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Mar 25, 2009 1:46 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

County Road 39 moratorium to end early

Mar 25, 2009 1:46 PM

The Southampton Town Board agreed on Tuesday to lift the building and development moratorium along the County Road 39 corridor three months early.

Originally slated to expire in July, the ban will now end on Monday, March 30.

The board voted 4-1, with Councilwoman Sally Pope in opposition, to suspend what was supposed to be a one-year moratorium on construction along the highway between Water Mill and Shinnecock Hills. But before voting on the early sunset date, the Town Board unanimously adopted a compromise introduced by Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst aimed at maintaining the moratorium’s integrity.

Though applications for new development will be free to go through the approval process as of Monday, the land use study running concurrent with the moratorium will continue. The purpose of that study is to examine the cumulative impact of future development along the thoroughfare and to establish a long-range vision for the corridor based on the desires of both the business and residential communities.

Under Ms. Throne-Holst’s plan, any change of zone, subdivision, site plan, variance or special exemption along the corridor will now be referred to the Department of Land Management, which is overseeing the County Road 39 Land Use Study. In turn, town planners will consult with the team preparing the study to ensure that any new development along the highway meets the study’s goals and objectives.

“In my year and two months on this board, I’ve dealt with two moratoriums and concurrent land use studies and have been the liaison on both, and I’ve come to one conclusion: Moratoriums make no sense,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.

The councilwoman said that the public hearing process for dealing with the constant exemptions and extensions to moratoriums was frustrating. “We held a public hearing for an hour on an exemption to the moratorium, only to lift the moratorium later,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “This is a perfect example of how not to manage such contentious issues. We could have spared people a lot of time and grief by having a better prepared agenda.”

After the meeting, the councilwoman said the Town Board should have held a work session on a compromise to lifting the moratorium before taking action. “That way we could have informed the public on exactly what we were considering.” The councilwoman also said there was a more efficient way to address community concerns over runaway development and build-out and the needs of the business community, especially in an economic downturn.

Ms. Throne-Holst said taxpayer dollars spent on hiring consultants to conduct land use studies were wasted if the constructions eventually built within those study areas did not adhere to the goals outlined in the studies, which is why moratoriums are enacted in the first place.

According to Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, who argued in favor of lifting the ban to spur economic growth, Ms. Throne-Holst’s compromise is a good one and helped to strike a balance between aesthetic and business concerns.

Those in favor of lifting the ban, including Ann LaWall, the executive director of the Southampton Business Alliance, argued Tuesday that there were no “shovel-ready” projects in the hopper and that there was no “big development threat” to the corridor.

“This will not negate the land use study,” Ms. LaWall said. “This will only allow planning to go through.”

In Ms. LaWall’s view, lifting the ban helps to create jobs.

Ed Glackin, vice president of real estate for King Kullen, agreed. Plans to construct a King Kullen supermarket complex near the intersection of South Magee Street and County Road 39—a project held up by the moratorium—will create 150 construction jobs, 310 permanent jobs and inject much needed tax dollars into the community, Ms. Glackin said.

But Bob Schepps, president of the Southampton Chamber of Commerce, said the potential build-out along the thoroughfare, which he said was “enormous,” trumped immediate business needs.

“I understand economics,” Mr. Schepps said. “We’re the Chamber of Commerce. But the bigger picture is more than the three or four months you’re going to chop off of this moratorium.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said she was equally concerned about job growth—especially with jobless numbers increasing—and the future development of County Road 39, which is the busiest thoroughfare in the town.

“This is a perfect opportunity to respond to the economic realities we face while maintaining the integrity of the work being done on the land use study,” she said.

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There's not a word in this piece about Sally Pope's reasons for casting the sole vote against ending the moratorium now. What's the story on that?
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 26, 09 11:18 AM
Interesting that the board (for the first time ever) ends a moratorium at the exact time that a politically connected developer needs it lifted to pursue his project.
More congestion on County Rd 39 means more traffic and more accidents.
By Hampton (50), Westhampton on Mar 30, 09 8:14 AM