What value do we place on public opinion?
The shocking revelations regarding Southampton Town’s contempt for the residents who questioned the plans for development of the overlay district in Hampton Bays is no surprise to me [“‘Regrettable’ Contract Passage Seeks To Discredit Opponents Of Hampton Bays Overlay District,” 27east.com, August 24]. Development has been a point of contention in resort communities such as the East End for decades.
There is a pot of developer’s gold on the table, and there are elected officials who are overly anxious to aid them, and delays or changes and setbacks cost money. Elected officials have not been viewed favorably because of this, and the way they treat the public. As the old expression goes: “Change is inevitable, but it’s how you control the change that matters.” Or, in today’s language, how you spin it.
You don’t have to be a resident of Hampton Bays to know that it is consistently taken advantage of and has been the dumping ground of empty promises for a long time. A prime example of this was the Canoe Place Inn planned development district, used to create the condos on the Shinnecock Canal. I still don’t know what community benefit resulted from taking away a vibrant restaurant and public space in exchange for dozens of market-rate condos (increased density and drain on environment) marring the view, and the restoration of an old inn that the public has no access to for less than $800 a night.
The developer pushed against public opposition, but the board approved it and insisted it was a “public benefit” — but a public benefit is only a benefit if the public really says it is.
Fast-forward and we have history repeating itself in the “review” of the proposed Hampton Bays overlay district plans. The public has made its concerns known and wants to do so at a public hearing. Now a clause in a Nelson Pope Voorhis contract comes to light that explicitly records how the town, when this contract was signed, no one seems to have bothered to even read it.
Going forward, how can the public trust these elected officials who are supposed to represent the interest of all of their constituents? And how objective are these engineering firms and consultants when lucrative contracts are on the table.
When I served as a Southampton Village trustee, I privately expressed my opinion on this many times and questioned whether they were diligent enough.
At this point, with these revelations, the public’s vigilance, and the press’s, is crucial, as this article shows, but how will it work against all the clauses we don’t know about?
I’m afraid that public trust has been dealt a serious blow. How do we restore it?
Joseph R. McLoughlin
One fine body…