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News & Information - Spotlight 2022

Posted on: December 7, 2021

Southampton Town Board Adopts Landmark Legislation to Protect Historic Cultural Resources


At its meeting on November 23, 2021, the Southampton Town Board adopted a resolution enacting Article XIV (Cultural Resources Protection Overlay District) of Chapter 330 (Zoning) of the Town Code. The provisions of this Article apply to lands in the Town, outside the Shinnecock Indian Nation and incorporated villages, and encompass certain culturally sensitive areas in the Shinnecock Fort site, Sugar Loaf Hill Burial site, and other areas that have been identified in Sebonac and Riverside.

The purpose of this new Article is to establish a Cultural Resources Protection Overlay District, within which construction and development activities requiring either a Building Permit, Site Plan Approval, Subdivision Approval or authorization by a Town Department Head for Town sponsored activities on Town land or in Town street rights of way, which activities exceed specific site disturbance thresholds depending on proximity to known burial and other sensitive sites, will be required to conduct appropriate Cultural Resource Investigations for the purpose of identifying the existence of burial sites, human remains, associated funerary artifacts, and other culturally sensitive archeological sites; and to ensure that such sites, remains and artifacts are undisturbed to the maximum extent practicable.

The boundaries of the Cultural Resources Protection Overlay District were established based on the Phase IA Cultural Resource Investigation, which was prepared by Town Archeologist Jo-Ann McLean, and which identified areas of potential cultural sensitivity based on a literature search of known cultural resource reports. Some of these areas, namely the Sugar Loaf Hill burial site and the Shinnecock Fort site had previously been identified as Critical Environmental Areas pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). The overlay district boundaries also incorporate known burial sites of non-native persons, identified on the Town’s Historic Cemetery List, compiled by the Town Clerk’s Historic Division, and which also were previously identified as Critical Environmental Areas. 

A Site Disturbance Plan must be reviewed and approved by the Town prior to the commencement of proposed construction or development activities, including Town sponsored activities on Town land or in Town street rights of way. This local law also establishes varying site disturbance thresholds, within the different overlay district sub-areas, which, if exceeded will require the preparation of graduating degrees of Cultural Resource Investigations, depending on the archeological and cultural sensitivity that may or may not be encountered.  

In doing so, the Town acknowledges the sanctity of human burial sites and their intrinsic historic value to the cultural and religious traditions with which they are associated.  New York is one of very few states which has no express statutory protection for unmarked burial sites and burial sites on private property.  The Town recognizes that existing laws have proven inadequate to protect both unmarked and marked burial sites on private property from unintentional disturbance in the course of construction, land development and other related activities, and regrettably, intentional and deliberate destruction, vandalism, and looting.

“The Department of Land Management, and specifically Director of Town Planning David Wilcox, began work on this code in May,” noted Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. “This resulting legislation is a testament to his hard work, and the culmination of a collaborative effort among the Shinnecocks, the Town Clerk’s Office, and the Town Archeologist. My sincere thanks to all for recognizing the importance of identifying and preserving the Town’s precious historic resources.”

For more information, contact the Town’s Department of Land Management at 631-287-5707.

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