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Nov 17, 2015 5:35 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Split On Future Of Planned Development Districts

Nov 19, 2015 4:26 PM

The new administration entering Southampton Town Hall in January appears to have the votes to move forward with a proposed moratorium on all new applications for planned development districts, a zoning mechanism that allows the Town Board to permit development that counters current zoning if certain public benefits can be achieved.

The idea for a moratorium was pitched as part of the Democratic platform for the 2015 election—and its support is split along party lines.

Two of the three Democratic-endorsed Town Board candidates this fall, Supervisor-elect Jay Schneiderman, a member of the Independence Party, and Councilman-elect John Bouvier, were elected to the five-member board—and current Councilman Brad Bender, a member of the Independence Party who has been cross-endorsed by the Democratic party, expressed support for a moratorium this week.

“It is time for us to step back and take a look at the PDD law and make sure that we are getting everything out of it that we are supposed to be,” Mr. Bender said. “That we define what a public benefit is, and we define what the wastewater treatment plans are—and that they are not considered a benefit, because water quality is not a public benefit. Those are the things that you must do to have an application before our town.”

While Mr. Schneiderman, Mr. Bouvier and Mr. Bender have the majority necessary to secure the break in PDD approvals, Councilwoman Christine Scalera has been vocally opposed to the proposal. She is supported by fellow Councilman Stan Glinka, a fellow Republican, who says, as she does, that applications need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and that a moratorium would not help anyone.

Currently, there are three large applications for PDDs before the Southampton Town Board: for the Gateway project in Bridgehampton, the Hills in East Quogue, and the Water Mill townhouses in Water Mill. The Town Board recently approved PDD applications for the Sandy Hollow Cove affordable housing project in Tuckahoe, and the Canoe Place Inn development on the Shinnecock Canal in Hampton Bays, both of which are currently being held up by lawsuits opposing them.

Although it is not a PDD application, there is also a zone change application for a proposed new supermarket and shopping center in Tuckahoe that is slated for a vote by the Town Board in the coming weeks.

If a moratorium goes into effect, it would not include any project that has already been before the board—which means all three PDD applications would be exempt. Instead, it is aimed toward putting a halt to the review of new applications.

“I think the main thing right now is to stop the any new applications from coming in under the current law, otherwise they will have to be processed under the current law,” Mr. Schneiderman said this week. “I need to hold off on new applications until we can fix the law.”

In public hearings for several of the applications, opponents protested the community benefits suggested by the developers, saying either that they posed no benefit to anyone living outside the proposed subdivisions, or that the town, not the developers, should have the right to dictate what the community benefits will be.

According to the current code, open space, affordable housing, parks, day care, elder care, or “specific physical, social or cultural amenities” are all accepted benefits. Developers can also essentially pay out of the benefits, for example by giving a certain amount of money to the town instead of providing affordable housing units.

This week, Mr. Bouvier, who will start his first term in January, said the moratorium would allow the board to better define those benefits and rework the entire PDD law to give the power back to the Southampton Town Board. “Defining what a community benefit is is a tough thing to understand,” he said. “It has caused a lot of divisiveness in the community. We need to slow it down to have some time to look at that, and, ultimately, I think it will end with a law that is not a PDD law, but gives the power back to the board to make important decisions.”

But according to Mr. Glinka, the moratorium will do more harm than good by preventing potentially good projects from going forward. He added that the town has been making a concerted effort to revitalize several areas, and that a moratorium could prevent town measures to help local business owners.

“I think that each individual development has to be looked at carefully,” he said. “You have to listen to what the community is looking for and what they want, you have to look at the different variables each proposal would have, and combine it all together to do what is best. I do not think a moratorium is a good, positive thing.”

Ms. Scalera said her objection is not to updating the PDD law—she has been adamant that certain changes are necessary—but instead lies in the moratorium itself. She noted that the town is under no obligation to hear applications, making a moratorium unnecessary. “I truly think that anything that instills a better sense of public trust in what is going into our decision-making can only benefit the residents and the process, and I think we should be looking at it,” she said. “We have the authority not to hear anything if we don’t want to. So this is a redundancy.”

Along with the applications that have already been before the board, Mr. Bender said he would like to make one other exception to the moratorium—for affordable or workforce housing projects. The Town Board is scheduled to hear a preapplication report in the next few weeks for a new workforce housing project in Speonk being pitched by the Southampton Housing Authority, which may or may not be a PDD application. If it is, Mr. Bender said, he would be open to it being excluded from the restriction.

Mr. Bouvier said a yearlong moratorium would give the town time to evaluate all of the law, not just parts of it.

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Translation: the developers that got their foot in the door already are all good, any locals wishing to do the same: piss off! The government chooses the winners and losers by decree!
By Inch_High_PI (29), Southampton on Nov 18, 15 12:08 PM
Hurray for Jay Schneiderman, John Bouvier and Brad Bender! We need this moratorium. PDDs may be a good thing in a broad sense, but we've approved some real dogs lately, and we have a couple more in front of us. That's not how it's supposed to work.

As for the notion that we can just keep going without a moratorium, John Bouvier said in a recent debate that you don't try to fix the car while you're driving it. That says it all. Gentlemen, you're doing the right thing.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Nov 18, 15 12:41 PM
Turkey you gobble out of both sides of your beak. On one hand you applaud Mr. Bender for supporting a moratorium siting as you say to approval of some "real dogs" that were approved, but Mr. Bender along with with a unanimous Town Board, including your Ms. Fleming approved those projects. One of those "dogs" was an affordable housing project. Mr. Bender states above that affordable housing projects should be excluded from the moratorium. So I would hold my applause and "hurrays" until these three ...more
By Roughrider28 (80), southampton on Nov 18, 15 6:58 PM
2 members liked this comment
You have to read with a little more care, Roughrider. "Some real dogs" means just that -- "some." Your comment assumes that I believe the Sandy Hollow/affordable housing PDD approval was mistake, but I don't. I didn't say they were all mistakes, so I'm willing to consider the Bender exception for affordable housing proposals. You and I might disagree on that, but don't say that I'm being inconsistent, because I'm not.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Nov 19, 15 9:45 AM
Schneiderman will be the new Throne Holst. Putting his hands out to the developers to enrich himself despite a fake Progressive agenda, just like she did. Watch closely how this shakes out. Funny to watch Bender suddenly become a Democrat again.
By GALAXIE (43), SAG HARBOR on Nov 18, 15 3:01 PM
You said it Galaxie. The hypocrisy of Bender who with Anna and Scalera never saw a PDD they didn't like and of course voted for like clockwork, now is laughably questioning the PDD process itself, ridiculously sounding like Bridget's clone when all he ever did was say yes to every PDD Anna proposed doing.

Democrats haven't forgotten Bender and the four of them constantly ganging up on Bridget while she spoke for the people forcing her to go West of this developer bought town. Bender, you're ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Nov 19, 15 6:34 AM
i am willing to give Schnederman the benefit of the doubt. PDDs are unsustainable and i think he knows that.
By JM11968 (71), southampton on Nov 21, 15 11:56 AM
I have to agree with Scalera on this one. From what I understand, you can't just apply for a PDD and force the board consider it. Essentially, you have to be invited to submit it after preliminaries with the board, planners, etc. So, in that case, if the board didn't want to consider a particular PDD application, they already have the power, on a case-by-case basis, to reject them. A moratorium sounds good, but it doesn't accomplish anything in this particular case. In fact, it would likely create ...more
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Nov 18, 15 3:26 PM
Scalera along with the rest of the current SHTB with the exception of Bridget Fleming voted to allow, "The Hills" project to move forward. No one with the exception of Ms Fleming listened to the residents, environmentalists or scientific data on this project. This project should never have been allowed to continue to the point that it would now be exempt from any moratorium on PDD.

I am waiting to see exactly how Schneiderman and Bovier will address this project. I already know that Scalera, ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Nov 18, 15 4:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Anyone can submit an application for a PDD. But the Board can simply decide to "ENC" the project - Elect not to Consider. They cannot be sued and forced to consider it, or sued and forced to approve it. They have to have SOME reason... they can't say "we don't like this guy because he wears brown shirts" but it's very simply to justify an ENC.
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Nov 18, 15 4:26 PM
Remember that when it is time to vote.
All these density increases... as if we didn't build and buy homes assuming local govt would actually uphold and enforce zoning regulations. Unfortunately community and homeowners no longer are important. It's a joke. Hold them accountable.
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Nov 19, 15 1:44 PM
The PDD rules need to be changed so that after vetting by the town board they must be placed on a ballot during the next general election. Clearly the board has shown they can't be trusted with the authority to approve them on their own.
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Nov 18, 15 6:17 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thats a load of crap
By Undocumented Democrat (2065), southampton on Nov 18, 15 8:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
Good idea Bird, let those who actually have to live with the project and the alleged community benefits decide if the trade off is worth it!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Nov 19, 15 7:01 AM
Good idea Bird, let those who actually have to live with the project and the alleged community benefits decide if the trade off is worth it!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Nov 19, 15 7:01 AM
There needs to be a building freeze and zoning changes in Southampton Town. Why wasn't Two Trees Farm on the Preservation list. There is over 600 million dollars in the Fund, What are they doing with that money.
By rvs (106), sag harbor on Nov 19, 15 1:26 AM
I believe the CPF found is closer to $1 Billion last I herd.
By JM11968 (71), southampton on Nov 21, 15 4:27 PM
It appears that Mr. Bender is trying to wedge the Speonk-Remsenburg proposal in before the new board is in place. The community is just waking up to that project. We have a community meeting on Dec 2 to discuss the proposal. We hope that our local govt acts in good faith and doesn't hastily change the property zoning with the much larger density request without community, school, and civic association input. Why such great urgency? The Housing Authority has stated that it wants to what is best for ...more
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Nov 19, 15 1:38 PM
That is a little disingenuous. As a matter of fact, The Housing Authority postponed it's work session with the Town to gather more information and engage the community in discussion, which has led to our Dec. 2 meeting. No one is rushing anything, there's no Town Resolution to elect to consider, the project hasn't even been heard by the town board. Please do not promote a conspiracy where it doesn't exist.
By CEHJR (34), Southampton on Nov 19, 15 4:43 PM
Not at all, Curtis. As reported here, Mr. Bender stated that he wants to exclude the Speonk project from the moratorium and take it to the board within the next few weeks. How does that allow for community and school input? It's a large project and calls for substantial density changes. At the least the process should be given the time it requires.
Nothing disingenuous at all.
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Nov 20, 15 6:29 AM
As stated prior, the Speonk project is not a PDD. The Housing Authority has been responsive to community discussion, and continues to be. It's not a large project, and I just ask that no conclusions be made until our meeting.
By CEHJR (34), Southampton on Nov 20, 15 1:40 PM
Again - no conclusion made. Mr. Bender stated what he stated. Perhaps you are correcting the wrong person. We are working very hard on giving you an audience and a respectful forum on Dec 2. However, if Mr. Bender states that he's taking this to the town board in a few weeks, his words, then I tend think he's taking it to the board in a few weeks. So my question is perfectly valid. How do we go through this process correctly if we don't have much time? ie. "a few weeks." It's a concern and it'll ...more
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Nov 20, 15 2:58 PM
The housing authority and the developer have assured us that the Speonk proposal will go before the incoming board. Much appreciated.
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Nov 21, 15 8:53 AM
Brad Bender is NOT a Democrat.
By Earthgirl (52), Southampton on Nov 19, 15 2:57 PM
What is disengenuous is thinking goverment should supply affordable housing. There are plenty of under 400k houses in North Sea, Hampton Bays, and Riverside. If you can't afford to live somewhere you move somewhere to fit your income. The problem with this country is we love living above our means, and have excuses why we deserve to.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Nov 20, 15 8:19 AM
You have some nerve, chief. Some of the locals whose family has been there since 1640 should not be squeezed as is happening. Some "newbie" with no concern for the quality of the village buys a house in the blue collar neighborhood for more cash than the local kid who grew up in the village can afford. You know all those types want is a fast resale and go on to the next deal. Those kind of morals is what is the ruin of 'the Hamptons'.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Nov 20, 15 5:22 PM
Thanks for the party affiliation correction! Now let's hope he doesn't change his mind on the moratorium.
By Earthgirl (52), Southampton on Nov 20, 15 1:35 PM
What are locals like American Indians? Somehow the arrogance of certain people to think there entitled to live here as a right. It takes hard work, and consistency to be able to live here. With your logic I should have the goverment supplement a house for me on Dune Rd, because I'm a local, and entitled.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Nov 21, 15 12:04 AM
1 member liked this comment
Read Newsday..........SHT Councilman Bradley Bender was arrested for distribution of oxycodone and will resign. Why am I not surprised?ibr/>
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Nov 24, 15 10:15 AM