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Sep 26, 2008 1:06 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Talk on controversial subdivisions delayed by budget meeting

Sep 26, 2008 1:06 PM

The Southampton Town Planning Board on Thursday postponed discussion of two controversial subdivisions when a member of the planning staff was forced to attend what he characterized as an emergency budget meeting Planning Board members believed was called by Town Supervisor Linda Kabot.

At 3 p.m. on Thursday, September 25, Planner David Wilcox unexpectedly asked the board to postpone discussion on the Woodfield Gables and Oakland Farms subdivisions because he needed to be present at the meeting, which was just beginning.

Though Mr. Wilcox and Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty said at the time that they believed the meeting had been called by Ms. Kabot, both Mr. Wilcox and the supervisor denied that version of events when contacted on Friday.

Ms. Kabot said Friday that the meeting, which she attended, was called by Town Planning Department Administrator Jefferson Murphree to discuss projected income to the town’s planning department, which is funded through application fees that have declined as the pace of building has slowed here.

On Friday, Mr. Wilcox said “I wouldn’t categorize it as an emergency meeting. I think that word was being thrown around yesterday.”

In the meantime, some Planning Board members, who had expected to hold extensive discussions on the subdivisions Thursday, were furious at the sudden cancellation.

The 33-lot Oakland Farms subdivision, which is near Aspatuck Creek and the watershed for Quantuck Bay on the Westhampton Beach village boundary, received preliminary approval two years ago and has been the subject of great concern for neighbors and environmentalists. The deadline for the board to adopt the final plan is next Thursday, October 2.

After Mr. Wilcox left the meeting, Planning Board members said that they could discuss the project during a work session next week and make a decision that afternoon.

The board had also been scheduled to discuss a draft of a preliminary approval for Woodfield Gables, a 57-lot subdivision atop a plume of contaminated groundwater in Speonk.

“I really object to discussing it in the morning and adopting it in the afternoon,” said Planning Board member Alma Hyman of the Oakland Farms proposal. “I think this is outrageous. This town will suffer.”

“I don’t disagree with you,” said Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty.

Mr. Wilcox said that while both applicants were waiting in the hall for the discussion of their applications on Thursday afternoon, “neither one had any great concern” that the applications would not be discussed that day.

Ms. Hyman, however, said she was baffled as to why Mr. Wilcox had not mentioned the meeting to the board members before listening to two hours of testimony from applicants who work with another planner, Claire Vail. Ms. Hyman noted that if the board members had known Mr. Wilcox had to leave, they could have heard his applications sooner.

When asked Friday when he had learned about the budget meeting, Mr. Wilcox asked, “What does that have to do with anything?”

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