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Mar 3, 2016 11:28 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Proposed PDD Moratorium Advances To Public Hearing Scheduled In April

John Bouvier
Mar 9, 2016 11:12 AM

Plans for a long-discussed moratorium on new applications for planned development districts, or PDDs, in Southampton Town are moving forward, with a public hearing scheduled for April 12 at 1 p.m.

Proposed by Town Councilman John Bouvier, the one-year moratorium would mean the Town Board would stop reviewing applications for PDDs—a zoning mechanism that allows more intense development in exchange for community benefits. It would not apply to PDD applications that have already passed the public hearing stage of pre-application review—meaning that The Hills at East Quogue, the Gateway in Bridgehampton, and the Townhouses in Water Mill would all be exempt.

“I think the original intent of the PDD law was probably good,” Mr. Bouvier said this week. “It was really meant to enable a town to change zoning during extenuating circumstances, meaning a hospital or a school or something like that—that was the intent. But over time it has become a little distorted, and it puts so many stakeholders in the line of decision-making that we start to hear about community benefits and it is hard to define what that is.”

The idea for a moratorium was pitched as part of the Democratic platform in the town’s November elections. Now, with Mr. Bouvier, Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Councilwoman Julie Lofstad recently elected to the Town Board, the proposal appears to have a clear path to approval.

In addition to the three large applications for PDDs currently before the Southampton Town Board—the Gateway project in Bridgehampton, the Hills in East Quogue, and the 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 are currently being held up by lawsuits opposing the developments.

During the public hearings for several of the PDD applications, both those already approved and those still pending, opponents questioned the community benefits touted by the developers, arguing that they either posed no benefit to anyone living outside proposed subdivisions, or that the town, not the developers, should have the right to dictate what the community benefits would be.

According to the current code, open space, affordable housing, parks, day care, elder care or “specific physical, social or cultural amenities” are all acceptable 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. Schneiderman said a moratorium would give the board time to breathe while the PDD law is evaluated, particularly in terms of what constitutes a community benefit.

“I think the biggest problem is the way the community benefit is structured,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “It doesn’t have to be intrinsic to the development itself. To me, a change in the zoning to something else ought to be better on its face than the as-of-right zoning. It shouldn’t be something that is worse but [rather something that] when you consider all of the outside benefits it becomes better.”

Not everyone is in favor of a moratorium. Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera, who has been against the moratorium since the fall, said there are already mechanisms in place allowing the Town Board to refuse to consider a PDD application.

“It is just something that is superfluous,” Ms. Scalera said this week. “It is not needed, because we have the ability already to elect not to consider an application before it goes through a formal process. I think it is disingenuous to make someone think you are giving them something they already have.”

This week, Mr. Schneiderman said that while he is leaning in favor of a moratorium, he is interested to hear from the community at the April 12 hearing, which will be held in the Southampton Town Board meeting room.

Whether a moratorium goes into effect or not, Mr. Schneiderman said he wants to change how developers look at PDDs. Currently, he said, developers are allowed to make promises to specific groups for things like scholarships and parking lots, and the groups then pressure the Town Board to approve the PDD application. Instead, Mr. Schneiderman would like for the benefits to be in the nature of the projects themselves, like the construction of hospitals or cancer treatment centers.

“There are all sorts of community centers, things that by their very nature provide community benefits,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “It is possible that even a recreational use, like a golf course, could be a community benefit—I’m not sure a private golf course, but a public course could, by creating jobs to help the community. I am not ruling that out. But there are many other elements that could be positive for the community.”

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Will Kyle Collins could be the main speaker pushing for PDD's? He was intimately involved with the concept for the Gateway Project and helped the last (very receptive) Town Board's reception of it.

He's been a huge advocate for changing established zoning in favor of increased development.

We should ask the Sag Harbor architect Anne Surchin (who is on several advisory boards and is a published author) her opinion and analysis of PDD's. She also wrote several articles on the ...more
By FiddlerCrab (96), Westhampton Beach on Mar 3, 16 3:34 PM
2 members liked this comment
To those who say no moratorium is needed, that PDD applications can be considered while the Board reviews the legislation, there's a simple answer. It was expressed, I believe, by John Bouvier at one of the debates in last year's campaign: "You don't try to fix the airplane while you're flying it." Case closed.
By Turkey Bridge (1952), Quiogue on Mar 4, 16 11:03 AM
The Democrats ran on the basis that a moratorium was needed because they wanted to stop bad PDDs like the Hills, but the Hills project is exempt. SO ITS STILL GOING FORWARD. Its amazing how these guys openly lie to the voters and the democrat voters keep buying in hook, line and sinker.
By Gillnetter (105), Hampton Bays on Mar 9, 16 1:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Democrat majority ran on a promise of a moratorium that would stop not only the hills but CPI, Sandyhollow etc. At worst their promises were a political stunt. At best they didn't know what they were talking about. In either event, we the voters lose, having elected into office either liars or fools.
By Roughrider28 (80), southampton on Mar 9, 16 7:33 PM
Isn't it a bit too soon to be rewriting history. That Dem platform stated only a moratorium on future PDD's. Be darn difficult to place a moratorium on PDD's already approved by the outgoing Town Board.

Candidates on running on the Dem line in November and January indicated their opposition to the Hills project. But that application is all ready in so would not be subject to a moratorium (see ban on ex post facto laws).

The question in re the Hills is will it receive enough ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Mar 10, 16 2:50 PM
... I agree with Scalera. This whole PDD thing is distorted. They have the ability to stop PDD's - simply vote no on the application, now. Kill the Hills - preserve the Pine Barrens and our drinking water. Don't drag it out.

The Town Board has to decide whether they are going to suburbanize the East End by way of these zoning give-aways. That is what we have to look forward to with these idiotic projects.
By William Rodney (546), southampton on Mar 10, 16 3:13 PM
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