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Aug 31, 2010 6:31 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Library sues Zoning Board of Appeals

Aug 31, 2010 6:31 PM

The East Hampton Library filed suit in State Supreme Court last week to reverse the East Hampton Village Zoning
Board of Appeal’s denial of its proposed expansion.

In a memorandum accompanying its suit, the library disputed the ZBA’s decision on the basis that the board did
not have the authority to require an environmental review from the library, and that the
application was denied based
on “grounds that were beyond the ZBA’s jurisdiction, on standards that were not applicable
to the application, and on theories that have been long declared unconstitutional.”

On July 23, seven years after the library originally applied
for a 6,802-square-foot expansion, the ZBA ruled against it, stating its concern with traffic, parking and preserving the Osborne Green.

The library held a referendum on August 14 to gauge public support of the proposal; 83 percent of the nearly 800 people who voted supported the library.

Jeff Bragman, the attorney for the Village Preservation Society, which opposed the library’s plan, said he was not surprised the library filed suit, but disappointed that the library wanted to rehash old issues in court. He criticized the library for dismissing the serious planning and environmental concerns for which the ZBA made its decision.

“It’s pretty much what we expected,” he said. “What I think is disappointing is that it’s largely a diversion from the real planning issues.”

In its appeal, the library makes a number of arguments, all of which have been argued in appearances before the ZBA: First and foremost, that because
it has a charter from Board of Regents of the State of New York,
it is considered an educational institution and therefore does not require review by the ZBA. The argument brings the
library’s fight full circle from 2008, when the ZBA ruled the library did not qualify for an exemption, and it required the library to move forward with an environmental impact statement. Though the library proceeded with the review process, it remained adamant that it was exempt throughout.

In its memo, library called the village’s decision “unprecedented” on many levels, including for the length of process—seven years—and for its refusal to recognize the state charter.

“Despite the ZBA’s refusal to recognize the library’s educational status, there can be no serious dispute that the library is, as a matter of state law, an ‘educational institution,’ and ‘educational corporation,’ and a member of the University of the State of New York,” the memorandum continued.

Mr. Bragman said the library’s claims that it is exempt from review because it is an educational institution are unfounded and based on a clever manipulation of education and environmental law. He said the state clearly defines a “school,” and that the reason schools are given special treatment in regard to zoning law is because they are already required to put any expansion up for public referendum.

“Their charter makes them an institution within a university,” he said. “It does not make
them a school. They make a seductive argument, but it’s factually inaccurate.”

According to state law, an educational institution applying for an expansion that is less than 10,000 square feet is exempt from environmental review. Beyond exemption, the library states that the law also gives educational institutions special treatment under zoning laws that means such an institution does not have to prove its need for an expansion and that the “presumptive benefits of an educational institution can only be rebutted with evidence of significant adverse impacts on traffic congestion, property values, municipal services, and the like ... and even where impacts are shown, zoning boards must try to accommodate the educational use by imposing conditions designed to mitigate the impacts rather than excluding the use or expansion altogether.”

The library states that it not only addressed all of the ZBA’s traffic, parking and preservation concerns throughout the public hearing, but that any additional issues could be mitigated through the Design Review Board process.

“Since the village will still have ample opportunity to impose reasonable conditions on the library’s project through the design/site plan review process and historic compatibility process that are both performed by the DRB,” the memorandum reads. “There is no reason to remand the matter to the ZBA for continued review of mitigative conditions.”

The library’s appeal was prepared by library attorney William Esseks and filed with the state court on August 19. The village was served with court papers on Wednesday. The lawsuit
also lists the Village Preservation Society, which has been the main opposition to the expansion, as a respondent, but the library is not seeking relief from the society.

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Are you kidding me! Every day these idiots give variances to big developers who bring absolutely NOTHING to our area and here they deny a library which only exists for the benefit of the community?! What the heck is going on out here. It is freaking bizarro world.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Aug 27, 10 2:35 PM
4 members liked this comment
It is freaking bizarro world, because I totally agree with you on this! lol
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 27, 10 8:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Aug 27, 10 8:38 PM
Dear People First:
Your name is anathema to the East Hampton ZBA which is controlled by a handful of politically powerful 'old line' families. They keep the EH Mayor and his cronies in power, and these people make the political appointments to the ZBA to do their will. They run the Village like it's their own little sandbox - variances to their friends and insiders, "OFF WITH THEIR HEADS" to everybody else. Be glad you live in Southampton. It's got to be better than this.
By PQ (9), Riverhead on Aug 27, 10 4:00 PM
3 members liked this comment
Its not better -
By sunshine (47), southampton on Aug 28, 10 10:13 AM
Not to be condescending, but anathema should be preceded by "an", and you are so right!!!
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 29, 10 10:32 AM
Its a two way street here. when referring to the ZBA in such a manner you are also referring to the library board.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Aug 29, 10 7:03 PM
Setting aside the conspiracy theories for a moment, this is a basic zoning dispute based on a 7 yr old plan. What I don't get is that the library is not willing to revise its 7 yr old plan to conform to realities of today and the next 10 yrs. Yes, put in an elevator; yes expand the childrens area. But 7,000 sq feet? Is that really needed in an age when most or all books will be be digitized and accessed via hand held devices? In the next few yrs you'll be able to remove stacks of books and ...more
By Laszlo Lowenstein (37), East Hampton on Aug 27, 10 5:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
Laszlo, your argument does not hold water. Libraries off so much more than just books. My kids go to our library three times a week and so do their friends and that is NOT a joke. Libraries urge children to read and rewards them for doing so in the summer and all year round. Libraries provide computers and printers to those unable to afford them. Libraries provide books to those who would otherwise not have access. Libraries teach kids and adults.

Libraries are gathering spots for ...more
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Aug 27, 10 5:54 PM
3 members liked this comment
Indeed what progressnow said is on point 100%.

Why do you see a 7000 sq foot expansion excessive, in a village with homes up to 20,000 sq feet, that are used on such a minimal basis it is disgusting? What need do these people have for grotesque trophy homes?

Even with books being digitized, it would be a huge mistake to throw away the paper versions. What about people who don't want to use a iPad on Kindle? Paper books are not obsolete yet and if they are to survive anywhere ...more
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 27, 10 8:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
I agree 100% regarding paper books. Now, if they were printed on hemp paper, there wouldn't be so much deforestation, and we'd probably still have our old growth forests. But that's another debate.

Removing the tactile experience of "turning the page", would be a gross injustice to future youth, as well as those who are not part of the "digital revolution". I just can't imagine sitting down at bedtime with my nephew, and some type of e-reader.

It's just not right...
Aug 29, 10 10:29 AM appended by Mr. Z
By the way, come visit my monument to excess, oops, I mean "success" in the "Hamptons". If the world's "developing nations" follow this kind of example, well, I don't like the future I see much. Not one bit...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 29, 10 10:29 AM
what?! "adding" to the traffic? what a ridiculous concept. Summer, in and of itself, adds to the traffic congestion, as does all the fundraisers, concerts, art shows, blah blah blah. East End traffic is a given, whether or not the library gets it's wish, which I WHOLEHEARTEDLY support. I am a lifelong resident and the library is a place of fondest memories of my childhood. Joe $chmo can get his pet project rolled right thru without controversy, but the Library is pushed away like an petulant child ...more
By trublnocknatmydr (35), East Hampton on Aug 28, 10 11:05 AM
Yes, yes and the additional parking may help to keep more cars from parking into street in front of the library.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Aug 29, 10 11:08 PM
and nothing beats the feel of curling up with an honest to goodness "book", the way the author intended it to be read. You can have your kindle, I prefer the smell and feel of a good old paper dispensed tale.
By trublnocknatmydr (35), East Hampton on Aug 28, 10 11:06 AM
Does anyone know who is paying the legal fees? Are we suing ourselves and paying on both sides of the aisle?
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Aug 29, 10 7:05 PM
Taxes will be used to defend the ZBA. Some personal liability is in order if they overstepped their authority.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Aug 29, 10 10:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thats kind of what I figured. I find the whole system laughable when the "public" library board sues the public ZBA board overa clash of massive egos and the working guy foots the bill. I am for expansion but just do not understand why the library could not work with the ZBA to scale the projetc back to met acceptable guidelines.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Aug 30, 10 10:47 AM
1 member liked this comment
The entry to the new parking lot could be named "Ego Place?"
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 30, 10 11:27 AM
If they are so worried about the traffic in that area, newsflash, the biggest traffic hazard is all of the church fairs and Mulford Farm antique and plant sales all summer long, why not ban those?! Its not the library clogging up the roads but the several huge events all going on at the same time. The public wants the expansion, and the ZBA is supposed to represent their constituents.
By Harbor at Heart (12), East Hampton on Aug 30, 10 11:58 AM
that whole area stinks traffic wise as is. The people trying to hang a left of off Buell lane (114) onto Main (27) is a joke. The ZBA is there to enforce the law and set precidence. I am not defending them and am in favor of expansion but lets keep it reasonable and the library board needs transparency
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Aug 30, 10 10:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
The thing is that the 'referendum' was a sham that will only be used to distract some judge in County Court. The facts are the facts and the ZBA made its decision based on the Village Code. Yes, the library can appeal this, if they feel that the ZBA's decision was unlawful or capricious. The real issue can be better addressed by campaigning to revise your Village Code, not by popularity contests.
By NWHarbor (7), Northwest on Aug 31, 10 2:17 AM
1 member liked this comment
The suit was filed in State Supreme Court. What does a County Court judge have to do with this? Did you read the article?
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Aug 31, 10 4:04 PM