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Feb 14, 2017 11:37 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

PDD Law Could Be Fully Repealed, Southampton Town Officials Say

Southampton Town Councilmember John Bouvier, one of the committee members deciding the fate of the PDD law, said he is in favor of a repeal.  JEN NEWMAN
Feb 14, 2017 3:17 PM

Rather than changing the rules regarding planned development districts—a zoning mechanism that can allow more intense development in exchange for community benefits—Southampton Town officials now appear ready to scrap the idea completely, perhaps as quickly as this spring.

A committee made up of town officials has worked to evaluate the legislation over the past eight months, after a year-long moratorium on any new PDD applications was put into place last May to allow for the review.

According to Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, the committee had been previously leaning toward keeping the PDD legislation for projects that were, in themselves, community benefits—such as a change of zone to clear the way for an assisted living facility, museum or library, projects that typically would be sponsored by the town or a not-for-profit.

But that has recently changed, he said.

“The PDD law is going to be repealed,” the supervisor said on Monday. “That is my prediction. There will be provisions within the code to handle some of the things that the PDD law would have handled.” One of the code changes, the supervisor said, would involve some sort of requirement of a community benefit for all change of zone applications.

Critics of the law have complained that the interpretation of “community benefits” in the PDD law has widened over the years, and the use of PDDs to sidestep zoning regulations has become far too common—and profitable for developers.

Members of the committee evaluating the legislation include Southampton Town Board member John Bouvier, Town Attorney Jim Burke, Assistant Town Attorney Carl Benincasa, Town Planning and Development Administrator Kyle Collins, and the principal planner for the town’s Department of Land Management, Janice Scherer.

Although the committee eventually will make a recommendation, it will ultimately be up to the Town Board to make the final decision on a repeal. According to Town Board member Christine Scalera, a public hearing would be required, and three out of the five Town Board members would need to vote in favor of the repeal.

Mr. Schneiderman said he expects a decision within the next two months.

Mr. Burke affirmed the supervisor’s expectations that the PDD legislation most likely will be repealed and noted that such a decision would take place before the current moratorium on new PDD applications is set to expire in May.

“That seems to be the consensus of the [committee],” Mr. Burke said, regarding a repeal of the legislation. “At one point, they were considering reserving the law for large, public use projects—but I think at this point the committee is now more comfortable with moving ahead with this possibility.”

Mr. Burke said eliminating the PDD legislation and, in turn, the community benefits negotiation would get rid of the idea that developers can “buy” allowances in zoning. He said code updates would still allow for the town to place conditions on applications. “Quite frankly, I see that as a positive thing,” he said.

As an example, if an application was expected to have an impact on traffic, the town’s planning and zoning departments could approve changes with the condition that the traffic concerns be mitigated—through turning lanes or other safety measures. Mr. Burke noted that, if the PDD legislation is repealed, simultaneous changes in the code would preserve the town’s “flexibility” with such applications.

Mr. Bouvier also said he thought the PDD law is heading toward a repeal—and he is in favor it.

“I think most people are feeling that way,” he said. “I feel that’s where it’s headed—I think it’s a good thing. I think we can do most of the things we need to do without it and could create special exceptions. I think we’re heading toward repealing.”

He added that details are still being discussed and officials are still combing through all of the town code to ensure there are no duplications with any code changes that might accompany the repeal.

Town Board member Julie Lofstad said she would wait until after a public hearing to make a final decision, but she, likewise, currently leans toward supporting a repeal of the PDD rules. The community benefits portion of the law, she said, makes it seem that developers can keep “throwing money” at the town to get what they want, rather than having a strong project.

“My opinion on the legislation is, perhaps it started out as something different than it morphed into,” she said. “It changed into something that really divided communities.”

Ms. Scalera said she welcomes a public hearing on PDDs for “some long-needed discussion,” which she had asked for before the moratorium. She echoed many of the supervisor’s comments, noting that if a repeal were to take place, she said meaningful amendments to the town’s zoning code would be needed to support evolving land uses, adopted land use plans and redevelopment initiatives.

“This may better allow for the predictability and understanding the public wants and deserves,” Ms. Scalera said on Monday. She also clarified that she would wait until after a public hearing to make a final decision.

The supervisor said updating the town code would be a crucial part of a potential PDD legislation repeal.

“A lot of the town’s planning is antiquated,” he said. “I keep trying to fix the PDD law—it just doesn’t seem to work. We have to take a fresh look at what the needs of our community are to make sure we are moving in a direction into a place we want to go.”

Any change in the PDD legislation would not apply to PDD applications that have already passed the public hearing stage of pre-application review—and that includes The Hills at Southampton proposal in East Quogue.

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Anyone doing a commercial project in Southampton Town should have their heads examined.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Feb 14, 17 11:53 AM
2 members liked this comment
Only in Southampton would this be viewed as a win.

Sofa King backwards
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Feb 14, 17 1:37 PM
The devil will be in the details. The PDD law came about for good reasons. This one town board eliminating it will require them to create new mechanisms to account for evolving land use, and do it in a way that won't create major headaches for future town boards or the needs of an ever more diverse community. My question, considering that the headline is repeal with any clear replacement idea (where have I heard that before), is whether this town board is up to that complicated task.
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Feb 14, 17 2:17 PM

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Feb 14, 17 2:58 PM
guessing that you know don't know much about lawsuits based on the amount of time you spend posting here.

try enlightening us with some details, details, details!
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Feb 14, 17 4:11 PM
Poor guess -- and an uninformed one!

Bad arithmetic and reasoning skills, as well. I have less that six (6) comments per month compared to your almost 10.

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Feb 15, 17 12:47 AM
1 member liked this comment
This is great News! Any zone change, should be granted with a super majority vote by the town board. People should keep in mind the PDD law came about before the CPF law, hanse since CPF adoption, developers have used PDDs to sweat the land to make a bigger profit due to build-able land becoming less and less.
By JM11968 (71), southampton on Feb 14, 17 2:58 PM
PDD's needed to be approved by a super majority, too. That speculative statement about the CPF and PDDs are not really related, are they? I mean, yes, the CPF makes buildable land more valuable in some sense, but the PDD itself has nothing to do with it.
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Feb 14, 17 3:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
If it were not for CPF the only open spaces we would have would've been golf courses and a handful of farm stands. PDDs, however, have been ABUSED by developers. If we have more high density that mimics UTI people won't come here. I think the town should have stepped in and limited the amount of homes & condos that have been built in recent years.
By JM11968 (71), southampton on Feb 14, 17 5:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
Can anyone show a real benefit from any PDD? Besides the obvious benefit to the land speculators and developers of course!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Feb 14, 17 8:41 PM
My little tidbit: 99 percent of the bloggers here have no idea what a PDD is, how it came into being, what the genesis was for it, and how it can be used effectively and/or abused. Talk among yourselves. Go ahead, High Hat, wax poetically about something you know nothing about (that would be a first!)
By fire11 (276), east hampton on Feb 14, 17 10:43 PM
HHS wasn't even involved in this thread. So I guess you are the 1%?
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Feb 14, 17 11:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
The PDD law has only benefited the developers as there has never been a clear and obvious community benefit. Investors are smart enough to know what they buy as of right but continue to twist to higher personal profits at the cost of over building in our community. 39 is in the beginning throws of looking like Jericho Turnpike. Be done with it and upzone or overlay 39 to stop further abuse.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Feb 15, 17 6:43 AM
1 member liked this comment