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Mar 7, 2018 10:56 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village Hearing On Thursday To Focus On Plan To Further Limit Size Of New Houses

Paul Travis, the chairman of the Southampton Planning Commission, presented changes to the allowable gross floor area last month. GREG WEHNER
Mar 7, 2018 10:56 AM

A public hearing this week will focus on proposed changes to Southampton Village’s zoning code that would increase limits on the size of new construction, in response to a development trend of bigger and bigger houses being proposed in the village.

The hearing, which will be held at the Southampton Village Board’s meeting on Thursday, March 8, at 6 p.m. at Village Hall, focuses on a plan to tighten the allowable maximum gross floor area, or GFA, of new construction. The reduction in allowable GFA is part of a four-pronged approach that village officials have been implementing over the past few years to control development on larger residential lots.

“There has been a significant rise in the size of homes being built in the recent years,” Village Planning Commission Chairman Paul Travis told Village Board members last month. “We are building houses larger than have ever been built in the village.”

The Planning Commission—a five-member panel appointed by the Village Board—conducted a two-year study, which included three Saturday meetings involving architects, lawyers, village regulatory board members and the public. Members of the commission determined there was a need to shave 2 percentage points from the maximum allowed GFA of homes being built in the village.

The GFA includes the total square footage of each floor of a house, and can include the square footage of garages over a maximum size, depending on the zone. GFA also includes accessory buildings such as pool houses and detatched garages, and certain other types of property development.

Under the proposal, instead of the maximum GFA being 12 percent of a property’s overall size plus 1,500 square feet, it would be 10 percent plus 1,500 square feet.

Currently, in a half-acre residential zone, the maximum GFA is 3,900 square feet; under the new proposal, it would be 3,500—a reduction of a little more than 10 percent. In a residential zone where 1-acre lots are required, it would be 5,500 square feet instead of 6,300 square feet, or 800 square feet less, a reduction of nearly 13 percent.

“We try as best we can to reflect the overall public interest rather than any one group or faction,” Mr. Travis said.

In April 2017, Village Board members changed the village code to include accessory structures like pool houses in the calculations for permitted GFA in smaller-lot residential districts. Prior to the change, the GFA included only the developed square footage of houses.

But as the commission focused on the smaller zones, it found issues in the bigger zones as well.

“We thought it was important to modify the formula in a way that had more impact on in the bigger zones than the smaller zones,” Mr. Travis said.

Village Board member Nancy McGann, said a lot has happened over the past 14 years, in terms of zoning and placing regulations on what people can do with their own property.

“I believe in people’s property rights,” she said on Tuesday. “I don’t want to see the gross floor area reduced in a way that it takes value away from the property.”

Ms. McGann said the reductions in this cars are not huge, but they will affect square-footage across the board in the village. “I want to keep it fair for the people who live here,” she added.

The effort has roots tracing back more than a decade. After winning a majority of the Village Board on a platform of reducing development in August 2004, Good Sense Party members proposed, and quickly passed, a building moratorium. Over the next several months, the Planning Commission put together a plan to limit development based on lot size. Meetings were flooded with angry critics, primarily from the real estate and building businesses, demanding that zoning limitations be left alone.

The Village Board later went even further than the commission’s recommendations, though the rules were later rolled back to the existing limits.

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If I own a plot of land on which a 6000sqft home can be built without encroaching on my neighbors .. then darn if I won't do it. What happened to a free country?
The dang town aught to be happy with the monstrous taxes I'll be contributing to their slush funds !
By jediscuba (60), Suthampton on Mar 8, 18 7:43 PM