Our responsibilities as citizens do not end with casting our votes in our elections. That privilege is a bare beginning. We have some additional privileges and duties: We must enforce our rights, because by allowing them to be eroded, we pave the way for corruption, injustice and lawlessness.
Take zoning, for example: Zoning is determined and legislated on the local level. But there are several caveats, restrictions and underlying laws.
For instance, it is nationally recognized that zoning is meant to implement a comprehensive plan, in which the local population expresses its wishes for the physical characteristics of their municipality in the future: size of lots, density, size of houses, amount and type of ancillary construction to be permitted on lots, the amount and type of traffic on local streets, the preservation of open spaces, the respect and preservation of historic houses.
In New York State, it is also state law that every local zoning law must implement some form of comprehensive plan. In the case of Southampton Village, the last comprehensive plan that covered our voters’ and residents’ preferences for our village was the excellent Comprehensive Plan of May 2000, which the Epley zoning code of November 2005 violated both in fact and in spirit. And there has not been another “residential comprehensive plan” since 2000, even though state guidelines mandate that there should be such a new plan every five years or so.
So, what can we do? Easy: Write letters or emails to each and every trustee. Make phone calls to them, stop them on the street, if you see one of them, and express your determination to have a new Comprehensive Plan for our village.
This is an ideal time for the conduct of such a “census,” which is properly done with mail surveys, followed by telephone interviews, and, these days, it’s damned easy to reach all of us at home. Also, there is a pandemic-imposed pause in construction, so what better time to review the result of the disastrous last 14 years — the hotel-sized houses in the estate area, the bulking, hulking private houses covering far too much lawn and greenery on tiny lots, the loss of irreplaceable historic houses. Do I need to say more?
So, join me, won’t you, in insisting that our village trustees (all five, including our well-intentioned young mayor) give us what we have a right to have: a Comprehensive Plan for our village in which we can say precisely whether and how we want to preserve our precious quality of life, and economic value of our properties.
Then let them (the trustees) vote for a new and better village zoning code, which actually and legally implements our Comprehensive Plan.
Attorney at law
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One fine body…