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Sep 29, 2015 10:23 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board And Supervisor Candidates Sound Off In Debate

Southampton Town Board candidates John Bouvier and Julie Lofstad.
Oct 1, 2015 5:46 PM

Planned development districts were the hot topic at the first debate of the campaign season on Monday night.

During a debate hosted at the Southampton High School auditorium by The Southampton Press, Town Board candidates John Bouvier, Damon Hagan, Julie Lofstad and Christine Scalera sounded off on the best way to handle planned development districts, or PDDs, the sometimes controversial changes in zoning of specific areas to meet a developer’s needs while requiring community benefits in return.

Discussion also focused on a proposal to bring a supermarket to Tuckahoe, which would require a Town Board-approved change of zone—an idea that has gotten both support and opposition in the community. At the debate, all four candidates questioned the proposal for the market, with three of the four—including current Town Board member Ms. Scalera—saying they would not vote in favor of the development because of concerns about traffic. Mr. Hagan did not specifically answer the question of whether he would vote in favor of the supermarket but said there were serious traffic concerns and requested more information.

The candidates for Southampton Town supervisor, Jay Schneiderman and Richard Yastrzemski, focused more on their personal qualifications. Mr. Schneiderman noted his past experience as an East Hampton Town supervisor and as a present Suffolk County legislator, and Mr. Yastrzemski noted his experience on the Southampton Village Board and his family’s long history in Southampton.

Town Board

In the conversation about PDDs, all four candidates agreed that a conversation needs to be had about their use, but the candidates were split along party lines on how best to handle the discussion. Democrats Mr. Bouvier and Ms. Lofstad—along with their running mate Mr. Schneiderman, an Independence Party member who has the Democrats’ endorsement—are proposing a one-year moratorium on PDDs, saying that would give the town time to evaluate possible new regulations for limiting PDDs.

“At the time [the PDD law] was proposed, it was a piece of legislation that was supported by environmentalists and the community and it was a great piece of legislation, but over time it has become a catalyst [for development],” Mr. Bouvier said. “I think the town has the right to decide where development should occur.”

At the same time, Mr. Hagan, a Republican, said a moratorium would not make sense, because PDDs need to be discussed on a case-by-case basis.

“The point of the job is to listen to things coming before the board and decide on them,” Mr. Hagan said. “So if you are going to come before the community and say, ‘If you elect us we are going to put a moratorium in place where we will not even hear or entertain any of these PDDs,’ then you are not doing your job.”

His fellow Republican Ms. Scalera, the only incumbent in the race, said the idea of discussing the PDD law is good, but she said the proposal from her opponents is not really a moratorium—if elected, they would simply recuse themselves from voting to approve new PDDs, which need supermajority approval. She added that it would not help the discussion of PDDs in general.

Another major topic on Monday night was the Water Protection Plan currently working its way through the Town Board approval process. The 300-plus-page document, which has been in the works for four years, emphasizes 13 town recommendations to preserve and restore water quality. Because it would be a joint effort with the New York Department of State, there have been concerns—first presented by Ms. Scalera—about whether the town would be ceding local control if it adopts the plan.

Ms. Lofstad, whose family works in the fishing industry, said that water quality is one of the key aspects of her campaign, and that the plan should be adopted and implemented as soon as possible.

“I believe that we have a better chance of finding funding for projects if we have this plan,” Ms. Lofstad said. “Our water quality issues are huge and we need funding. I don’t believe that we will lose local control because a regional approach is necessary.”

Ms. Scalera would rather see the board work independently with the Town Trustees, who are not included in the plan, to achieve the same goals.

“The idea that the state has to comply [with the town’s plan], which is what they are saying, simply isn’t true,” Ms. Scalera said. “Under the law they have to comply until they certify to themselves that they don’t,” she said. “They can do that to the extent even if it impacts us in adverse ways,” she said. “We could scale it back and work with the Trustees and come up with something that makes sense for us here in Southampton.”

Other topics were the need for a new Town Hall, the benefits of revitalization plans, the importance of historic structures, algae blooms, and how to treat constituents with dignity.

Supervisor Debate

A main topic for the supervisor’s debate was qualifications, with Mr. Schneiderman, formerly of Montauk, defending his status as a Southampton Town resident, and Mr. Yastrzemski focusing on his efforts at the village level to prepare him for the job.

Mr. Schneiderman, who was East Hampton Town supervisor before becoming a county legislator, said that while his current Southampton Village home is still under construction, he started renting in the village nine years ago. He has since then maintained continuous residency in Southampton Town, in the village and in Hampton Bays, he said, noting that his children—who live primarily with his ex-wife, Jennifer Keller—attend the Southampton School District. His new permanent home is slated to be completed in the next few months.

But for Mr. Yastrzemski, the role of supervisor would be better filled by someone with a deeper Southampton history. The candidate noted that he was born and raised in Southampton, and that his family has lived here for generations.

Traffic was a major topic of discussion for the supervisor candidates, with both agreeing that it has increased exponentially in the past several years. For Mr. Yastrzemski, the first focus should be on studying traffic so that the town has as much information as possible before making a decision about what to do about it.

“There are many different studies to be done,” he said. “The roads were not made for the volume we have now, and there are some solutions that are currently in place that we can capitalize on.”

Mr. Schneiderman hopes to implement a plan that would link several lights along County Road 39 to help traffic flow better. “As supervisor I will push harder because I think that plan will make a difference,” and would be most effective during morning rush hour in the spring. “Because I think if you can get that traffic through, it would make a difference.”

Both men spoke about their largest goals if elected to office. Mr. Schneiderman said he hopes to improve the quality of life for Southampton Town residents.

“We know about the traffic problems and the overcrowding in housing,” he said. “We know people are concerned about taxes and water quality, but I want to make sure Southampton is affordable to people who live and work here. I have a lot of ideas, but really it is important to bring the town together to maintain the things that we love.”

For Mr. Yastrzemski, the focus was on opening lines of communication between the board and the public. At Southampton Village meetings, where he has served as deputy mayor, he said people address the board and feel they are being heard, but he said that is not the case at the town level.

“I watch town meetings and the tension is palpable,” Mr. Yastrzemski said. “The way people are getting treated is a failure, and that is where my experience lies.”

The supervisor candidates also discussed what they thought were the biggest successes and failures of the past administration and of the current candidates, including affordable housing, the Bridgehampton CVS proposal, zoning, the Hills application, and air traffic.

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It's always someone else causing congestion and pollution.
By chief1 (2790), southampton on Sep 29, 15 10:37 AM
PDD's should be removed totally from the Town code. It is a developers "Tool Kit" that bites off huge (very large) potions of our town. No other issue has done as much damage to Southampton Town as PDD's. No good has come cfrom any of the past PDD's. All candidates please — you must pledge to eliminate them and do a mighty service for the town.
By barberosa (39), Watermill on Sep 29, 15 11:14 AM
3 members liked this comment
Yup, forget moratoriums, forget "case by case" get rid of PDD's period or the voters are not going to take you seriously.
By rburger (82), Remsenburg on Sep 29, 15 11:45 AM
2 members liked this comment
My apologies for for the typos!
I caan spelll reel wel.
By barberosa (39), Watermill on Sep 29, 15 11:16 AM
Please Mr. Hagan, can you have your people stop putting out signs 6 weeks before Election Day; there may be other candidates doing this as well but I haven't seen it. It's a homeowner's right to install them on their property all year long if they want but can we all agree to keep them off the side of the roads at least until 10 days before the big day. Enough sign pollution!
By Justsay'n (42), Southampton on Sep 29, 15 12:28 PM
4 members liked this comment
Every yard should have one!
By Draggerman (942), Southampton on Sep 29, 15 8:56 PM
Get a grip just say n
By chief1 (2790), southampton on Sep 29, 15 6:11 PM
"a move heavily opposed by the community, with all four candidates—including current Town Board member Ms. Scalera—saying they would not vote in favor of the development because of traffic concerns."

First off, the proponents far outweighed the opponents when the board was hearing this application. Second, Mr. Hagan never said he was against it. Third, I am now adding to congestion on 39 going to Bridgehampton for my groceries. we went from 3 real supermarkets in Southampton ...more
By Draggerman (942), Southampton on Sep 29, 15 7:40 PM
Proponents???? Really? All those non-Southampton new faces from Greenpoint, Riverhead and up island that people had never seen before in town board meetings obviously brought in by the developers to convey a noisy sham façade of community support?

Draggerman, let's stop with these sophomoric developer nonsense shall we? We weren't born yesterday.
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Oct 2, 15 12:49 AM
1 member liked this comment
I'm sorry but how can Hagen not have an opinion about the tuckahoe center, it has been through a thourogh process with an enormous amount of input from the public and experts. Has he been living under a rock, starting to sound like a real politician to me.
I commend Councilwomab Scalera for having the courage to voice her opionion being the only sitting town board member running and actually having to make the decision on the project. That truly shows me that she is an honest and trustworthy ...more
By hamptons34 (30), Westhampton on Sep 30, 15 8:46 PM
2 members liked this comment
Mr. Hagen is unknown in our community because he hasn't done anything significant to get his name out thus all the annoying political signs. His law firm isn't even within the Town so he's not even a local businessman.. At least Scalera, Bouvier and Lofstad have all shown they are advocates for local issues and have been out there speaking out for their causes.
By saltygramHB (1), Hampton Bays on Oct 1, 15 10:38 AM
2 members liked this comment
"But for Mr. Yastrzemski, the role of supervisor would be better filled by someone with a deeper Southampton history." He's comparing himself to Schneiderman here.

That's nonsense. Jay Schneiderman has been representing Southampton Town -- all of it -- in the County Legislature for the last 12 years. Meanwhile, Richard Yastrzemski has been doing what? Holding down various posts in tiny Southampton Village, which most recently sold out its beach to wealthy homeowners. So no prizes ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Oct 1, 15 12:57 PM
2 members liked this comment
I recall like it was yesterday that representatives for "The Hills" in EQ first came before the SHTB and plugged their proposal. Against the outcry from environmentalists, scientists and the EQ residents the current Supervisor Throne-Holst and the most of the SHTB allowed this project to move forward. The one lone dissenting vote was Bridget Fleming. Her concern was for our environment among other things. This project could have been stopped initially by our elected officials, while appearing to ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Oct 1, 15 1:51 PM
2 members liked this comment
Crusader viewed your other posts you weren't voting for Scalera, Hagan or anyone on the Republican line anyway so sure they are not losing sleep. Voting "yes" to hear something is a far cry from approving. Ms. Fleming showed nothing more than usual in choosing to take the easy and expedient road so minimum effort needed. Understanding that property rights are at issue Ms. Flemings "no" flatly rejects the possibility of public discourse. That is a disservice regardless of which side of the issue ...more
By Roughrider28 (80), southampton on Oct 6, 15 8:39 AM
same ole same ole. Lets have ANoTher study yadda yadda.
By sgt202 (75), Hampton Bays on Oct 1, 15 9:37 PM
The only acceptable solution to PDD's is 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 (824), Sag Harbor on Oct 1, 15 9:59 PM
3 members liked this comment
Elimination of the whole PDD concept would better suit the needs of Town RESIDENTS!! The only beneficiaries of spot zoning masquerading as a PDD are the developers.
By bigfresh (4594), north sea on Oct 2, 15 6:01 AM
Mr Yazstremski talks out of both sides of his mouth. He wants to stop congestion, but wants to put in a 30 million dollar sewage treatment so businesses can expand? The guy is clueless, and has done nothing except shake his head in agreement with whatever Mark Epley says. Better known as puppett boy.
By chief1 (2790), southampton on Oct 2, 15 9:30 PM
Why do we want to expand roads, take a hint from New England. If you don't like the traffic don't come. Next a Mall and two level parking.
By knitter (1906), Southampton on Oct 5, 15 11:19 AM
This is a JOKE PDD's need to be taken off the table for good. I would like to hear Schneiderman explain how East Hampton has survived with out PDD's. If you all remember Tuckahoe Mall was originally put forward as a PDD and later changed to a strait zone change. We do not need the PDD law and it was never intended for communities like Southampton. I really wish we had a candidate that was not afraid to stand up for Southampton and what the residents want and need.
By Noelle (15), southampton on Oct 7, 15 2:51 PM