It has all the potential to get ugly.
In an effort to thwart plans to convert a Hampton Bays motel into a homeless shelter, the Southampton Town Board authorized Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato to take legal action, if necessary, during a special meeting last Friday afternoon.
Both Scarlato and other town officials stressed that legal action has not yet been taken against the county Department of Social Services.
"All that this authorization does is allows the town to take any necessary legal action," Scarlato said.
The DSS is planning to transform the former Hidden Cove Motel on West Tiana Road in Hampton Bays into a homeless shelter that could house about 90 people.
The problem is the DSS failed to tell Southampton Town officials they would be placing homeless people at that location.
The proposed shelter would be the only one in Southampton Town and the most eastern one on Long Island. According to DSS Commissioner Gregory Blass, most towns have more than one shelter.
At Friday's meeting, a conversation pertaining to what legal action could be taken against the DSS was scheduled for a later date due the absences of Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who strongly opposes the DSS's plan, and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming.
Other local officials and community members are also opposed to the conversion of the motel into a homeless shelter.
County Legislator Jay Schneiderman was present at the special meeting as was Hampton Bays School Superintendent Lars Clemensen. Schneiderman has been vocal in his opposition to the conversion plans though Clemensen was the only member of the public to address the board.
His concern pertained to the newly settled children at the homeless shelter who could enroll in Hampton Bays school district. Children that moved to the shelter from other districts can either remain enrolled at their former district or enroll in Hampton Bays.
According to the superintendent, the school district has experienced a nine percent increase in enrollment over the past seven years. During that same time, Clemensen reported other districts in the county have seen a three percent decrease in enrollment.
"The stigma of homeless shelters in Hampton Bays is not my concern," he said. "My concern is as we look to develop, the county cares about the students enrolled."
Clemensen added that an increase in student enrollment could have an impact on the Hampton Bays school district's budget, which may already be tight with regard to expenditures due to the new two percent tax levy cap.
Currently the DSS is housing about 10 homeless families at the motel, although Schneiderman believed it to be 15 as of Friday.