Displeased with Southampton Town’s response to density and overcrowding issues, the Hampton Bays Civic Association is raising the possibility of incorporating the hamlet as a village, a way of taking matters into their own hands, members said this week.
Bruce King, the president of the organization, said the hamlet and the Hampton Bays School District are burdened by overcrowded homes and motels illegally operating as apartments. If Hampton Bays were to incorporate, he said, it would appoint its own planning board and zoning board of appeals to address such matters.
Code enforcement, Mr. King pointed out, would be the highest priority. “Southampton Town has a certain amount budgeted for code enforcement, and there are areas like Hampton Bays, Flanders and Riverside that need more,” he said on Friday. “And we don’t get it.”
The town’s incorporated villages—Sag Harbor, North Haven, Quogue, Westhampton Beach, West Hampton Dunes, Southampton and Sagaponack—don’t face those issues, he said. “They have tighter control over it, local control,” Mr. King added.
The civic group has invited Bill Biondi, the mayor of Mastic Beach Village, which incorporated in 2010, to speak at its next meeting on Monday, January 28, at 7 p.m., in the Southampton Senior Center off Ponquogue Avenue. Mastic resident Chris Ricciardi, who now heads the Mastic Beach Zoning Commission and who was heavily involved in the village’s incorporation, also will be present.
Mr. King said he hopes the guest speakers will shed some light on the incorporation process. “It’s something that Hampton Bays has been mulling over for 60 years,” he said. “We’re hoping to get community input as to what they’d like to do and how they’d like to do it.”
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst did not return calls seeking comment.
On Tuesday, Mr. Biondi said the process of incorporating Mastic Beach Village took about two and a half years. The difficulty, he said, was carefully weighing the pros and cons to be sure that it was the best option for residents. Like Hampton Bays, Mastic residents did not feel that the Town of Brookhaven was adequately addressing quality of life issues that arose from code enforcement problems, Mr. Biondi said.
“It’s a more close-to-home-type atmosphere,” the mayor added of the new Village Hall. “We’re not politicians down here, so we’re trying our best to do what’s right.”
To drive that point home, Mr. Biondi highlighted the fact that neither he nor the Village Board members nor those who serve on the Zoning Commission receive a salary.
Though the topic has been raised in the past in Hampton Bays, Mr. King pointed out that becoming an incorporated village would be a costly venture and require the support of civic groups and community members, all of which, he said, are invited to Monday night’s meeting to join in the discussion.
State law dictates that in order for a hamlet to incorporate, at least 20 percent of the residents who are eligible to vote, or the owners of more than 50 percent of assessed valuation of land in a hamlet, must sign a petition. The town is then required to hold a public hearing on the issue. The town supervisor must determine whether the petition meets all the legal requirements and, if it does, he or she must schedule an election after the hearing. A majority of the residents of the proposed village must vote in favor of incorporating for it to occur.
Marion Boden, a member and former president of the Hampton Bays Civic Association, said she hopes that community members will take the time to consider the option with an open mind. “The reason I feel it should definitely be done is the [Southampton Town] Zoning Board of Appeals has been particularly and consistently insensitive to the realities of life in Hampton Bays,” she said. “They have given approvals on applications that were so egregious, I don’t know how they can look anyone in Hampton Bays in the eye after that.”
The possibility of incorporating came up during her time as president, she added, but she said she believed people lacked the time to tackle such an undertaking.
“My fondest hope is that people in Hampton Bays will pay attention to the issue and not routinely dismiss it because it is going to result in higher taxes, or welcome it because it will result in home rule,” she said. “I think the time has long past come.”
Michael Dunn, the president of the Concerned Citizens of Hampton Bays, a civic group formed in the last year by residents disgruntled by the density of development, said he supports exploring the possibility. “The years of abuse by this town disregarding laws and codes is outrageous,” he said.