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Southampton passes law halting use of controversial zoning tool

Southampton Town Hall is shown in this 2012

Southampton Town Hall is shown in this 2012 file photo. Photo Credit: Ian J. Stark

The Southampton Town Board voted Tuesday to prevent developers from applying for Planned Development Districts, eliminating the controversial zoning tool for future projects.

The board voted 4-0 on a resolution that halts future applications for the districts, which grant special zoning regulations — such as creating mixed-use or affordable housing units for a property in a residential zone without changing the zoning for the entire area — in exchange for predetermined public benefits, such as open space.

The resolution voids any applications submitted after a one-year moratorium on the law was implemented June 6, 2016, but allows officials to consider applications filed before that date.

“This is an important piece of legislation, and it’s time to move forward,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said of the board’s decision to vote despite Councilwoman Christine Scalera’s absence due to a family emergency.

Carl Benincasa, an assistant town attorney, said officials plan to repeal the law once all applications submitted before the moratorium — which was extended to September in a vote last month — have been considered. The only application being processed is for a controversial resort golf course and residential development in East Quogue known as The Hills, which multiple residents urged the board to reject.

More than 20 projects have been approved under the Planned Development Districts law, which was passed in 1995 with the goal of creating flexible zoning while providing community benefits.

Officials said they are crafting legislation to create zoning exemptions for some uses that have typically needed Planned Development District project approval, such as assisted living facilities.

Schneiderman said the law has stirred too much unpredictability in the zoning process. “It is endlessly flexible; any piece of land can be developed any way,” he said.

Several residents echoed Schneiderman’s concerns during a public hearing before the vote.

“Our community is on the brink of being ruined by development,” said artist Hope Sandrow, of Shinnecock Hills. “Take the steps to end this law that has divided our community.”

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