Plans to revitalize the Hampton Bays downtown district hit a snag after an unlikely legal challenge to halt rezoning succeeded in state court.
On July 20, a state court judge reversed the Southampton town board’s decision to adopt new zoning plans for the hamlet that would encourage development of a new mixed-use downtown modeled after Sag Harbor and Southampton Village, according to Southampton Press.
The decision came after Gayle Lombardi, a Hampton Bays resident with no formal legal training, filed an Article 78 proceeding to appeal the new zoning plans. Despite long odds, Lombardi’s suit successfully demonstrated that Southampton’s environmental review failed to consider the full scope of the rezoning’s impact on local water supplies, according to the report.
The saga began in February 2020, when the Southampton Town Board approved plans for a new Hampton Bays Downtown Overlay District. The plan was developed after years of consultations with residents and contractors, and laid out preferred design aesthetics for a revitalized downtown. The plan would have consolidated 13 square miles of projected development into 45 acres of land, Lombardi told Southampton Press.
Troubled by the relatively high density — the plan would limit building height to the lesser of 35 feet or two stories — Lombardi began reviewing her legal options. That June, she filed the Article 78, which allows residents to appeal local government agency decisions.
Most government projects in New York require an environmental review, meant to identify and mitigate any potential harms the development may inflict on the surrounding environment. State Supreme Court Judge Joseph Santorelli found that Southampton’s review failed to fully consider how the new district would affect Hampton Bays’ troubled water supply system.
In recent years, the town has battled discolored, low-pressure water, with a recent investigation finding “significant deficiencies in the water supply system.”
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman called the judge’s ruling “a temporary setback forcing us to examine concerns we have already fully vetted.”
[SP] – Joe Lovinger