After several months of debate on the Southampton Town Board over Councilwoman Bridget Fleming’s proposal that political party officials not be allowed to serve on the town’s three main land use boards, her colleagues on the board have proposed a new plan that would limit the acceptable number of registered members of political parties on the boards.
Ms. Fleming offered to table her resolution at the Feb. 11 town board meeting, when her fellow board members laid the new proposal on the table for a public hearing Feb. 25 at 6 p.m.
The new proposal suggests that no more than three members of the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Conservation Board be registered with the same political party, and that no more than three members be non-affiliated or unregistered to vote.
Ms. Fleming’s proposal would have prohibited members of those three boards from serving as officers of political committees during their tenure on the land use boards, but would not have prohibited them from being active in any political party. Her proposal made no mention of limits to the number of registered members of different parties on the boards.
Ms. Fleming said at the Feb. 11 meeting that she was willing to engage in discussions about the new proposal, but she sees “the two resolutions as apples and oranges.”
“The second resolution is about political balance,” she said. “It speaks specifically to different parties. It’s another ball of wax. It doesn’t address the kind of ethical weakness the first bill would address.”
Ms. Fleming added that she’s received numerous phone calls from constituents who are concerned about the alternate law and she “is 100 percent behind the committee prohibition” in her original bill.
Other board members said they looked forward to further dialogue on the two bills.
“I asked Bridget to sit with me and get some public input on both pieces before we make a determination,” said Councilman Brad Bender.
“It’s in all of ours best interest to look at it very closely and very careful so the verbiage doesn’t have an affect down the road,” said Councilman Stan Glinka.
Members of the public were less politic in their remarks.
“I think [Ms. Fleming’s] resolution was proposed to eliminate political influence,” said Joyce Roper of East Quogue, who added that neighboring towns already have rules on the books similar to the one proposed by Ms. Fleming. “Why can’t we be afforded the same as East Hampton and Southold?”
“This whole thing is political,” said Elaine Kahl of Southampton. “Any of the people that serve on these boards, I have found they were for the town. They were for the people. It can turn sour. I don’t want it to turn sour.”
“It seems [the new proposal] is talking about divvying up positions between political parties,” said Anne Hastings of Hampton Bays. “I think that is a tacit admission there is a conflict of interest. That’s not serving the people of Southampton. It’s serving political parties. As residents of Southampton, I don’t know how that’s better for us.”
CPI Ball in Developers’ Court
After six extensions of a public hearing that began last August, the Southampton Town Board agreed Tuesday to close the hearing on a zoning change that would allow redevelopment of the Canoe Place Inn and a 40-unit townhouse project on the east side of the Shinnecock Canal in Hampton Bays.
Town Planner Kyle Collins told the town board Feb. 11 that Rechler Equity Partners, which is proposing the redevelopment, will now have to prepare responses to all the concerns raised in the public hearing, after which the town will prepare a final environmental impact statement on the project. Another public hearing will be held when the FEIS is complete.
Attorney Guy Germano, who represents Rechler Equity, told the board he hopes to have the responses prepared by the end of March, and Mr. Collins suggested it would take his office up to a month to review those comments before the public weighs in again.
Wait on Neptune Designation
Southampton expects to close on the purchase of the former Neptune Beach Club on Dune Road in Hampton Bays as soon as early March, and the town board has agreed to hold open a public hearing, on whether or not to designate the beach club a historic landmark, until after they’ve purchased the property. The town has been courting restaurants to run a business at the site, though some residents would prefer the property become open space. The hearing will be reopened at the board’s April 8 meeting.