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Sep 25, 2008 5:12 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach suggests land swap with Habitat for Humanity

Sep 25, 2008 5:12 PM

The Village of Westhampton Beach is considering swapping a piece of land with another that it previously donated to Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk County in order to close the books on a lawsuit that the non-profit filed against the municipality late last year.

Habitat for Humanity sued the village last winter after the Westhampton Beach Zoning Board of Appeals did not grant the organization a variance that would have allowed it to build a 1,300-square-foot home on a 6,000-square-foot lot on Mickie’s Way. The village had donated the land, which measures about one-seventh of an acre, to the non-profit with the hope that it would build a small affordable home on the property.

Village Attorney Bo Bishop explained that the village intends to propose the land swap to the organization and gauge its interest. The village intends to offer a 17,000-square-foot lot on Guldi Drive, formerly known as Sherman Patterson Way, to the organization in exchange for taking back the Mickie’s Way property. The village donated the smaller lot to Habitat for Humanity in February 2006.

The proposed land swap was first discussed during last week’s work session meeting, held on Wednesday, September 24.

The lawsuit filed by Habitat for Humanity is currently on hold, according to Mr. Bishop. If group officials reject the trade offer, Mr. Bishop said they can either advance the lawsuit by providing additional documentation, or re-file an application with the village’s zoning board and continue efforts to build a new home on Mickie’s way.

When reached for comment earlier this week, Habitat for Humanity officials said that, at the current time, they still plan to build a home on Mickie’s Way.

However, Les Scheinfeld, the associate director of Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk County, said his organization had not yet received any official offer from the village to swap properties in Westhampton Beach. He also said that group representatives are willing to work with the village.

“We’re interested in creating an affordable home ownership opportunity for a family in need,” Mr. Scheinfeld said on Monday. He added that the organization is “beholden to Suffolk County” and Westhampton Beach.

When they first proposed building a three-bedroom home on Mickie’s Way last year, group officials were told that they had to first secure a variance from the village’s zoning board because their proposed home was too big for the lot. Mr. Bishop said that the group, which requires that qualified applicants contribute “sweat equity” in building their homes, was seeking a substantial variance that, if adopted, could have set a dangerous precedence in the municipality.

“The property they’re seeking to build on is a very small parcel, it’s between two larger houses, a two-story house on one side and a one-and-a-half-story house on the other side,” Mr. Bishop said. “It would be difficult to squeeze in another house and it would look unusual.”

Mr. Bishop said that, in his opinion, the Guldi Drive property is “better suited” to meeting the organization’s needs.

Village Clerk Kathy McGinnis explained that the village acquired the Guldi Drive property in 2005 from Suffolk County after its former owner stopped paying taxes on it. Mr. Bishop said the Mickie’s Way property came into the village’s hands through the same process. He noted that both lots are considered “out parcels,” land that is left over after a new subdivision has been created.

According to Ms. McGinnis, the village took ownership of both properties at almost no cost. Officials had to pay the back taxes on the lots and ensure that they would eventually be used as affordable housing. On Tuesday, Mr. Bishop said he was uncertain what the village would do with the smaller lot if Habitat for Humanity agrees to trade properties.

“We have to make it available for affordable housing, it’s something we should have done months ago but we got sidetracked,” Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller said about the proposed swap on Friday. “The county gave us property and we have to do something with it or else we have to return it to the county.”

Mr. Teller said that there is “no real deadline” on when the village must have affordable housing built on the property.

At the same meeting last week, Kenny Densieski, a member of the East End Surf and Fishing Club, asked the trustees to consider allowing all-wheel-drive vehicles on Lashley Beach. The access point would mainly be used by fishermen, Mr. Densieski said.

“The chances of getting this are slim,” Mr. Teller said.

In other news, Mr. Teller said that things are still “up in the air” regarding the village’s plans to hire an additional police officer at the cost of about $39,000. The Westhampton Beach Police Department is down at least three officers due to recent retirements.

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Just to be clear... the Village of WHB is 2.9 square miles... has 18 police officers and spends half of its annual budget on the police department. That's EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS! The WHB Chief of police makes the same as the Vice President of the United States… the difference is the Vice President actually GOES to work… Ray Dean does not and is not accountable… when was the last time anyone did the speed limit in the Village? How many u turns did you see this summer on Main Street? We don’t need ...more
By Resident (42), Westhampton Beach on Sep 30, 08 8:53 PM
The fact that you believe the village spends 8 million dollars on its police budget is just shear ignorance; more like less than 2 million. As for you comment about our police chief, the village has never had such a hardworker. We all should be proud to have him; he deserves every penny he makes (mind you, all chiefs of neighboring departments, quogue included, make almost identical salaries). Just to prove my point- since I like facts, not speculation- take a look at an article dated back in July ...more
By Woody (15), Westhampton Beach on Oct 6, 08 11:10 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Resident (42), Westhampton Beach on Oct 7, 08 4:10 PM

I'm confused. If the chief is so good, why is he picking up the slack for the officers he commands? If the department is riddled with corruption doesn't that point to a lack of

I remember when hanging a U-turn on Main St. was a guaranteed ticket. No longer, it happens all the time.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Oct 7, 08 5:25 PM
Guldi Drive, formerly known as Sherman Patterson Way ... the Village should change the name of the street back to Sherman Patterson Way ... please. Ask any old timers about Sherman Patterson. He was a beloved man in Westhampton Beach
By JimmyKBond (156), Hampton Bays on Oct 18, 09 4:49 PM