According to this newspaper, year-round residents are promised some Southampton Town property tax relief if the Homestead Tax gets “the go-ahead from state lawmakers” [“Southampton Town Eyes Reassessment Relief Strategies,” 27east.com, August 25].
It’s a drop in the bucket for Southampton Village owners of pre-2005 property. Those owners may be entitled to thousands of dollars of refunds of all the increases in Southampton Town property taxes for the last 15 years.
Southampton Town property taxes are based on “market value.” Market value for Southampton Village in 2020 is in excess of $15 billion, based on property sales between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019.
We are all in favor of legal development and development sensitive to environmental impacts, development with respect for our Southampton Village character and for “historic preservation.” However, the building frenzy sparked by the zoning code of 2005 was fueled by tulip bulb optimism, low mortgage rates, greed and developers’ confidence that the Epley administration would always back them up against any village resident’s protest.
Mayor Mark Epley ushered in development based on a fatally flawed zoning code (evidenced in the village’s own documents) and on corruption embedded in the regulatory boards who are supposed to defend residents’ rights against developer abuses (memorialized in minutes of Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation and Zoning Board of Appeals public hearings).
In what way was the zoning code of 2005 illegal? Let me count the ways:
1. It was passed by Epley and his trustees on November 10, 2005, at a meeting not covered by minutes, although required by New York State law.
2. It was voted in violation of the May 2000 Comprehensive Plan instead of implementing that plan, as required by New York State law.
3. That zoning code was not submitted for a SEQRA review, required by New York State law.
4. The decisive vote was cast by then-Trustee Paul Robinson, whose vote was forbidden by New York State laws against conflicts of interest.
5. The decisive Robinson vote also violated the local ethics code, which forbade developers from voting on zoning. As owner of eight village properties, Robinson qualified as a developer, though not as big as George Benedict, father-in-law of then-Mayor Mark Epley and grandfather of current candidate for trustee Zachary Epley.
To turn the code into law, Village Attorney Richard DePetris sent a copy of the code to the Department of State in Albany, along with his affidavit swearing that he knew of no local law that this 2005 code violated.
Because of the Doctrine of Continuing Violations, there is no statute of limitations problem.
Are you still voting for an Epley dynasty this September?
Attorney at law
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