Date: August 2, 2021
Contact: Supervisor’s Office
The Southampton Town Board, in Executive Session last Thursday, agreed to direct the Town Clerk, Sundy Schermeyer, to not submit ballot language to the State Board of Elections, which, if approved by voters, would enable the future creation of a new roadway connection in Hampton Bays to provide an alternate access to downtown, as well as to alleviate traffic congestion. The Board chose to delay the referendum vote in order to allow time to review and consider all available options concerning the recent court decision nullifying zoning changes for downtown Hampton Bays.
The zoning changes were unanimously adopted by the town board on February 25, 2020 after extensive community participation and support. More than 1,200 community members participated in the process, sharing their vision for the future of downtown Hampton Bays. The zoning changes, known as the “Hampton Bays Downtown Overlay District” or HBDOD, were designed to create a more vibrant, pedestrian-friendly downtown. The revitalization plan contemplated the creation of a new road, and in order to lay out the future road connection, the Town Board needed to use a small section of property acquired for park purposes, which would have triggered the public vote. The lawsuit was brought personally by Gayle Lombardi, a resident of Hampton Bays.
Judge Joseph Santorelli affirmed that the zoning “was consistent with the overall land use policies and development plans enunciated in the HB Corridor Strategic Plan and was adopted for legitimate governmental purpose.” Judge Santorelli annulled the SEQRA Findings and Resolution of Adoption because he determined that the Town needed more review of development potential outside of the boundaries of the HBDOD, as well as the impacts of groundwater contamination from the Hampton Bays Firehouse. According to Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, the Town vetted those issues and will now provide this additional documentation
in the motion to re-argue the case. “This is a major setback for Hampton Bays,” said Supervisor Schneiderman. “One person has set out to derail years of careful community-based land use planning. This individual was also a vocal critic of creating Good Ground Park, which has now become a popular community facility. Now she has succeeded in annulling a community-supported plan for wider sidewalks, cafes with outdoor dining, and boutique shops.”
Councilwoman Julie Lofstad, a resident of Hampton Bays, commented, “Unfortunately with this ruling, development in Hampton Bays will continue as is, without the vision the people of Hampton Bays imagined, which was a beautiful downtown not comprised of strip mall development. Our hamlet deserves the opportunities and investment that can enrich our residents and visitors. The Town will continue to work towards providing the tools that can make the vision a reality.”
The Board has worked hard during the Schneiderman administration to improve Hampton Bays. The Ponquogue Beach pavilion was renovated, chronic flooding addressed on Dune Road, the beach widened by the Shinnecock Inlet, Good Ground Park created, and the downtown community center purchased and expanded. Average home values in Hampton Bays have significantly increased during Schneiderman’s tenure. “Improving downtown is the next phase of the plan,” said Schneiderman, “but now it will have to wait; however, we’re not going to abandon Hampton Bays.” Schneiderman said the Board would address the issues raised by the judge in order to re-approve the plan, but would also move to re-argue the case and appeal the decision.
Janice Scherer, Town Planning and Development Administrator, noted, “We have been working in good faith to put in place the infrastructure to allow for re-development of Main Street and the parcels leading to Good Ground Park. We were working to deliver the vision of a vibrant downtown that was similar in style and beauty to Greenport and Southampton Village, with a density cap, gorgeous architecture and a family-friendly atmosphere. We are now hearing a lot of mis-truths that are circulating by those who seek to inject fear and confusion into the process. We will work to correct the misunderstandings within the community.”