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Sep 15, 2010 11:14 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Chabad of Southampton wins Planning Board approval

Sep 15, 2010 11:14 AM

After years of wrangling with its neighbors, Chabad of Southampton Inc. was granted conditional site plan approval last week by the Southampton Village Planning Board, allowing for improvements to be made to the Jewish center’s Hill Street property related to its use as a house of worship.

The application calls for: off-street parking for 16 vehicles, closure of an existing flagpole-lot driveway, shared access though a driveway on the eastern side of the Chabad, a 20-foot-wide buffer along the eastern and western property lines, provision of an access aisle to serve a residence to the south and provide adequate area for emergency vehicle turnaround, as well as a plan for universal accessibility to the house of worship.

The Chabad’s attorney, Jeffrey Bragman of East Hampton, said he was pleased that the review has finally been concluded.

“There’s been a more thorough examination, I think, of Chabad than almost any other application I can think of,” he said, adding that when the proposal first came up years ago—before the Village Zoning Board of Appeals— “there was a lot of anxiety and even a little anger in the air. I told the boards we would participate in the process with candor and cooperation and would answer all their questions, and I think we honored that commitment. It took a long time, and we’re happy to have the process—at least on the village level—concluded.”

The board imposed conditions as part of its approval, including minor revisions and additions to allow for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Although no new lighting is proposed with this plan, if any lighting fixtures are requested in the future, the board wants them to be “dark skies” compliant and accompanied by a photometric plan. The board also required that the Chabad obtain any other governmental or municipal permits or approvals that might be required; that it file a legal easement to allow permanent access to the flagpole lot with the village; that it files a restrictive covenant to ensure that any proposed barrier to the access aisle, such as a gate, will require Planning Board evaluation; and that a $14,000 performance bond for improvements be proposed.

The engineered site plan was prepared by S.L. Maresca Associates and the planting plan by Araiys Design, Landscape Architecture.

Several years ago, the ZBA granted a special exception to Chabad to allow the site to be used as a house of worship and a one-family dwelling, even though it is located in a residential zone of the village. The board also gave the green light for providing parking relief and several variances from dimensional requirements. That permission was upheld by the New York State Supreme Court after neighbors filed suit against the decision, based on traffic and parking problems and other environmental concerns.

The project also received an environmental go-ahead and a waiver from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Board of Review for sanitary flow in exceeding population density equivalent required by a county sanitary code.

Rabbi Rafe Konikov started offering religious services at the house when he moved there in the 1990s, well before the ZBA granted it the right to operate as a house of worship—a point of contention for some neighbors.

But religious institutions enjoy certain constitutional protections that tend to grant them broad leeway with zoning and planning boards.

“Based on the First Amendment, religious institutions are privileged, and what it means is that historically and legally the government has less and less power the closer it comes to regulating religious worship. That’s one of the core values of the American Constitution. That’s one of the most fundamental liberties,” Mr. Bragman said. “The separation of church and state really protects churches and empowers them.”

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So if I incorporate myself as a religion, those pesky complaints about inappropriate location, traffic, noise and sewage all go away? I thought that the 1st amendment specifically LIMITED the extent of religious exercise rather than expanding it.

Sound just like the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach. Open a house of worship in a residentially zoned property and then beat objecting neighbors in court.

Did they consider an alternative? Like opening the synagogue in a location ...more
By highhatsize (3960), East Quogue on Sep 17, 10 12:21 PM
how about the massive catholic church next door. You know, the one that requires a full time traffic cop to mandate cars coming in and out of the lot. That one's ok, right?
By littleplains (305), olde england on Sep 17, 10 12:37 PM
2 members liked this comment
Do you mean the Catholic Church that predates the zoning code? That is why it is alright, it is not a Christian/Jew question. It is a zoning and land use question.

I say tax ALL religions and make ALL religions comply with existing zoning.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Sep 17, 10 2:32 PM
The Constitutional issues raised here are much more complicated, subtle and nuanced than may be possible to discuss rationally on this board, which is unfortunate IMO.

The Village Attorney, ZBA, Suffolk County Health Dept., State Supreme Court, and many fine consulting and design firms, have put a lot of effort into this, as have the Chabad and its attorney Mr. Bragman.

"Peace on Earth" starts here?

Have a good weekend.
By PBR (4907), Southampton on Sep 17, 10 4:06 PM
FYI "littleplains"... There is no "full time traffic cop" at Sacred Hearts church. He is there most Sundays to assist cars exiting the lot after the busy 9:30 am Mass. He seems to stay for about 15- 20 minutes .
By fishcove (38), southampton on Sep 17, 10 4:18 PM
Time to revoke the tax exempt status of all churches in America. Then they would be restricted to commercially zoned property.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Sep 17, 10 5:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
???
By PBR (4907), Southampton on Sep 17, 10 6:11 PM
To set the record straight, I think that any religious group which ignores zoning restrictions to the detriment of sitting neighbors is egregiously presumptuous. It happens that the two such instances in the Hamptons involve Jews and synagogues.

The imputation of anti-semitism is always inferred when Jews are upbraided for invidious, solipsistic conduct.
By highhatsize (3960), East Quogue on Sep 18, 10 1:12 AM
theres a good reason for that: no one seems to complain around here whenever anyone wants to build a church or a golf course or a mcmansion... but when the jews want a parking lot? Big trouble!
By littleplains (305), olde england on Sep 18, 10 8:06 AM
HHS,

Perhaps you should do some Constitutional Law research on the freedom of churches to take root wherever they want. This right to Freedom of Religion, within certain limitations, is quite broad. Religious persecution in the 1500/1600's in England spawned a new country with a fervor for freedom!

[ignoring for now how the European invaders vanquished the local Native American indigenous People]

Moreover, the Constitution of The United States of America preceded zoning ...more
By PBR (4907), Southampton on Sep 18, 10 12:00 PM
LOL!!! A fervor for freedom??? Tell that to the Quakers!
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Sep 20, 10 11:12 PM
The assertion that churches can locate wherever they wish regardless of zoning laws is simply untrue. The federal appellate courts have put the burden on the religious organizations seeking to locate in zones prohibited them to show that this prohibition is a serious impediment to the practice of their religion rather than just inconvenient or expensive.
By highhatsize (3960), East Quogue on Oct 4, 10 1:40 PM
This town is awash with prejudice, bigotry and hypocrisy. So many people have forgotten what it means to be human.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Sep 18, 10 12:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
does the phrase 'give them an inch and they'll take a mile" ring true here?
By bigfresh (4249), north sea on Sep 18, 10 2:26 PM
bigfresh, please clarify your use of the word "them."

To which group of Human Beings seeking Peace on the Planet Earth do you refer?

Thank you.

Have a good weekend.
By PBR (4907), Southampton on Sep 18, 10 2:50 PM
Welcome to the Hampsteins! ...The same stuff has already happened in West& Easthampton What else is new?
By pmofo (37), East Quogue on Sep 19, 10 12:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
I cannot believe that someone would be filled with enough hate and bigotry to even consider posting something like this let alone actually doing it. Disgraceful.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Sep 19, 10 3:05 PM
I can't believe you can't believe it! You constantly accuse others of hate, bigotry or racism..... maybe it was meant as a joke and not maliciously as you interpreted it.

Hate is in the eye of beholder!
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Sep 19, 10 10:01 PM
Excused me, "Hamptsteins". The fact that you support this disgusting post says just as much about you as the original poster. There can be no other intent but bigotry for that type of posting so don't try to put the onus on me.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Sep 20, 10 9:27 AM
What "stuff exactly?" The Hamptons has less than a handful of synagogues and it's now the Hampsteins!. Whoo Hoo. Can you name anyone you personally know in the "Hampsteins?" What next? Street signs in Hebrew? Progressnow, don't get so worked up...ignorance is bliss.
By Infoseeker (271), Hampton Bays on Sep 20, 10 10:33 AM
Get a sense of humor uptight one.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Sep 20, 10 11:14 PM
To PBR:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; . . ."

How interesting that these simple words can be construed to mean that a religion has rights superior to a citizen when it comes to one's domicile. The first amendment was added to the Constitution because of the Founders' perceived need explicitly to exclude any religion from being the official state religion. The second phrase emphasizes that all religions ...more
By highhatsize (3960), East Quogue on Sep 19, 10 12:44 PM
2 members liked this comment
The courts and various government agencies have ruled, and myopia, over-simplification and stridency will not change this.

To repeat, the Constitution preceded zoning by about 200 years.

The subtleties and nuances of this situation are way too complicated to discuss here IMO, and, again, may I suggest that everyone might respect the Rule of Law and start to find Peace on Earth right here and now?
By PBR (4907), Southampton on Sep 20, 10 5:44 PM
The Constitution predating zoning by 168 years has no bearing on the ability of zoning to regulate land use regardless of what make believe God the followers of said sect worship. hhs made a very solid analogy about Rastafarians being denied the use of marijuana which is much more an expression of their religion than building a house of worship in a residential area.

I think for all of us to get along, none of us can consider ourselves "the chosen people"
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Sep 20, 10 11:24 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By IcanCnovember (15), Southampton on Sep 20, 10 2:32 PM
To PBR:

Hear, hear! One hopes that this question will be settled conclusively in the NYS Court of Appeals. The Rule of Law ought not to be subverted by mere hubris.

- highhatsize
By highhatsize (3960), East Quogue on Sep 20, 10 10:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Agreed.
By PBR (4907), Southampton on Sep 21, 10 3:32 PM
By "them" I mean any group which purchases a home in a RESIDENTIAL area , sets up an illegal house of worship then goes to court claiming discrimination when the law is enforced. "They got an inch and proceeded to take a mile, all under the guise of religious persecution.
By bigfresh (4249), north sea on Sep 21, 10 7:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
Alas, stupidity, naivete and bigotry have arrived in the Hamptons. Actually I am being a bit sarcastic here. As a full time resident of the Hamptons since 2003 I was at first shocked and then just, well, disappointed that even here in our little paradise little, uneducated minds of the bigoted and anti-semetic live here too. They live and breath among us. But to the Jewish people of the Hamptons I say this - let us not pay any mind to these small minded people. They are and always will be that ...more
By davidtodd (1), Quogue on Sep 22, 10 6:56 PM
Oh, Almighty God, please make us charitable and forgiving when a minority religious sect seeks perquisites for itself that are denied other religions. Inculcate in us the guilt for persecuting people who died before we were born. Finally, make us understand that at the head of the hierarchy of the social compact is that acceptance that nothing takes precedence over the wishes of a sect that was cruelly persecuted by evil men from whom we saved them. Laasly, lead us to acceptance of the irrational ...more
By highhatsize (3960), East Quogue on Sep 22, 10 11:53 PM
A better headline would read "Planning Board approves Intelligent Design at Chabad of Southampton"
By loading... (553), WHB on Sep 23, 10 12:05 PM
The Chabad approval had noithing to do with the fact that it is a Jewish temple. The constitution requires that all churches, synagogue and mosques must be accomodated iin the locations where they occur. The benefits they provide outweigh minor zoning issues of traffic, parking.

Meeting for prayer is religious activity. In our system if liberty, the givernment lacks the power to abrdige that activity. Wisely, we do not give our government poer to say where churches may or may not be located.
By seaside (3), east hampton on Sep 24, 10 10:35 PM
I say TAX all churches, temples, mosques and any other house of worship that exists. The tax exempt status has passed it's time of usefulness.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Sep 25, 10 2:04 PM
By the way, Chabd never "set up an illegal house." A Rabbi lawfully bought a home for its family. Chabad never asked for benefits not given to EVERY church, and to persons of EVERY faith. Nor did Chabd claim discrimination. The law requires a zoning code to accomodate ALL religious uses. The SH ZBA acted properly. Neighibors sued, not Chabd.

And how is this tiny church harming anyone in SH?
By seaside (3), east hampton on Sep 25, 10 7:37 PM
"Seaside"s' response is either disingenuous or ignorant. The area is zoned for single residency. If you want to put up a tannery or a temple on single-residency zoned land you must receive a variance for your proposed business/organization.

A Christian church would be unlikely to receive such a variance because its opponents have no worry of becoming "de facto" anti-Christites.

A tiny church attracts a not-so-tiny mob of worshipers on holy days. If the church becomes very successful, ...more
By highhatsize (3960), East Quogue on Sep 25, 10 11:38 PM
Churches are specially permiited in residential districts, which means they are permitted. No matter what local zoning says, It is illegal to zone out a church from any district. Why? Because the benefits of churches outweigh small zoning impacts, such as traffic and parking.

To the extent that zoning imposes exclusionary conditions, ie. large lot size, setbakcs etc. those conditions are unconstitutional.

By the way HH, the NY Court of Appeals has spoken clearly and ...more
By seaside (3), east hampton on Sep 26, 10 11:41 PM
To seaside:

A bit late to respond to your post but I just noticed it. A cite to a ruling(s) by the NY Court of Appeals would be helpful since I cannot find the clarity that you assert.

Federally, the Supremes have yet to speak but the federal appellate courts have put the burden on the religious plaintiffs to show that zoning regulations that exclude them are a serious impediment to the practice of their religion rather than just inconvenient or costly.

Were the RC's, ...more
By highhatsize (3960), East Quogue on Oct 4, 10 1:36 PM