meghan heckman, 2019 election

Story - News

Jul 11, 2017 2:27 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Repeals PDD Law On Tuesday

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman during Tuesday's meeting. JEN NEWMAN
Jul 12, 2017 10:18 AM

The Southampton Town Board repealed a controversial zoning law, allowing a special level of zoning called planned development districts, on Tuesday afternoon following months of debate.

After extensive review during a year-long moratorium on new PDD applications, which ended in June before being extended, members of a panel originally charged with tweaking the legislation ultimately decided that it should be repealed instead, because it removed the predictability from zoning, Town Attorney Carl Benincasa said at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting.

The board agreed, and the measure to repeal the law was unanimously approved.

“This is something that I’ve been living with over the last year and a half,” Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said. “I’ve been trying very hard to analyze this law … I believe the law to be fundamentally flawed.”

A committee made up of town officials worked to evaluate the legislation over the past year. According to Mr. Schneiderman, they were previously leaning toward keeping the PDD legislation in place 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. Those projects typically would be sponsored by the town or nonprofit or not-for-profit development firm.

“Although I had hoped to find a way to fix it,” the supervisor continued, “it was too complicated.”

One of the committee’s biggest issues with the law, said Mr. Benincasa, who sat on the panel, was that it offered too much flexibility for developers, and went against the entire purpose of zoning—to bring stability and structure to the question of what could be built where.

“Anything, theoretically, could be approved by this board on any parcel pursuant to the PDD law,” Mr. Benincasa said, later adding that the law “created a level of unpredictability.”

Tuesday’s vote eliminated the possibility of PDDs within the township for any application filed after June 6, 2016, when the moratorium was first enacted. During a public hearing at the end of June, the Town Board extended the moratorium another three months, until September, but that legislation is now moot.

Environmentalists have been pushing for the law’s repeal since 2015, charging that it mostly benefited would-be developers by allowing them to greatly increase their potential profits in exchange for minimal community benefits—when the system, they’ve argued, should work the other way around.

The Town Board’s repealing of the legislation had the full support of the dozen community leaders and residents who spoke at Tuesday’s public hearing.

Fred Havemeyer, who has declared his plans to primary Mr. Schneiderman for the Democratic endorsement for supervisor, described the legislation as a “cloud” that the town has been living under, causing issues within the community. He pointed specifically to a pending PDD application for “The Hills at Southampton,” a proposed luxury golf course resort targeting nearly 600 acres in East Quogue. He again asked that the board reject that proposal so the community could “go on to clearer skies and brighter pastures.”

Shinnecock Hills resident Hope Sandrow also took to the podium to express her support of the repeal.

“Our community is on the brink of being ruined by development,” said Ms. Sandrow, a vehement opponent of another PDD, which permitted the construction of 37 townhouses on the eastern side of the Shinnecock Canal, as well as the restoration of the Canoe Place Inn.

You've read 1 of 7 free articles this month.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

Perfect ! Now if we could only get rid of all those cell phone towers and restaurants it can be just like it was in 1946... Fools you cant stop progress the key is and always was smart responsible progress. Now the whole town can look like the CPI.
PDDs are about doing things the way we want and not what the cheep up island builders want You just gave away the only control you had, What you get when you force them to build as of right is cheep materials and short cuts.

This was the ...more
By joe hampton (3424), The Hamptons on Jul 11, 17 9:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
It is rare that I find myself in agreement with Joe, but the fundamental premise of the PDD law was a good one. The problems only developed when those making the decisions on their approval did not exhibit the intestinal fortitude necessary to ensure the benefit was to the people of the town rather than its political hacks and their benefactors.
By VOS (1230), WHB on Jul 12, 17 12:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
Zoning and Town planning is a good idea. The PDD was a bad idea to begin with as it gave too much latitude in development and increased density. If you want costs to go down, i.e., taxes...

One would think high density is not the way to go.
By Mr. Z (11670), North Sea on Jul 11, 17 9:48 PM
Repeal, and not replace? Probably not a good strategy, town board, especially after previous town boards took pains to pass the PDD law in the first place to address issues that will now surely re-appear. I love the comment above about "intestinal fortitude". Not sure it was ever the law that was the problem, especially considering that town boards do not even have to entertain PDDs they don't like.
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Jul 12, 17 10:01 AM
1 member liked this comment
So they threw the baby out with the bath water. The law should have been kept with two modifications:
1. The PDD project itself must be a community benefit.
2. After the board has done their due diligence, the project must be placed on a ballot for approval by the taxpayers.

A perfect example of how this would be beneficial can be found in the articles regarding an assisted living facility in place of the currently proposed Tuckahoe shopping center, a project which would currently ...more
By bird (824), Sag Harbor on Jul 12, 17 11:15 AM
PDD's did have a community benefit requirement - the problem comes with defining it. Some members of the public may say that a waterfront boardwalk and an STP that a few houses can tie into is a "community benefit". Some members of the public may say that a grocery store can count as a community benefit, but many others will not. Even when you have a strict list of what counts, developers with deep pockets will figure out a way to loosen those definitions.

The second point you make ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Jul 12, 17 12:26 PM
Nature -

1. The PDD rules stated that a community benefit must be provided. This has been interpreted by the SHTB as any small trivial bone the developer was willing to toss while the modification I recommended was that the PDD project itself must be a community benefit. Not the same thing.
2. I agree with your second point so have just the area affected vote on the PDD. It could be done by school or fire district. That would be fair as the people being affected would be the one's ...more
By bird (824), Sag Harbor on Jul 12, 17 2:55 PM
Ok 0 but what constitutes a "community benefit"? There's no reasonable way to define it when the whole premise of the PDD is to permit things that aren't permissible under existing code and/or were not considered during land use plans.
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Jul 12, 17 3:50 PM
"I can't define pornography, but I know it when I see it..."

Those famous words are from a Supreme Court case. Community benefit would be much the same thing. Before a developer attempts a PDD they would have to give some thought as to wether or not they can sell the project as a community benefit to the board. If the board agrees then the voters would get final say if it is a benefit and do they want it in their community. Government by and for the people. What could be more American?
By bird (824), Sag Harbor on Jul 13, 17 6:55 AM
Am i missing something here? East Hampton is doing just fine and they never had a PDD law in place. CPI where was the community benefit? no one has yet to explain that to me. Sandy Hollow is to much density if they had cut the number of units in half, I think the public would have been fine with it.
By JM11968 (71), southampton on Jul 12, 17 11:38 AM
Thank you for making my argument. CPI was not a community benefit and Sandy Hollow would have been voted down by the voting public.
Therefore using my suggested changes to the PDD law, neither project would have moved forward.

So why do we need the PDD law? One example would be the now 2 potential assisted living facilities that are interested in moving into Southampton. These facilities are illegal under current zoning and would have been considered under the PDD rules. Now the clowns ...more
By bird (824), Sag Harbor on Jul 12, 17 3:12 PM
So if it was such a bad idea to repeal the PDD law, why did the Town Board vote unanimously to do it? Christine Scalera wasn't there, but my guess is that she would have voted for repeal also if she could have been there.

And, if repeal was such a bad idea, why did those attending yesterday's meeting speak unanimously and warmly in favor of it? I've never seen the Town Board get such strong support from the public.

The PDD law was well intended, but it allowed too much latitude ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Jul 12, 17 12:14 PM
"And, if repeal was such a bad idea, why did those attending yesterday's meeting speak unanimously and warmly in favor of it?" I would guess laziness and theatrics.

"The PDD law was well intended, but it allowed too much latitude for developers and they seized on that latitude to distort its purpose." The minor changes I suggested would have put an end to the problems.

"And hey, for an ordinary change of zone, they only need three votes on the Town Board, so right away that's an ...more
By bird (824), Sag Harbor on Jul 12, 17 3:26 PM
"And, if repeal was such a bad idea, why did those attending yesterday's meeting speak unanimously and warmly in favor of it?" Yes, all 12 of them. I suspect most in favor of repeal have zero confidence in the town board and would rather see the law go away then give the board yet another opportunity to do more irreversible damage to our town.

"and the Republicans win...that's a win for developers in general" You must be joking. ATH and friends never saw a PDD the didn't love and never ...more
By bird (824), Sag Harbor on Jul 12, 17 3:37 PM
Glad to see that the thought of a Fred Havemeyer candidacy has gotten under your skin Turkey Bridge, it's time for the political establishment to take a back seat and let folks vote for the candidate , not the Party!! GO FRED GO !!
By bigfresh (4591), north sea on Jul 14, 17 6:07 AM
So we are to re-elect Jay so that he can approve the Hills? What are our alternatives? Let's give Fred a chance and see what the voters think. Maybe Jay will see the light and bring a vote to the project before the election. Is that too much to ask as we approach 4 years of dallying?
By Taz (699), East Quogue on Jul 12, 17 12:24 PM
The canal and cpi site look awesome
By chief1 (2784), southampton on Jul 12, 17 5:16 PM
How about changing zoning laws so houses that destroy our way of life out here aren't built. Better yet, how about a building moratorium.
By rvs (106), sag harbor on Jul 12, 17 10:41 PM
A point worthy of discussion rvs.
Do you have any thoughts to get the thread started?
A while back there was some talk of limiting house size to a percentage of lot size. I like this as a place to start.
By bird (824), Sag Harbor on Jul 13, 17 7:10 AM
The PDD projects that have been "approved" by the town board but are not actively being worked on should have an expiration date. If the Rechlers can't complete the CPI restoration Within the last five years or even start construction within a reasonable time frame the permits should be withdrawn. That building is dangerous in its current condition and is an eye sore it should be knocked down.

The 37 Town House project should also be reviewed to see if it has any merit. If not the PDD ...more
By Ernie (88), Hampton Bays on Jul 13, 17 2:42 PM
2 members liked this comment
CPI/townhouses are supposed to be built within three (3) years - that expires within a matter of months. This is an opportunity to take back public access to the canal and develop the canal as water front business as it was intended - with a real public promenade - that would boost tourism. Residential along the canal is a disgrace and robs the public of use and access of public land and water.
The town board needs to do the right thing and reject any request to extend that PDD approval.
By jgordon (7), Shoreham on Jul 15, 17 1:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
power tools, home improvements, building supplies, Eastern Long Island