Greenbelt Impound Yard Approved by Planning Board

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The site being considered for a Sag Harbor Village impound yard is in the Long Pond Greenbelt, but currently being used to store PSEG vehicles. Stephen J. Kotz photo

Despite opposition by environmental groups and even Southampton Town’s own Conservation Board, the Southampton Town Planning Board last Thursday voted to approve a site plan for a 4,800-square-foot vehicle impound yard off the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike that Sag Harbor officials want to use for the Village Police Department.

The property is located within a 24-acre village-owned parcel surrounded on three sides by the Long Pond Greenbelt, which includes preserved coastal plain ponds, freshwater swamps and woodlands stretching from Ligonee Creek in Sag Harbor to Sagg Pond in Sagaponack.

The Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt has started an online petition to persuade the Village of Sag Harbor to look for a new site for the impound yard, arguing that the development could harm the surrounding sensitive environment. They plan to present that petition to the village Board of Trustees at its Tuesday, July 10 meeting.

During the planning board work session, Sag Harbor Village Attorney Elizabeth Vail said if the planning board did not feel it could approve the site plan, with conditions suggested by its planning department, the village would ask the board to apply the Monroe Test, a balancing test that allows municipalities to be exempt from zoning in certain cases. If the village’s application met the standards under that test, it would be exempt from needing site plan approval from the planning board, and the board would not have jurisdiction to request any conditions.

“I feel based on all the elements we have submitted we more than comply with site plan approval,” said Ms. Vail, “and we are willing to comply with conditions you set for us as well. So you keep a lot more control if we go forward with the site plan.”

While planning board members expressed concerns that the site would not be monitored continuously, a majority of the board agreed to move forward with an approval with specific conditions. They included requiring the village to install a “bioswale” buffer on the property to absorb any pollution created as a result of stormwater runoff or leaking fluid from damaged vehicles.

Other conditions include mountable curbing, designating an employee to ensure no vehicles on site are leaking any chemicals, oil or fuel; and the inclusion of a spill kit on the property. The impound lot, which can only store a maximum of 20 vehicles at one time, cannot have any lighting without planning board approval, and the town’s engineering division will have the right to assess erosion and drainage on the property prior to construction.

Planning Board member Jacqui Lofaro opposed the approval. “This is an environmental gem and it is death by a thousand cuts,” she said. “You intrude with a 4,800 square-foot parcel and I strongly oppose.”

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