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Feb 11, 2019 12:53 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Former Sag Harbor ARB Chairman Explains His Resignation, Calls For Tougher Zoning Rules

Feb 13, 2019 9:49 AM

The Sag Harbor Village Board on Tuesday, February 12, accepted the resignation of Anthony Brandt, former chairman of the village’s Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review, and appointed ARB member Dean Gomolka as acting chairperson. Bethany Deyermond will continue as the board’s vice chairwoman.

In his recent letter of resignation—one that he at first refused to share, and which Sag Harbor Village officials almost entirely redacted—Mr. Brandt dished out criticisms and recommendations to the Village Board. In part, he called for a reduced role for the “unpaid and un-elected” ARB and a tighter zoning code.

Mr. Brandt, who is 82, had announced his immediate resignation on Wednesday, January 30—which means he will not cast a final, potentially deciding vote on the controversial 2 West Water Street townhouse project before the ARB, dubbed by some opponents as the “Bialsky Behemoth,” which Mr. Brandt had opposed.

After initially declining to do so, Mr. Brandt on Tuesday, February 5, agreed this week to share the entire letter with The Press.

In it, he made it clear that he’d planned to resign from the board for quite some time, mostly to focus on writing a book. He also expressed concern, however, about the “too generous nature” of a portion of the village’s zoning code that governs the maximum gross floor area of homes, calling it overly complicated and overly liberal, and saying that in some cases it has allowed new additions to “swallow” original historic houses.

The amendment governing gross floor area was adopted at about the same time, in 2016, that the village rescinded a zoning provision that required Village Board approval for homes of more than 4,000 square feet.

In his letter to village officials, Mr. Brandt also took issue with the village’s removal of that provision, which, he said, left the ARB to decide important applications that “create controversies about the very nature of the village and its future.”

He said the proposed Bialsky townhouses at 2 West Water Street were an example, having “divided the village right down the middle, with some citizens protesting the size of the buildings, and others willing to accept the size as a trade-off” for the future John Steinbeck Memorial Park.

“Applications of this nature should not be left in the hands of an unpaid and un-elected board of citizen volunteers,” Mr. Brandt said in his letter, noting that in the past large decisions were actually made by public referendum.

Barring that, he said, the Village Board should take control of important applications.

“You are elected, you are paid. It should be your responsibility,” he concluded in his resignation letter.

Beth Kamper, the Sag Harbor clerk administrator, explained that the letter had been redacted when released by village officials in response to a Freedom of Information Law request by The Press because “the comments … constituted opinions or recommendations and not final policy determinations, therefore, allowing the information to be withheld,” as per FOIL provisions that allow an agency to deny access to records “that are not statistical or factual tabulations of data.”

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