nightmare,” said attorney David Gilmartin Jr., who is representing Beechwood Benedict, noting that it would also mean residents in the same buildings would be served by different ambulance companies and different police departments if the boundaries were not shifted.
“The emergency services provided in the village far exceed that in the town,” Mr. Gilmartin, who is a former Southampton Town Attorney, said. “The Village Police have three sector cars on the streets in the village at all times, and often four. The town has just one sector car that serves from the Lobster Inn to the Princess Diner.”
Another former town official, longtime Tax Assessor Ed Deyermond, told board members that according to an analysis and estimates of the value of the development once built would have an assessed value of about $61 million overall. The 23 units on the town portion and the 8 units that would lay partially in the town would represent about 35 percent of the total, or approximately $21 million.
At estimated values of $800,000 each, if the boundaries are not moved, the town would earn about $189,000 in tax revenues each year from the property. If the boundary is shifted and the entire property became part of the village, police and highway coverage would be dropped but the town would still be getting more than $161,000 in taxes from the property.
Mr. Gilmartin said the Town Board members should think of the shift not as a tax revenue loss of $28,000 but as a gain of more than $120,000—the difference between the tax revenues the property brings in to the town currently and what the taxes on the developed property would be.
Mr. Gilmartin noted that the zoning on the town portion of the property is for light-industrial, for which the developer has already received a variance, but would still be creating non-conforming lots. The village portion is zoned for residential development.
The 13-acre property has long been a scourge on the small residential neighborhoods that grew up around it. For most of the last several decades, it operated as first a sand and gravel mine, a composting stockyard, a concrete manufacturing facility and light industrial equipment storage. Noise, truck traffic and wafts of malodorous odors led to an endless stream of complaints from area residents.
“This had to be the single most noxious use within the town and village of Southampton,” Mr. Gilmartin said.
“Because of this dumb zoning, I have a friend in the concrete business that is doing business while I’m trying to sell $800,000 units,” Mr. Benedict added. “I would suggest for the safety and convenience of the people that live there that it be done as one, that’s it.
Residents of the neighborhoods have resoundingly supported the proposal.
“This is a consensus, the community is 100-percent in favor of the annexation as we were of the project itself,” said Frances Genovese, an immediate neighbor of the property. “This project has improved the area 1000-fold. This site is not only unique it is anomalous in the inefficiencies of the split jurisdiction.”
The lone objection came from a North Sea resident, Elaine Kahl, who warned of setting a precedent of such drastic actions at the request of a private developer.
“I don’t know of anyone on Long Island that set boundary lines to satisfy a developer,” she said. “I think we better go forward carefully.”
Town Board members asked if the developers would be willing to consider making the town’s zoning codes for such developments enforceable even if the boundaries are redrawn, through a covenant. Mr. Gilmartin said it his clients would be willing to consider it.
There board’s agreed that a second public hearing would be held next month before any decision is made.