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Jan 4, 2017 11:24 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Officials Discuss Southampton Town PDD Changes After Moratorium in May

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman
Jan 5, 2017 11:53 AM

Seven months into a year-long moratorium on new applications for planned development districts in Southampton Town, members of the Town Board are still conflicted over the law’s future.

Since the moratorium was finalized in May, the Town Board has stopped reviewing and accepting new applications for PDDs, which generally permit more intense development on specific properties than allowed by current zoning, in exchange for community benefits. Critics of the law have complained that the interpretation of “community benefits” has widened over the years, and the use of PDDs to sidestep zoning regulations has become far too common.

During the one-year moratorium, a committee of town officials have met monthly to discuss possible changes to the PDD legislation, according to Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. “We’ve just kind of been going through what’s in the town’s planning interests and what could be done without PDDs, with regular zone changes,” the supervisor said.

Members of the committee evaluating the legislation include Councilman 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.

The supervisor said he believes the PDD legislation should be limited to projects that are, 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.

“That way developers couldn’t use the PDD for private personal profit by changing the code to enrich themselves,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “Currently, it allows for it. I never liked the idea that you could gain through zoning but give back through external community benefits that were not related to the project. It looks like you’re buying the zone change.”

According to Mr. Burke, the committee is leaning toward this idea, to keep the PDDs as a planning tool primarily for public projects and to try to look in the zoning codes to provide flexibility.

“The benefits that go to the community would be more related to the actual application itself,” Mr. Burke said. “The application has to stand on its own.”

Republican Town Board members Christine Scalera and Stan Glinka, who fought against the enaction of the moratorium in May, have not been involved in any of the talks evaluating the legislation.

Ms. Scalera said she did not believe a moratorium was ever needed, because the Town Board already had the authority to turn down any PDD application, or to refuse to even consider any application—a PDD is considered only at the Town Board’s discretion. Additionally, since the moratorium did not apply to PDD applications that had already passed the public hearing stage of pre-application review—that includes The Hills at Southampton proposal in East Quogue—those PDDs would be exempt from any changes eventually made to the legislation.

“They were given ice in the winter,” she said regarding residents and the moratorium. “In an attempt to be more transparent, we actually became more confusing and overcomplicated things,” she continued on the history of the legislation.

Ms. Scalera said although she was not an advocate for necessarily keeping the PDD legislation, she sees it as a useful planning tool for the town to design a project in a way that could offer community benefits—as opposed to traditional zoning, which did not require any benefits and gave town officials little say in specific design.

“It’s one of the big underlying issues with PDDs—that there’s a perception that they are developer-driven as opposed to town-driven,” she said. “It should be very clear that the town is in the driver’s seat.”

Ms. Scalera noted that if the community felt the PDD legislation should not be in place or should be modified, she felt that zoning codes, which were established in the 1970s, would need to be changed—an idea that Mr. Schneiderman agreed with.

“It has to be updated,” he said of the town’s zoning. “I think will solve a lot of the problems. The plan we’re using is more than 20 years old. Sometimes we have to take a fresh look.”

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Jay Schneiderman has it right. The community benefit ought to be something intrinsic to the proposed PDD project, such as changing zoning to allow for a library. This business of developers throwing in a small park elsewhere in town, or a grant to the school district, as the "community benefit," smells like buying the zone change, just as Mr. Schneiderman says.

Christine Scalera has it wrong. She maintains that no change is needed because the town can deny or decline to entertain a PDD ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Jan 4, 17 1:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
Turkey you have it wrong. Ms. Scalera did not maintain no changes were needed. She maintained that a Moratorium was not needed to make changes. Very important distinction. I believe she said publicly more than once she supports changes and an all out Repeal if the public hearings show thats what people want.

Appreciate the curbing of development point. But lets be honest Mr. Schniederman proven to be disappointing in so many ways is not a poster child for that cause.

Shouldn't ...more
By Roughrider28 (80), southampton on Jan 4, 17 1:45 PM
2 members liked this comment
Roughrider, Christine Scalera's putting out kind of a mixed message here, and we both may have been misled, maybe not intentionally, but misled nevertheless.

You're right about the distinction between not needing a moratorium and not needing any change in the legislation. I was careless there. The article clearly reports that it's the moratorium Ms. Scalera is talking about, but my mistake is natural when you consider that when someone says that the town can just deny or decline to review ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Jan 4, 17 4:38 PM
I don't feel misled by Ms. Scalera at all and I'm sorry if you really do and in an election year I can presume why. I don't find Ms. Scalera to ever be on both sides of an issue, and she is unlike most politicians because she is quite frank. My reading and knowledge of her position on this issue is that she was not for the moratorium but thought there needed to be changes and although recognized it could be used as a useful tool she was just as willing to repeal it if that was what the residents ...more
By Roughrider28 (80), southampton on Jan 4, 17 7:51 PM
... "she was not an advocate of PDD legislation, she sees it as a useful planning tool."
By William Rodney (555), southampton on Jan 4, 17 4:52 PM
IMHO there should be 2 changes to the law:

1. Instead of the applicant supplying some sort of community benefit, the PDD itself must be deemed a community benefit.

2. After the board has done its due diligence and if the PDD has passed the board, it must then be placed on the ballot in the next general election for approval by the voters at large. The SHTB has repeatedly shown it cannot be trusted with the authority to act alone.
By bird (824), Sag Harbor on Jan 4, 17 10:20 PM
Mr Glinka 7 Ms Scalera should have been part of the talks. PDD's have caused the most outcry from residents and have not provided enough community benefit otherwise no one would be complaining, much less en mass. Looking at this from the outside though they state their reasons, to me, it looks like they dont want to upset their developer base by not participatiing. The planning tool needs to be either amended or eliminated. I do not have any sympathy for the developers as they know exactly what ...more
By North Sea Citizen (564), North Sea on Jan 5, 17 6:35 AM
3 members liked this comment
North Sea, as I understand it the Supervisor formed this group. Neither Councilman Glinka nor Scalera were asked to be a part of it. If you were being fair, the same could be said about Councilwoman Lofstad who is then also a friend of the developers so your politics is showing. You think the Supervisor is heading down the right path? The article would indicate that the Supervisors and others on the committee are looking to keep the PDD. They say for being a benefit itself like let's say affordable ...more
By Roughrider28 (80), southampton on Jan 5, 17 9:42 AM
While the PDD concept is solid, in practice it has proven ,time and time again, to be a tool wielded by developers to their benefit. North Sea has it right.
By bigfresh (4590), north sea on Jan 5, 17 10:11 AM
1 member liked this comment
Shut this corrupt slush fund down. Yesterday.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Jan 5, 17 10:27 AM
Ms. Scalera is being coy. She knows darn well that "public benefits" are defined under state law and the town's PDD code and that no public benefits are being provided in the abomination known as the Canoe Place Inn and townhouse/wastewater treatment project she voted to approve in 2015. The PDD law is a farce and an illusion - if Ms. Scalera is right that the PDD process is town-driven, then why were the Draft EIS and Final EIS written by the developers?
The Town can protect the public ...more
By jgordon (7), Shoreham on Jan 5, 17 12:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
The PDD law is nothing more than a way to get around the zoning laws by developers who have enough money to bend the rules and corrupt the town board. The law places too much power in the hands of the town board and the political parties that have put them in power. We should get rid of the PDD law and build within our current zoning laws. If a property has to be re-zoned to build a public building or popular community project grant an exception. If a developer wants to build a certain type of project ...more
By Ernie (88), Hampton Bays on Jan 5, 17 12:47 PM
3 members liked this comment
Chief1, you sound like another person who supportsd the CPI PDD. I guess you think it was a great improvement for Hampton Bays. We are still waiting for the Rechlers to start the restoration. The demand for the 37 million dollar town houses is overwhelming, just look at Ponquogue Point sales.
By Ernie (88), Hampton Bays on Jan 12, 17 5:08 PM
Hampton Bays needs to use the PDD for projects or it will never change. Times are changing get with it Ernie!
By chief1 (2783), southampton on Jan 7, 17 10:10 AM
I need to say, and I should have said earlier, that in order to provide a wider range of people and ideas, either Stan Glinka or Christine Scalera should have been included on the PDD evaluation committee.

Otherwise I stand by all my comments above: Jay Schneiderman has it right on PDDs (and has done a good job generally so far), and Christine Scalera either has it wrong in relying on the Town's discretion to filter out the ill-advised projects, or she is putting out a mixed message at ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Jan 8, 17 9:37 AM
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