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June 26, 2013

Sustainability Plan Under Review


A sustainability plan was on the dais for the Southampton Town Board last Thursday morning, an issue that has been under review, and in some cases scrutiny, for months.

Since its inception in 2008, the Sustainable Southampton Advisory Committee has been tasked with developing sustainable strategies for the town and its citizens. It is also responsible for protecting the abundance of natural resources and retaining Southampton's agricultural heritage and place as a world-class resort destination.

"Prioritizing goals, suggesting programs, and recommending policy, legislation and code amendments that encourage and contribute to sustainability with a concentrated focus on the reduction of the Town's ecological impact/footprint," is what SSAC, also known as the Green Committee, is actively engaged in.

"Sustainability is a conversation and an evolving vision of the earth and sky," said Scott Carlin, Chair of the Green Committee. "The proposed plan offers a mix of short and long term recommendations."

Ann Reisman, a member of the SSAC and supporter of the plan, said it's defined with four principals: emphasize sustainable education, encourage transparency in the town with community involvement, promote a triple bottom line approach to legislation, policy, environmental, economic and social aspects, and maintain the flexibility of the plan to be fleshed out by the community.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the latest discussion on sustainability was a response to "all the questions we've been asked."

For some Southampton residents, the plan seems to broaden, strengthen and aggressively promote the transfer of private development rights. Concern has arisen over whether or not the plan would be an infringement on the rights of private property ownership.

Over the past few months, citizens expressed concern with the new plan, fearing that many aspects of life in Southampton would fall under the regulation of various town agencies in conjunction with non-accountable non-governmental organizations' input and federal mandates and incentives.

Recommendations within the plan include the creation of special water quality improvement districts as well as expedited permit processes for more sustainable businesses.

Taxpayers expressed concern in the past on whether or not this would cause an increase in the cost of services.

The plan has been deemed somewhat controversial in some quarters because of the Agenda 21, a voluntary worldwide sustainability section plan initiated by the United Nations. Its basic planks are to combat poverty, conserve resources, and to empower youth, women, and minorities.

"Some see it is a worldwide conspiracy but it's nothing of the sort, Throne-Holst said. "This plan was developed and constructed for the Town of Southampton only."

A town board meeting was scheduled for last night, picking up where it was left off at an adjourned meeting back in April.

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