Adjacent property owners to be gifted lots where homes were damaged by Sandy

The Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association is now the owner of 10 vacant properties in Flanders — and it plans to give them away for free to neighboring property owners by April 1. 

The lots were previously occupied by homes that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

The owners of those homes, and others located in high flood areas, were offered buyouts by the New York State Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery through a program called New York Rising. The structures were then demolished, with the goal of leaving the properties undeveloped in perpetuity.

Initially, the state was maintaining the 10 vacant lots, because Southampton Town had declined to take on that responsibility, according to Ron Fisher, president of FRNCA.

Southampton Town had already acquired and was maintaining 16 other such lots in the Reeves Bay section of Flanders.

Since neither the state nor the town wanted to continue maintaining the 10 lots, the state began looking for nonprofit environmental or community associations to take over the land. The lots are located on Sylvan Avenue, Longneck Boulevard, Pine Avenue, Oaks Avenue, Laurel Avenue and Temple Avenue.

When no environmental organizations came forward, the state approached FRNCA about taking over the properties, Mr. Fisher said.

Back in March, Fred Foelsh, who lives on Sylvan Avenue, had expressed interest in acquiring three New York Rising lots adjacent to his house.

“I wanted them to make it nice,” Mr. Foelsh said in an interview in September. “There were two on one side of me and one behind.”

He said he feared that over time, they would become overgrown.

Soon, others also became interested in acquiring New York Rising lots adjacent to their properties, and Mr. Fisher suggested finding takers for all 10 of the parcels.

Although FRNCA had no interest in owning or maintaining the properties, he said, the group agreed last month to take them from the state in order to pass them on to private owners of adjacent parcels.

It will now be up to FRNCA to determine who gets which lots, according to Mr. Fisher. The group plans to notify the owners of any property that abuts one of the vacant lots.

“If two people say ‘all or nothing,’ we’ll just have to figure that out,” he said at Monday’s meeting.

Each property comes with a number of restrictions, which differ for each lot.

For instance, the new owners will have to pay taxes on the land, although the tax is based on the value of vacant land, which is lower than it would be otherwise. They also will have to maintain the property.

They won’t be allowed to build anything on it, like a pool or patio, and can’t use the additional property to justify building more on their original property, Mr. Fisher said, adding that the town attorney has said the lots can be fenced in.

In cases where more than one adjacent property touches an available New York Rising lot, it will be up to the FRNCA board to decide who gets it.

“We’re going to do it as fair as possible,” Mr. Fisher said, indicating that the Southampton Town attorney’s office offered to help split the lots in instances where more than one adjoining property owner is interested.

Some of the prospective owners of the lots have agreed to make a donation to FRNCA, he said.

Had the town taken over the lots, Mr. Fisher said at a meeting in September, it could have used them as parking for the beach, a dog walking park or for camping — none of which are allowed under private ownership.

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