Southampton Town Approves Annexation Of Land By Village; Kills Political Ban For Regulators

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The Southampton Town Board on Tuesday night unanimously approved redrawing the town’s boundary with Southampton Village, ceding about 8 acres of land to the village so that a new condominium development will lie entirely within the village rather than being bisected by the two municipalities.

Town officials had expressed some reservations at the annexation of land by the village to help the condo developer, George Benedict, who is Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley’s father-in-law, because it would mean a net loss in tax revenues for the town compared to if the boundaries were left as they are. But maintaining the split jurisdictions across the 77-unit complex would complicate a number of services and regulatory oversight of the development and would make paying taxes an extra burdensome chore for the owners of a handful of individual units that would technically lie within both the town and the village.

In the end, Town Board members were swung in favor of the lot line modification by an agreement with Mr. Benedict in which he will pay the town the equivalent of the lost tax income from the property for four years.

“We were satisfied by that stipulation,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said after the board approved the annexation.

After a first-of-its-kind joint meeting last spring of the Southampton Village Board and the Southampton Town Board, the Village Board approved the annexation earlier this month. Mayor Epley recused himself from the discussions and vote.

The annexation will mean that the town will realize a $28,000 loss in annual tax revenues once the project is completed, according to an analysis done for the developer by former Southampton Town Tax Assessor Edward Deyermond.

Goree Appointed Tax Assessor

Longtime deputy tax assessor Lisa Goree was appointed the town’s sole tax assessor by a unanimous vote of the Town Board on Tuesday night.

The town has been without a sole assessor for more than two and a half years, since the retirement of Mr. Deyermond. After his departure, Ms. Goree was named acting assessor but was replaced by John Valenti in February 2011. Mr. Valenti resigned after just five months on the job, and Ms. Goree returned to the role.

Ms. Goree is Shinnecock and has worked in the assessors office for 13 years and was the deputy assessor under Mr. Deyermond from 2008 through 2011.

She was sworn in as the sole assessor on Tuesday night.

“We are very happy to … appoint a very hard-working and dedicated individual to a position she very well deserves,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.

Political Ban Is Nixed

A proposal by Councilwoman Bridget Fleming to bar members of any of the town’s appointed regulatory boards from serving on political party committees was rejected by a majority of the board on Tuesday night.

Ms. Fleming had proposed that the board hold a public hearing next month to discuss the issue. But Councilmen Chris Nuzzi, Jim Malone and Councilwoman Christine Scalera voted against considering such a ban.

If adopted, the resolution would have forbidden members of the town’s Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals or Conservation Board to simultaneously serve as a political party official or as a member of a local, county or state political committee. The step would “reduce opportunities for corruption inherent in dual-office holding” and “increase citizens’ confidence in the integrity and effectiveness of their board members,” according to the resolution proposed by Ms. Fleming.

“I am surprised and disappointed that they are not willing to even have a public discussion,” Ms. Fleming said of the three board members who voted against the resolution. “It leads me to believe that they just have too much at stake to even have a public discussion. You have committee members who are choosing the candidates for the Town Board. Then the Town Board member appoints the members of the appointed boards. So if those appointed board members are the same group that decides who is going to sit on the board that appoints them, you have a circular situation that represents a real conflict of interest.”

Town Preserves Woods

The Town Board approved the purchase of two parcels of land on Tuesday using Community Preservation Fund money. One is an 8-acre parcel in Bridgehampton adjacent to several large areas of preserved woodlands.

The Bridgehampton parcel comprises 8 acres of undeveloped woodlands in the Great Swamp area, an area targeted for preservation because it sits above important groundwater resources. The town and county have preserved more than 200 acres of land in the area already. The land is owned by members of the Mulvihill family.

“This 8 acres is a beautiful piece of woodland on the edge of a rapidly developing subdivision,” said Marianne Mulvihill Decker. “The William Mulvihill Preserve is named for my father, who protected the woodland for decades. My dad and his late sister, Dolores Zebrowski, had great foresight, for they knew the South Fork would become overdeveloped.”

The town will pay $1.6 million for the land.

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