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Dec 2, 2009 1:10 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town could vote on dark skies legislation soon

Dec 2, 2009 1:10 PM

The Southampton Town Board is one step closer to voting on dark skies legislation that would place new restrictions on outdoor lighting in the municipality.

At a meeting on November 24, the board closed public hearings on the legislation and opened a 10-day written comment period. Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, the legislation’s chief sponsor, said the bill could come up for vote within the month.

“Assuming there is nothing new that comes to light ... we will move forward with the amended version” of the legislation, Ms. Graboski said.

First introduced in June, the proposed legislation has been scrutinized in over a half-dozen public hearings and undergone numerous revisions.

Coming into compliance with the law would mean that property owners must install energy-efficient lighting that does not intrude into neighboring properties or cause excessive glare along roads. Property owners would also be prohibited from operating outdoor lights continuously between midnight and dawn, though holiday lighting is exempted from the proposed rules.

The final version of the bill attempts to resolve a key sticking point in the legislation, which is whether there should be a grace period for property owners to come into compliance. Homeowners with multiple dark skies violations would face misdemeanor charges and fines up to $1,000, according to the legislation. Business owners would face misdemeanor charges and fines up to $3,000.

Rather than have a grace period, Ms. Graboski said a “nuisance clause” will be used as a substitute. Under the nuisance clause, an immediate neighbor of a property with bothersome lighting can file a complaint with the town, in hopes of forcing the neighbor to install less offensive lighting.

Ms. Graboski noted that the complaints of this sort would be limited to neighbors. “It just can’t be anyone driving by,” she said.

Nonetheless, Deputy Town Attorney James Burke said that passersby can also submit complaints to the Southampton Town Department of Public Safety if lighting releases excessive glare onto roads. Property owners would receive a notice of violation and have 30 days to come into compliance, Mr. Burke said.

“We specified who can complain about nuisance lighting,” Mr. Burke said. “The nuisance lighting would have to be abated within that time period and if not, then a justice court summons would be served on the property owner and a justice court case would ensue.”

Environmentalists and some members of the business community have remained at odds over the legislation. At the final public hearing on November 24, Jennifer Hartnagel, a member of Group for the East End, expressed dismay over the nuisance clause.

“I’m disappointed with this latest revision,” Ms. Hartnagel said. “I’m sorry to say this but it’s unacceptable. One can even question the effectiveness of this now because only adjacent neighbors can file a complaint.”

Bill Berkoski, chairman of the Southampton Town Business Advisory Council, argued that the nuisance clause would be effective in deterring excessive lighting.

“The plan has a good structure and will guide the use of lighting in the future to conserve energy and reduce upward light,” Mr. Berkoski said. “The nuisance portion, which was recommended at the start of this proposal, should solve any issues that are intrusive.”

Term Limits

All incoming Southampton Town Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals members will be appointed to shorter terms, the Town Board decided last week.

Two separate resolutions adopted by the Town Board on November 24 require new members of those boards to serve four-year terms rather than the current seven-year terms.

The resolutions, approved in separate 3-2 votes, were sponsored by Councilman Christopher Nuzzi. Supervisor-elect Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, who have argued for five-year terms, cast the dissenting votes.

The board has deliberated over changing the term limits since Mr. Nuzzi first proposed the legislation in December 2008. The term limit change does not affect sitting planning or zoning board members.

Ms. Kabot said appointments of new members to vacant seats or seats currently occupied by members with extended terms could take place as early as December 8, the Town Board’s next scheduled meeting.

“We have decided that the new policy going forward is four-year terms for new appointees,” Ms. Kabot said. “The policy debate on how long the term is for new board members has been decided, after many long months.”

Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty expressed concern that the shorter terms would result in more than one board member coming up for appointment in a single year. He cautioned that a lengthy learning curve is typical for new board members.

“Our primary concern is that there is a possibility of having more than one Planning Board member rotated out of office in a single year,” Mr. Finnerty said. “It may be problematic for new Planning Board members to get up to speed on Planning Board applications.”

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How about this, why don't you balance the budget without raising taxes, trim down the untouchable PBA budget and quit fussing around with this kind of piddling stuff !!
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Dec 2, 09 9:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
You are going to force homeowners to spend money retrofitting lights that have been there for 20 years with your left hand, while you tax us to death with the right hand. Hey, here's a question.. WHO CARES? I never once thought, "boy my neighbor's lights are protruding onto my property!". Here's an IDEA, go talk to your neighbor if you have a problem.

Explain to me how you keep lighting from your driveway posts from protruding onto the street and in most cases onto your neighbor's property. ...more
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on Dec 2, 09 1:42 PM
2 members liked this comment
lighting can be useful and not be intrusive- let's not pretend that we need it as bright as our urban visitors
By lo-cal (59), southampton on Dec 2, 09 7:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
Oh good, maybe now Southampton can get the same type street lights that East Hampton has. You know, the ones that hardly light up the street and cause so much glare that it makes it harder to see than it was before they were installed.

Personally, I think the town should take the first step to reducing annoying lights. Remove some of the string of 7 traffic lights on Hampton Rd between Windmill Ln and the Hampton Rd firehouse! With all the money we pay the police maybe they could do ...more
By itsamazing (217), Southampton on Dec 2, 09 7:41 PM
Has anyone noticed the lighting at the new Hampton Bays Substation?
By adc (1), Hampton Bays on Dec 3, 09 12:43 PM
This legislation is unncecessary and ill-conceived. In mandating that property owners must turn out lights between midnight and dawn, it deprives residents of protection and safety, not only around their homes, but on the streets as well.
By mag (1), East Quogue on Dec 3, 09 1:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
This is almost like the cameras at the transfer facility in Eastport. How'd that work out. This is disgusting. Just another way of government over stepping its authority. GO away
By The Real World (349), southampton on Dec 3, 09 2:15 PM
2 members liked this comment
Another thing, when your insurance company drops you or refuses to pay a claim for poor lighting will the town pick up the tab? I wish I could say this law is a joke but it's just another example of Southampton Town micro managing. They do not understand the ramifications of their actions and continue to "create" laws on a whim. Once again, their bad laws cost the people of Southampton real money. The Town Board is proving again that they are a bunch of users, not producers. Balance the budget, ...more
By The Real World (349), southampton on Dec 3, 09 8:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
I have a new construction 1 house over. A very Nantucket style home very nice and he bought and installed these lighthouse style outward reflecting patio lights. When he turns them on they project light out to light up his rear yard which also throws light through my upper clarestory windows and paints the otherwise dark ceiling with light. If he forgets to trun them off or the maid or tenants leave them on, they wake me up and disturb my sleep cycle. I ahve asked him to chage the lens and he responded ...more
By North Sea Citizen (499), North Sea on Dec 5, 09 8:45 AM
1 member liked this comment
Typical...penalize an entire community for two people who can't work something out. When they get around to telling you what color shirt to wear, maybe you will tell them to stop making unenforcable, ridiculous laws. My neighbor put up a spot light, that's the breaks, I got better shades, paid for them myself, and the problem went away. No biggie.
By The Real World (349), southampton on Dec 5, 09 9:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
Like North Sea Citizen I had something sililar. Neighbor put in some very bright motion lights that when on lit up my bedroom. Problem was whenever a cat or possum or even the owner's dogs would walk by at night the lights went on - often many times a night - it was like stobe lights. I could have put up thick shades but I felt the onus was on him to do something, not me. Fortunately we get along well and after a discussion he dropped the motion detectors for regular off /on lights and he's quite ...more
By diogenes (57), westhampton on Dec 7, 09 11:42 AM
I have a neighbor who installed stadium lights around his tennis court so he can play at night. When another neighbor complained, he laughed, installed more lights & then redirected them into that guy's bedroom. All you have to do to comply is drop by Home Depot & buy lower wattage bulbs. If you can't afford new bulbs, how the heck can you afford a house in the Hamptons? And iIf you don't know how to install a light bulb, you shouldn't even own a house.
By Ms. Jane Q. Public (147), Southampton on Dec 7, 09 4:40 PM
That is why there is a permit process. We have laws on the books for your "tennis court" issue. We do not need another law that could be solved with current codes. Again, mico-managing the population.
By The Real World (349), southampton on Dec 8, 09 4:00 PM
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