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Dec 15, 2017 3:13 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village Board Approves Legislation Requiring Advance Septic Systems Near Water Bodies

Southampton Village Mayor Michael Irving. GREG WEHNER
Dec 20, 2017 11:10 AM

Southampton Village Board members approved a law last week mandating state-of-the-art septic systems for all new construction, and some home renovations, in key areas of the village’s watershed.

The board also enacted a law that expands the village’s existing “pyramid law,” which limits the height of a structure based on its location in relation to the property lines, to apply in all residential districts within the Village of Southampton.

The two laws come on the heels of a number of proposed developments in the village that seek to increase the size of homes and density of development, and also have prompted concerns about the added amount of septic pollution, especially on properties near sensitive bodies of water.

“My goal is to always get ahead of the curve, but that curve always seems to stay in front,” Southampton Village Mayor Michael Irving told board members at a meeting on Thursday night, December 14, when the laws were approved. “It doesn’t seem to work too well.”

The new legislation pertaining to septic systems—which was originally slated to go into effect on January 1, but now will become effective on March 1—will require an alternative on-site water treatment system approved by the Suffolk County Department of Health when a property owner plans any new residential construction, or an increase in the number of bedrooms, on a property near a water body in the village. The same systems will be mandated if a property owner plans any substantial changes to an existing septic system.

Mr. Irving said the goal of the legislation is to address the quality of groundwater and surface water resources in and around the village, focusing on properties closest to bodies of water most affected.

The village is prioritizing properties based on a map created by Southampton Town to identify key places to allocate new revenues from the town’s Community Preservation Fund that can be used for water quality improvement projects. The town identified “high” and “medium” priority areas throughout the town, including in the village.

The portion of the map that includes Southampton Village shows the entire oceanfront, all around Lake Agawam, and encompassing the various other ponds and water bodies as high-priority areas. That includes Halsey Neck Pond, Old Town Pond and Taylor Creek. Only residential properties are targeted by the proposed new law.

The board voted unanimously to approve the measure.

“I think it’s a great move on our part,” Mr. Irving said after the vote. “All in all, it’s the right thing to do.”

Mr. Irving and the other board members also unanimously voted to approve a law requiring the pyramid law to apply in all residential districts within Southampton Village.

The pyramid law limits a building’s height and the angle of its roofline in order to keep it from disrupting the view of neighbors. It is based on lot size and where the structure is located on the lot.

The law previously required only homes in residential zones requiring half-acre lots or smaller to be restricted by the pyramid law, but it will now require all homes in all residential zones—including 1-acre, 1.5-acre, 2-acre and 3-acre residential zones, as well as multifamily zones—to follow the law.

“Given the building pattern we’ve seen in the past few years, extending the pyramid law to larger residential lots is the right thing to do,” Paul Travis, chairman of the Village Planning Commission, told Village Board members on Thursday.

Mr. Irving said he was originally concerned about the law, because the pyramid law centers most of the larger houses in the center of lots, adding that the diversity of the house placements in the historic district of Southampton Village makes it unique. But he said he concluded that’s not the case.

Mr. Travis agreed, saying it will actually lessen the impact, as it does on the smaller lots on the neighbors who face a wall next to them. When the zoning law was put in place in 2003, Mr. Travis said, the board didn’t think someone would maximize what they could put on a property, just because they could.

Trustee Kimberly Allan said that at the December 11 Village Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review meeting, someone said, “I feel so hemmed in from both my neighbors. I not only lost my sunny backyard, but they can see what I’m watching on my TV.”

“It’s a little funny, but it’s not,” Ms. Allan said on Thursday.

Village Ethics Board Chairman Christian Picot thanked Mr. Travis and the rest of the Planning Commission members for the work they did. Mr. Picot said he supported extending the pyramid law into all residential zones, and that the work was necessary and extensive.

“This amendment is a good first step,” Mr. Picot said. “I’m looking forward … to other zoning decisions to be enacted soon.”

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Finally, a step in the right direction.
By johnj (896), Westhampton on Dec 15, 17 3:49 PM
Is this the good kind of regulation or the bad kind or regulation?
By Pacman (191), Southampton on Dec 15, 17 4:16 PM
By Draggerman (822), Southampton on Dec 15, 17 10:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
A little late, but a great start. Next work on a ban on fertilizers within 1000 ft of the wetlands. Natural grasses near the waters for run off.
Be leaders instead of followers... Well done...
By knitter (1483), Southampton on Dec 16, 17 2:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
A step in the wrong direction ... government should not regulate how and where I build on my own land. BIG government is our bane !
By jediscuba (49), Suthampton on Dec 21, 17 5:13 PM
2 members liked this comment
Couldn't agree more jediscuba. I understand basic safety and environmental concerns, but dictating to use a certain system from certain vendors is overstepping their bounds. These systems run 24/7 and require maintenance that only a few can service. Bad. Let the lawsuits fly.
By The Real World (349), southampton on Dec 26, 17 1:11 PM
Should be a half a dozen to choose from...
By knitter (1483), Southampton on Jan 3, 18 6:47 PM