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Jun 24, 2015 11:01 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town To Consider New Formula To Reduce House Size

Jun 25, 2015 4:08 PM

Southampton Town officials will hold a roundtable debate of new legislation, proposed by Councilwoman Bridget Fleming to reduce the maximum size of new homes.

The proposed law would limit the size of new dwellings based on a calculation of the floor area in relation to the size of the lot, instead of a general 15,000-square-foot cap currently in place. Ms. Fleming said the change is intended to preserve the character of Southampton neighborhoods by curbing monster-sized homes, and to help protect property values.

On Tuesday, not all of the board members agreed that the proposed calculation involving gross floor area limits is the best way to regulate house size, with Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst among those saying the formula is complicated and difficult to understand.

The Town Board will use the roundtable—it will be open to the public, though a date has not yet been set—to discuss possible changes to the proposed law.

“Without naming any specific sites, I have seen myself, and certainly have gotten complaints from folks in the community, about these very, very large houses that we are seeing going up,” Ms. Fleming said this week. “When I researched it, I found that although almost all of the neighboring communities have set some sort of floor area limit, the town does not have anything on the books with regards to the ratio of floor area to lot size. This would change that.”

Currently, the town code does not allow new homes that have more than 15,000 square feet of floor space. There is also a regulation that says “roofed” structures cannot exceed between 5 and 20 percent of a lot, depending on the property, which can lower that cap.

“The Town Board of the Town of Southampton recognizes that there has been a proliferation of large homes being built within the town that are not in character with the neighborhood, the existing homes, or the community within which they are located,” the resolution pitched by Ms. Fleming says. “Indeed, many property owners, whether seeking to maximize their profit on speculative building or otherwise, are constructing homes that barely meet existing setbacks and ultimately consume the entire lot.”

The resolution goes on to note that these large homes block views and light as well as “negatively affecting neighbors and the visual character of these quaint communities.”

The proposed law states that any interior space between the floor and ceiling that exceeds 15 feet will be counted twice, and that any attics with a ceiling height higher than 7 feet must be included in the gross floor area.

The main concerns against the local law are that the changes might be too drastic, could diminish the quality of the architecture seen in the town, and that the formula would discourage preservation of smaller, historic homes by making it more difficult to add onto them.

According to Ms. Fleming, the proposed changes are inspired by building codes already implemented in the villages of North Haven and Sagaponack.

“It certainly still allows for large homes,” she said of the proposed legislation, “but limits some of what we are seeing that really interferes with the community character, property values for neighbors, and the viewsheds along the coast and farm fields.”

Trustees Declared 

Legislation has passed the State Legislature naming the Southampton Town, East Hampton Town and Southold town trustees as municipal corporations, allowing land to be transferred to those boards at no or little cost through July 2017.

The legislation was written by Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., and will go into effect on July 31. Previously, the law would allow only counties, towns, villages and fire districts to receive land transfers.

Because of the legislation, Southampton Town Trustees were able to acquire a 4-acre beach parcel on Fantasy Drive overlooking Reeves and Flanders bays, according to a press release issued last week. The land was previously owned by Suffolk County, and under the Trustees’ stewardship will become an access point for residents and could serve as a depository for sand dredged from navigation channels.

Now that it has been approved by the Senate and State Assembly, the law will be considered by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office.

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This is the Hamptons, and we enjoy low taxes, good jobs from the construction of large house's from wealthy city residents. How dare these officials think it's okay to burden private property with more laws, and restrictions. The town has been stealing land rights over, and over for years, and it has to stop.
By chief1 (2725), southampton on Jun 24, 15 4:23 PM
Anarchy and freedom are two very different things.

You really need to come to grips with the difference...
By Mr. Z (11376), North Sea on Jun 24, 15 7:55 PM
Linking building size to a percentage of lot size is probably the most inteligent zoning idea I've ever seen come out of Town Hall. It could even be improved on by taking away the review boards ability to overide the restrictions.
By bird (784), Southampton on Jun 24, 15 8:08 PM
Is their a restriction on the setback of a house (distance to property line)?

Too bad that the proposed law can't be retro-active.
Allowing monster houses all over what was once open space and farm fields
is just one area where we have gone too far, destroying what was the appeal
of the south fork.

By Tony Ernst (10), Southampton on Jun 24, 15 8:33 PM
2 members liked this comment
Since when is it anyones business what someone builds on their property?
By chief1 (2725), southampton on Jun 25, 15 8:01 AM
Since the advent of zoning laws? Do you know what things look like without zoning? Take a ride by the Shinnecock reservation
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Jun 25, 15 8:53 AM
1 member liked this comment
We are talking about home size not business districts and crazy signs. Wise up
By chief1 (2725), southampton on Jun 26, 15 3:02 PM
Chief, we have to abide by reasonable rules. I don't want my neighbor to be able to build whatever they want just because they own it.
By dnice (2345), Hampton Bays on Jun 28, 15 8:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
That's the point. There is no shinnecock business district. There are no regulations for signs. There's no rules outside of state building code (and I'm not sure they even need to adhere to that).

If you have no zoning regs for residential properties, someone will build a something more ridiculous than you could ever imagine. A 30' tall house shaped like a rectangle sited 6" off the property line? Sure, that's allowed in Chieftan's world.
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Jul 1, 15 12:58 PM
??? Bridget's not from around here??? She's from Noyac, (for many years) her kid goes to school here and she was elected by a vast majority of voters. It's called democracy. AND, as you probably know, it has to be voted on. So hold off on the hysterics.
By ebonybay (6), Hampton Bays on Jun 25, 15 12:18 PM
to marlinspike:


“Democrats=anarchy, GOP=freedom.”

Infancy = inanity.


“Now Bridget Fleming, WHO'S NOT FROM AROUND HERE, is going to tell us how to live ? “ (emphasis added)

Wrong - - - Again.

Please, please, find a forum more appropriate to your age and experience. You can always return when you have few more years under your belt.
By highhatsize (4038), East Quogue on Jun 25, 15 12:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
I'm going to ignore the posts by chief1 and marlinspike -- which is better treatment than they deserve on this issue -- and focus on the comments of bird and Tony Ernst, namely, that tying building size to lot size is a great idea, and it's indeed too bad this can't be retroactive, because the McMansion thing has been going on for too long now.

Anyway, it's not too late to take a responsible approach to zoning. The character of our communities has been damaged, but not yet destroyed, ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1949), Quiogue on Jun 25, 15 2:56 PM
3 members liked this comment
It is time to take a responsible approach to zoning and overbuilding!! Its time to STOP the Canoe Place Inn Condo Development!
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Jun 25, 15 8:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
Bridget is not a leader in this endeavor. If anything she's a bit late to the party. Leadership on this matter has come from several villages. Notably the initiative came from a group of concerned residents of Southampton Village a few years back that lost control of the village board, after a short stint, to a group of pro-development trustees lead by Mark Epley and Nancy McGann-who comes a bit selective in her opposition to development( I don't think her firm has turned away any listings for Mac ...more
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Jun 25, 15 8:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
And how do you plan on doing that?
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Jul 13, 15 12:39 PM
lol - I was actually referring to reg rep (stopping Canoe Place Inn Development - even though it's been approved) but my comment applies equally to you it appears!
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Jul 14, 15 9:24 AM
Sure it's time to curb development since you have a home. Since you are a man of ethics, and self righteousness why don't you tear down your house, and move. This would be a good start in stopping congestion.
It's funny when a man who lives on the bay can tell someone how to develop responsibly. Thanks Turkey Bird.
By chief1 (2725), southampton on Jun 25, 15 3:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
8k run & 3 mile walk, Agawam Park, Southampton Rotary Club fundraiser