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Zoning plan targets Southampton campuses

Chancellors Hall at Stony Brook University's Southampton campus.

Chancellors Hall at Stony Brook University's Southampton campus. (April 7, 2010) Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Two state lawmakers and Southampton's town supervisor have come up with a plan that would effectively keep Stony Brook University's Southampton campus and Suffolk County Community College's Eastern campus zoned only for higher learning institutions.

Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst co-authored the plan, which would create a new zoning classification called University-25 in Southampton.

The Suffolk Community College campus is in Riverhead in the town of Southampton.

The two campus sites are now zoned residential, with special-exception use.

If the zoning classification is approved, it would take another act of legislation from the town board to change it.

Thiele, who spoke about the plan at the town's Friday work session, said the zoning ordinance was modeled on a similar zoning code in upstate Ithaca for that city's two main colleges -- Cornell University and Ithaca College.

The Southampton campus of Stony Brook had once been part of the Long Island University system, but was closed in 2005. It was purchased in 2006 by Stony Brook University, which announced in April 2010 that it would close much of the campus due to budget constraints.

Stony Brook University was sued in State Supreme Court by six students, who said the school did not hold public hearings before deciding to close much of the Southampton campus. In the settlement announced in August, the university was required to maintain its undergraduate sustainability program -- which focuses on environmental protection -- through the spring of 2014, allowing students to graduate with their degree.

The closure of much of the campus led to concern among local residents that the land could be sold and housing erected on the site.

"Twice now, its future has been undecided," Thiele said.

A spokeswoman for Stony Brook University said the school supports the zoning classification plan. "We believe in the academic use of that land," Lauren Sheprow said. "We completely support the concept."

The Southampton campus is planning additions this year, including an expansion of the fine arts curriculum, which would include a master's program in film and theater, and a residential undergraduate program in marine sciences for the fall semester, Sheprow said.

The town board will decide next week whether to hold a public hearing on the matter when it convenes at 6 p.m. May 22 in town hall for its regular meeting.

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