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May 19, 2011 3:13 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Village Will Not Appeal Library Decision

May 24, 2011 6:34 PM

Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach announced Friday that the village would not appeal a State Supreme Court decision supporting the East Hampton Library’s proposed children’s wing addition, which the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals had rejected last July.

“We are very happy that the village has taken action so quickly and look forward to moving ahead and building a library everyone will be proud of,” Dennis Fabiszak, the library director, said Friday.

Library officials now can focus on raising the remaining $2-plus million they will need for a new children’s wing, for which they could conceivably break ground by the end of the year. It will allow the library to add more children’s books, have a space devoted to young adults, and create a meeting room in the basement that will be accessible to the handicapped, including seniors, by elevator.

“We are so pleased!” said East Hampton Library President Doreen A. Niggles at a press conference at the library last Thursday. “Unfortunately, an entire generation of young children lost the benefits of these programs.”

In a 14-page decision filed on May 17, the court said denying the application, which was first submitted in 2003, had been “irrational.” State Supreme Court Justice Thomas F. Whelan supported the library’s argument that the expansion, while in a residential neighborhood, would be in keeping with the character of the Main Street neighborhood, which includes churches, commercial and cultural buildings like Guild Hall— “in other words,” said Library Board Chairman Tom Twomey at the celebratory press conference last Thursday, “perfect for a library.”

In its determination, the ZBA said that the library’s environmental impact statement had not persuaded the board that the expansion would not harm the property and the surrounding area.

Jeffrey Bragman, who represented the Village Preservation Society, which opposed the application, said on Tuesday that the society believed that the parking and square footage “were too big for the site” and that the addition would encroach too much on what is called the Osborne green behind the library.

Library officials have said that 84 percent of that two-acre open space would be preserved. About two years ago they put up a fence demarcating how far the addition would extend behind the library, and last Thursday it was marked with small white signs, indicating where different parts of the expansion would be situated.

In his ruling, Justice Whelan also issued a special permit and the two variances the ZBA had denied.

The addition still needs Design Review Board approval, but that board unanimously approved a roughly 10,000-square-foot proposed addition even before it was scaled back in 2004.

It now stands at 6,800 square feet, with half of that underground. Mr. Twomey said the above-ground portion would be “less than half the size of a tennis court.”

“I’ve been waiting for this for eight years,” Mr. Twomey said last Thursday of what he called the “landmark decision.”

At the press conference, Bill Esseks, the library’s attorney, said officials had attended “40-something hearings before the ZBA” over seven years before the application was denied.

East Hampton Library officials filed a suit last year after the ZBA rejected the proposed addition.

“The Zoning Board of Appeals application of the East Hampton Library has been arduous and contentious,” Mayor Rickenbach said in a statement issued after a closed session of the Village Board at midday Friday. “There have been, in our opinion, a number of missteps on both sides.”

“The decision of Supreme Court Judge Whelan ends the litigation as far as an appeal is concerned. While we might take issue and argue with the specific conclusions in this case, we choose not to. We believe it is time to move on, put an end to costly legal fees, and begin the process of healing the community on this issue.”

As of Friday, East Hampton had spent $63,000 on the litigation, Village Administrator Larry Cantwell said.

“We spent tens of thousands of dollars on expert testimony from architects, traffic engineers, library consultants, landscape architects, and environmental scientists to get this permit to build our modest children’s wing,” Ms. Niggles said in a statement last Thursday. Library supporters took pains to point out that taxpayers did not contribute to those expenses, and that the addition itself will be paid for with private donations.

The court also backed up the library’s claim that it is an educational institution entitled to special treatment in zoning matters, which will be afforded to “all libraries in New York State.”

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Do we see a common denominator here? This decision - and now read the Comments the Judge made in the recent restaurant decision against the Village - a pattern of arrogance is emerging whereby the courts are not merely deciding against the Village, but commenting on how there was motive in their refusals to abide by due process and fair play. I smell wires burning.

Is it just me ? where are our investigative jounalists ??
By johnnytax (29), new york on May 19, 11 9:43 PM
Forget it, Johnnytax, it's East Hampton!
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on May 20, 11 9:51 AM
Article updated Friday afternoon to announce that the Village has rolled over on its back, and announced that it will not appeal the Judge's decision.

The speed with which this decision (not to appeal) was made is alarming in my opinion.

There goes the authority of the ZBA!

Further investigative reporting by the media, and public comment by each and every member of the Village Board, would be appropriate.
By PBR (4952), Southampton on May 20, 11 3:55 PM
I agree with johnnytax: the Village of EH has lost three major lawsuits in recents months in which the courts found egregious lack of fair play and due process. So much lost time, so many wasted taxpayers dollars.
By 16945 (15), Riverhead on May 21, 11 4:16 PM
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