Hamptons investment banker sues town over barn dustup

From left: Howard Lutnick and a barn

A Southampton billionaire is suing the town’s planning board after twice being denied permission to construct a barn on his land.

Howard Lutnick, CEO of financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, purchased the farmland behind his Halsey Lane home in 2003 and has since used it as an extended backyard, adding a baseball diamond and playground. In 2007 he sought permission to construct an 11,200-square-foot barn on the land and was twice denied by the Southampton Town Planning Board, which said he could instead construct a 2,400-square-foot barn if the diamond and playground are removed.

Lutnick’s lawsuit seeks $20 million in damages, arguing that covenants on the land support a number of possible uses, including agricultural ones, and the construction of structures — such as a barn — meant to support them.

Though the board is no stranger to such lawsuits, the legal action is unique in that it names each of the board’s seven members as individual defendants.

“It’s not your run-of-the-mill Article 78,” town attorney Tiffany Scarlato told 27east. “They are potentially alleging that there is some individual liability.”

Still, Scarlato said, board members would be indemnified against any legal damages sustained by the town, which will be turning over defense of the case to independent legal firm Devitt Spellman Barrett. [27east]Julie Strickland

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