Residents turned out Tuesday night at to blast a draft generic environmental impact statement and corridor study they believe has glaring omissions and does not adequately reflect the needs of the Hampton Bays community.
The special town board meeting was convened to give residents a chance to continue a dialogue at two public hearings regarding hot button topics in town — planned development districts and the Hampton Bays Corridor Strategic Plan.
Planned development districts are a planning tool designed to allow developers to get around zoning requirements in exchange for a community benefit.
Residents spoke passionately and at great length at the three-hour meeting, voicing concerns that density could forever alter the community they cherish.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Thone-Holst kicked off the evening of hearings by explaining that a decision had been made to nix the idea for holding a "pre-pre-submission conference" for PDD applicants. An , several residents suggested such a conference, but Throne-Holst said at the time that "a little information is dangerous information."
Instead, she unveiled a new PDD pre-submission application that she said speaks to a “very do-able, logical and sufficiently comprehensive” process to give the town board and the public thorough information and detail before any work sessions are held. She said the idea of the pre-pre-submission conference was just watering down the opportunity to have sufficient information before discussing a proposed PDD.
The supervisor said she has met with civic groups and citizens advisory committees who have urged the town to move forward with the PDD legislation, in the face of a number of applications poised to come before the board for review.
Ann LaWall of the Southampton Town Business Alliance and others asked the board to keep the hearing open for just a while longer to give community members enough time to thoroughly read and absorb the legislation.
Hampton Bays resident Mary Jean Green said PDDs were originally designed as a tool “to plan communities around open space preservation.” To introduce PDDs into a community that is already burdened with density is contrary to the original intent of the legislation and “abusive,” she said.
of the Group for the East End pointed to the proposed legislation and said a pre-submission conference should be held for town initiated PDDs too, not just PDDs applications from developers.
“Our feeling is a PDD is still a PDD,” she said. “The town should be held to the same standards as applicants.”
Assistant Town Planning and Development Administrator Freda Eisenberg said the town would, in fact, be held to even more stringent review. “The town would meet the standards and then some.”
Hampton Bays resident Dr. Bruce King reiterated his belief that town board members who had received campaign donations from developers should abstain from voting on projects the developers later propose. “It takes away any hint of impropriety,” he said, adding that since he first suggested the measure at a prior hearing, it has garnered considerable community support.
Throne-Holst said disclosure is critical but added that “unfortunately, the electoral process is that we need funds to get elected.” The situation, she said, “is a Catch-22.”
Recently, the town board put the brakes on a proposed PDD for Serenity Estates in Speonk, said Andrea Spilka, a community advocate and citizens advisory committee member. She thanked the town board members for their decision.
The PDD hearing was adjourned until March 22 at 6 p.m.
Hampton Bays Draft Environmental Impact Statement Dissected
Next, the public took to the podium to talk about the proposed Hampton Bays corridor study and draft environmental impact statement.
Several residents expressed they are concerned with growing building density in Hampton Bays, disproportionate to other hamlets in town.
Hampton Bays resident Scott Carlin said the DGEIS is a long process for residents and businesses to achieve their vision for Hampton Bays — "a community that is vibrant, historic, seaside, ecological, green, safe and distinctive.”
Carlin urged the board to not install new traffic lights but instead, reduce speed limits on streets with narrow lane widths.
He also advocated the town board’s adoption of language describing Hampton Bays as “a watershed,” a critical point he said he feels deserves greater prominence in the DGEIS document.
The DGEIS, he said, is also silent on the chlorination of drinking water in Hampton Bays.
“Density is the overriding issue," King agreed. "We are poisoning ourselves.”
Carlin said the town’s planning process does not “adequately address local concerns about growth. Yet concerns about growth are central to why organizations such as the Hampton Bays Civic Association have asked the town for this buildout analysis.”
And, he insisted, the town does not have an effective process for listening to local concerns; he urged the town to consider hiring an impartial facilitator.
“Hampton Bays is in a state of crisis,” Carlin said. “Much more work needs to be done.”
Hampton Bays residents also asked that the board pay heed to the Hampton Bays Civic Association’s hamlet visioning document, created in 2008, which Green said was prepared by experts who know their community far better than the planning board, and which, she added, should not be ignored. “It is not to be demeaned by any arbitrary criticism or exclusion.”
Green spoke out passionately about environmental concerns. She said a DVD of the waste-water management forum held in Suffolk County in January is must-see viewing and added that the DGEIS must include a reference that “the chromoglass sewage disposal on-site system is unacceptable for removing nitrogen from waste and shall not be used.”
Hampton Bays resident Eve Hoolihan spoke at great length on a number of issues but concluded, “The over-arching issue remains zoning-related disproportionate density, which is neither frivolous nor to be taken lightly.”
Attorney Wayne Bruin, representing the owners of the parcel where the future Tiana Commons, “the single largest parcel in the study,” is proposed to be sited, said his clients have never been asked to be a part of any community discussion, dialogue or meetings on the DGEIS and were never consulted. "Our project is a reasonable alternative," he said. "It should be evaluated.”
But not everyone agreed. “We don’t want your development,” King said.
The DGEIS public hearing was also adjourned to March 22.