Discovering the Old Filed Maps
In the 1970’s, after the first Comprehensive Plan was completed, Southampton Town realized that it was facing a grave threat to drinking water quality, orderly growth of the town, and community character in the form of more than 300 Old Filed Maps. Old File Maps are land subdivision maps that had been filed with the county clerk prior to May 13, 1931 but were never approved by either the Southampton Planning Board or the Town Board. As a result of doubtful practices as compared with modern day standards in subdividing, recording, and marketing of the lots during this period, some of the maps, and lots within the maps, are impossible to locate accurately and in some cases the actual title to lots is questionable.
Further, most of the parcels created in these maps are substantially smaller than the minimum required lot size in the applicable zoning district, and often are smaller than the minimum lot size required by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to prevent health hazards by meeting community water and sewerage standards. Most lack access to an improved road.
Transfer of Development Rights Program
To avert the potential disaster that full buildout of these Old Filed Maps (OFM) would have caused to the Town’s drinking water, roads, population, and community character, Southampton Town devised its first Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program. Passed into law in 1979, Old Filed Map legislation (330-52) sets up a system by which substandard, nonconforming lots receive only a partial residential development right, and these development rights are transferable from one lot to others within the Old Filed Map overlay district. In this way, the equity of landowners in these OFM areas has been maintained, while allowing the orderly development of a much smaller number of lots in which the Town has determined that adequate infrastructure is available to support development and growth.
The process of developing an Old Filed Map (OFM) begins with finding out whether your lot is situated in what is called an Approved Development Section of an Old Filed Map. If it is, the Approved Development Section Map approved by the Planning Board will designate which lots are Development Parcels – receiving parcels - and can be developed if they meet the minimum lot size for the zoning district in which they are located (i.e. 40,000 square feet in an R-40 district) or once they are able to transfer one full development right to the parcel (i.e. the equivalent of 40,000 square feet in an R-40 district). Other lots will be TDR Lots – sending parcels – which can not be developed, but can sell their TDRs to parties interested in building on OFM development parcels in the same Development Section, OFM development parcels within the same school district, or possibly the town TDR Bank.
As provided in 330-53, each lot in the OFM District is granted a fractional development right, with the numerator of the fraction equal to the lot area of the lot, and the denominator equal to the minimum required lot area for the zoning district in which the lot is located. For example, a 20,000 square feet lot in an OFM in the R-40 zoning district would receive 20,000 / 40,000 of a development right, or 0.5 of a development right. If the Approved Development Section map shows that this lot is designated as a development parcel, the owner could buy another 20,000 / 40,000 of a development right (0.5 development right) and transfer it to the development parcel to obtain a Right to Build. If the Development Section Map shows that this lot is designated as a TDR parcel, the owner could sell the 20,000 / 40,000 of a development right (0.5 development right) on the open market to another landowner seeking to build on an OFM parcel within the same school district. For further details about the Old File Map program, consult Planning Division Staff and Town Code sections 330-52 through 56.
Special Old Filed Maps
Similar to the OFM program is the Special OFM program, which regulates the development of Old Filed Maps south of Montauk Highway between the Shinnecock Canal to the east and the Brookhaven Town line to the west. Undeveloped, single and separate lots within these maps with lot area less than 10,000 square feet are granted a development right equal to the lot area / 10,000-square-feet. These partial residential rights can also be transferred as described above. The owner may also be able to apply for a Special Permit for Reduction of Lot Area Requirement in lieu of transferring rights to the site, to gain the right to build. Single and separate Special OFM lots that are 10,000 square feet or larger are buildable without any variances or TDR transfers. For further details about the Special Old File Map program, consult Planning Division Staff and Town Code sections 330-57-62.
If no Approved Development Section exists for the parcel in question, inquire with Planning Staff about the Town’s future plans for the Old Filed Map where your property is located, and the possibility of making an Application to Open a Development Section of an Old Filed Map.