Southampton Town is looking to give those residents still struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy a little boost, so to speak, by allowing houses in flood zones to exceed the town’s height limits so they can be raised out of harm’s way.
The board held a public hearing Tuesday on a proposal to exempt homes in federally designated flood plains to pierce the town’s “pyramid law” height restriction so that they could be mounted on pilings above flood levels. The board did not take any official action on the measure.
“You made a big difference in our lives,” Flanders resident Tamara Olson said on behalf of herself and her neighbors, who were among the hardest hit by Sandy and many of whom are still not able to return to their homes. “This is a really big step. Thank you very much on behalf of a lot of your homeowners in Southampton.”
Town Planning and Development Administrator Kyle Collins said the town is urging everyone who lives in flood zones to elevate their homes. The process can be very costly and complicated, and lifting the pyramid restriction for those homes would remove one more hurdle for homeowners.
The exception to the variance would not apply to expansions or additions, only for the raising of existing structures.
The Southampton Town Board also on Tuesday gave the thumbs-up to Westhampton Beach School District, allowing it to install a greenhouse on a small portion of a town-owned property adjacent to the district’s elementary school.
The greenhouse is the second such effort in which a community-type garden will be constructed on town-owned land. Last month, town officials joined Flanders residents in constructing a community garden outside the David W. Crohan Community Center.
“We were looking for community garden opportunities on town property … and we came across the Hurricane Foundation, and they offered to put up the greenhouse,” Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera said. “We thought that was fabulous.”
The town purchased 6 acres of land adjacent to the Westhampton school in 2008 for $630,000. The property has been looked at as a possible site for the relocation of the Westhampton Community Center.
The town will now lease the portion of land for the greenhouse to the school for 10 years, at no cost, with an option for a 10-year extension if the school wants it. Produce grown by students in the greenhouse will be donated to local food pantries.
“It’s something we’re looking forward to,” Westhampton Beach Schools Superintendent Michael Radday said. “Hopefully, we’ll see this grow into a community garden.”
Additionally, the Town Board in planning to purchase two acres on Flanders Road in Flanders that officials said is of great archaeological significance and contains historic gravesites.
The land, which the town will buy for $250,000 using Community Preservation Fund revenues, contains centuries-old graves belonging to members of the Goodale family. The land is currently owned by Karen and Laura Camarada.
“I’ve lived on this land for 40 years, and it’s natural and all still in place,” Karen Camarada said. “No pesticides or toxins were ever used on this property. Nothing was ever brought in to disturb it.”
The town will raze a small structure on the property and allow the land to return to its natural wooded state, according to CPF Manager Mary Wilson.
The town will also use CPF money to relocate and maintain the Canoe Place Chapel, also known as the Indian Meeting House, in Hampton Bays. The chapel, on Canoe Place Road, will be relocated only a couple hundred feet to its original site, which the town purchased in 2006 as parkland.
On Tuesday, the Town Board approved amending the target use for the property from parkland to historic preservation, which will allow for the relocation of the historic and culturally important building. The 19th century chapel was donated to the town in 2005 and later designated a landmark by the Town Board.
The CPF will also pay for the future maintenance of the chapel building.
The Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund will dole out an estimated $3.1 million to three local school districts, and three library districts, to help offset lost income from land that has been preserved and removed from the tax rolls.
The funding, called payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, will be distributed as follows: $1.9 million will go to the Riverhead School District, which encompasses Riverside and Flanders; $853,000 will be given to the Hampton Bays School District; and the remaining funding will be split between the Eastport South Manor School District and the Riverhead, Hampton Bays and Eastport South Manor library districts.