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May 11, 2011 10:11 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Approves Highly Anticipated PDD Legislation

May 11, 2011 10:53 AM

After seven public hearings colored by vigorous debate and comments from a diverse cross-section of community members, the Southampton Town Board on Tuesday afternoon unanimously approved legislation to reform the planned development district planning tool.

The approval prompted light applause from the back of the Town Board room after all five Town Board members voted in favor of it. Those who got up to speak at the podium thanked the board for what many have termed a “model” process in bringing all sides of the community to the table.

Planned development districts, or PDDs, are planning tools designed to enable developers to surpass zoning restrictions on their properties in exchange for some form of community benefit. They were, and continue to be, the subject of intense criticism by the public. They have come under heavy fire by the public, which has argued that the current legislation is vague and doesn’t quantify the required community benefit. Community members also argued that the legislation doesn’t welcome public input until the very last minute—at times too late to alter a plan. The issue has dominated public comment at Town Board meetings and consistently headlined the agendas of civic groups and citizens advisory committees.

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst thanked everyone who worked on rewriting the legislation at Tuesday’s meeting. “A 
lot of hard work went into it,” 
she said. “A lot of careful thought.”

The revised legislation speaks to a wide range of community concerns, according to a summary of the 20-page law provided by Jennifer Garvey, a town spokeswoman who has spearheaded the effort in the supervisor’s office. Main highlights include a revised pre-submission process, with a public hearing being held before plans are officially submitted for review. Other key elements include hard time frames to provide predictability for the community, town staff and applicants; an enhanced pre-submission process that asks applicants to describe how the project would fit within the community and provide analysis of proposed community benefits; a definition of what is not considered a community benefit; and a mandate that the town keep hamlet-specific community benefit priority lists that would be updated every two years, and referred to during the PDD process.

It also attempts to improve oversight of the community benefits, particularly with a cash-in-lieu option, which has drawn the ire of the public. That option allows developers to make a cash payment as a community benefit. Under the revised law, such a payment would be placed in a restricted account. In addition, a committee that would include members from the community would be charged with overseeing the implementation of the overall project, including the life of the community benefit.

The legislation received a hefty endorsement in the form of a letter signed by a contingent of 11 civic groups from different parts of town. Dubbed a statement of support, the letter points to a number of improvements in the law and urged the board to adopt it at Tuesday’s meeting.

“After several rounds of hearings and amendments, we believe the latest version of this package of PDD reforms is ready for approval, and we encourage the Town Board to proceed with its adoption at the next regularly scheduled meeting,” reads the statement. “While every issue raised by each constituency is unlikely to ever be met, we believe that the overarching benefits of these amendments go a long way toward the responsible implementation of a PDD law that will benefit the interest of community members and applicants alike.”

Among the members of the community who spoke in support of the legislation were Bob Deluca, the president and CEO for the environmental organization the Group for the East End; Wayne Bruyn, an attorney from the Southampton-based firm O’Shea, Marcincuk & Bruyn, who represents many PDD applicants; and Andrea Spilka, president of Southampton Town Civic Coalition.

Ms. Garvey released a statement by Ms. Throne-Holst shortly after the adoption of the legislation: “It was really a pleasure to work on this initiative and hear so many thoughtful and thorough suggestions. I can’t imagine how we could have made this process more open or inclusive, and I think the end result is excellent legislation. I thank everyone who participated in this process for their hard work and sincere interest in looking out for the future of our town.”

Gabreski Airport PDD

The Town Board on Tuesday also held a public hearing to review proposed changes to an application for a planned development district at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. The most significant change was a request to increase the height of a hotel to three stories, instead of the two stories permitted in a previously approved plan from 2007.

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See comments under the other 5/11/11 article (link above).

The proposed "Billboard Hotel" will DWARF the proposed 96 square foot sign IMO (assuming the hotel is still located just east of the Riverhead Road).

Hopefully the "visual graphic" requested by ATH will include a full Western Elevation of all structures and signs as seen from the Riverhead Road. This graphic should include a view from the eastern edge of the roadway, with the height of the hotel shown accurately in elevation, ...more
By PBR (4952), Southampton on May 11, 11 3:07 PM
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