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Sep 29, 2010 12:01 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

A call for PDD moratorium in Southampton Town; Supervisor willing to consider dropping controversial planning tool

Sep 29, 2010 12:01 PM

Months of mounting criticism over a controversial planning tool, the planned development district, culminated Tuesday in Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s call for a moratorium on all such projects until the legislation governing them is more clearly spelled out—or until the Town Board opts to eliminate the option completely.

“I would like to suggest that as a Town Board we put forward a moratorium on PDDs as we consider this law and other work that’s being done, as well as a consideration of whether we want to abolish the PDD process altogether,” Ms. Throne-Holst said at a public hearing at Southampton Town Hall on Tuesday. The hearing focused on proposed legislation relating to PDDs, special zoning designations created by the Town Board that allow developers to surpass standard restrictions in exchange for providing some community benefit. The new measure seeks to clarify exactly what “community benefit” means in the PDD law.

A moratorium would halt several ongoing PDD projects that have been the focus of recent debate, including a plan by developer Robert Morrow to create a shopping and residential complex in the hamlet of Tuckahoe on 12 acres of land along County Road 39. It would also leave hanging the status of negotiations between town officials and Gregg and Mitchell Rechler, developers who have promised to preserve the historic Canoe Place Inn in Hampton Bays in exchange for constructing 40 condominiums on the east side of the Shinnecock Canal.

After Ms. Throne-Holst suggested the moratorium, Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi questioned the feasibility and necessity of that move, noting that all actions on proposed PDD projects are “discretionary,” and the Town Board can simply choose on its own to drop consideration of a project. “From a practical perspective, I just don’t see how that would work,” he said of a moratorium.

No action was taken Tuesday on the supervisor’s proposals. The Town Board voted to adjourn the hearing on Ms. Graboski’s PDD legislation till October 12, when it will resume.

Several residents lined up to speak at the hearing, which focused on legislation sponsored by Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski to consider a proposal to more clearly define the term “community benefits” in the town’s law on PDDs. Those benefits more clearly defined in the town’s legislation would include open space, affordable housing, parks, elder care, day care, and other “physical, social or cultural amenities, or cash in lieu thereof, of benefit to the residents of the community.”

Some residents raised questions about the “cash in lieu of” benefit. Francis Genovese read a letter into the record written by Water Mill resident Marlene Haresign, who noted that allowing developers to give cash to the town raises issues.

“Future town officials who are trying to plug holes in a town budget may be seduced by the millions of dollars that a developer may offer ... Cash payments to the Town Board should not be part of the discussion,” read the letter from Ms. Haresign.

The legislation addresses that concern, Ms. Graboski pointed out, by placing any money received in a “dedicated fund” that can be withdrawn only by a Town Board resolution.

Many residents who spoke at the hearing said that while the town was heading in the right direction in more clearly defining community benefits, more still needs to be done.

Southampton lawyer John Bennett, who has been critical of the Tuckahoe PDD application, stood up at the podium to criticize the Town Board’s efforts to identify community benefits, noting that not enough is being done to quantify the benefits. “What we’re doing here tonight really isn’t doing anything at all, to be blunt,” he said.

But that was before Ms. Throne-Holst called for a moratorium on all PDDs. On Wednesday morning, Mr. Bennett said he was pleasantly surprised by Ms. Throne-Holst’s suggestion. “I think the Town Board is actually starting to listen now to the fact that the public doesn’t like these PDDs, in particular the commercial ones,” he said.

After the meeting, Ms. Throne-Holst said that she’d like more time to explore Ms. Graboski’s efforts to define community benefits, and her own planning reform advisory group’s work in identifying, hamlet by hamlet, what is and isn’t a community benefit. For example, in Hampton Bays, she said, the community has spoken loudly against more affordable housing units, while in Sag Harbor, the community has actually asked for more affordable housing. Other measures she said she’d like to see materialize include requiring developers of such projects to hold pre-submission conferences, where they would present their plans at a public work session before any action is taken on them. Ms. Throne-Holst initiated that measure last year for significant applications that come before the Planning Board.

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As a greatly disappointed critic of Anna Throne Holst and her many anti-community initiatives, I will be the first to applaud her miraculous epiphany to the concept of public officials representing the will of their constituents.

I shall now go to my place of worship and light a few candles in celebration!
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Sep 30, 10 11:17 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Sep 30, 10 11:17 AM
wow, never saw ath sweat like that when Kabot was in the HOT SEAT.
By uncleronk (136), southold on Sep 30, 10 11:27 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Oct 1, 10 2:49 PM
YES to a PDD moratorium! But we must remain ever vigilant because many developers will use a moratorium as a "cooling off" period hoping folks will forget. We won't, Mr. Morrow.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Sep 30, 10 1:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
The PDD needs to be abolished. WHile there were a couple of good PDD's it seems that the latest round of applicants havent demonstrated enough public benefit. Now keep in mind the developers knew of the zoning of the properties when they bought them, so they knew their potential going in. Going for a PDD is to maximize beyond what they paid for. I havent met one person who is in favor of this development tool.
By North Sea Citizen (564), North Sea on Sep 30, 10 1:48 PM
2 members liked this comment
Apparently no one has told ATH that the Town Board can simply say "ENC" (Elect Not to Consider". They can't be sued because the developer never has a right to a PDD... but no, instead let's make a big splash and say we are going to do a moratorium. And let me guess, Mr. Morrow's project would be exempt because the process has already started?

I know the article states the Tuckahoe PDD would be halted - but that is not how these things work (look at the motel/condo conversion moratorium ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 30, 10 2:14 PM
2 members liked this comment
Someone should let these developers know that condos aren't selling. This place in watermill has been sitting on the market for like 4 years! For a while they were even offering a free car with it...stil hasnt sold!(and no it's not mine)
http://www.corcoran.com/property/listing.aspx?Region=LI&ListingID=47780
By bridgewoodsmom (14), bridgehampton on Sep 30, 10 2:57 PM
Gee, and at only 575k.

I wouldn't pay $57,500 for it!

Talk about inflated. I've seen less padding in fake bras...
By Mr. Z (11677), North Sea on Sep 30, 10 10:28 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Oct 1, 10 2:53 PM
Shame I didn't get to read that, it was probably GOOD!
By Mr. Z (11677), North Sea on Oct 1, 10 3:43 PM
There should be NO question this is the 'right thing to do" for the local community.

There's an old saying the "(blank) rolls downhill".

It's time we got our hands dirty, and started flinging it BACK...
By Mr. Z (11677), North Sea on Sep 30, 10 9:21 PM
The Canoe Place Inn should be torn down. It is nothing but a fire trap. Everyone that invested in the place lost money. We do not need condos on the east side . There is plenty of room on the west side if you tear down the CPI and the dump next door to it and the other house across Montauk Hwy.
By longislander40 (37), hampton bays on Oct 1, 10 10:17 AM
1 member liked this comment
No-No Nuzzi rides again. "I don't see how that would work", he said, meaning of course that it won't serve the interests of his constituents (developers).
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 1, 10 10:25 AM
Noah Way is so right! You have to give Chris Nuzzi some kind of perverse credit, though, for sticking by his development friends even when everyone else seems to be going the other way. This is a good piece, but Ms. Abbas missed Anna Throne-Holst's excellent response to Mr. Nuzzi's instinctive objection. She said that, whether it will be technically a moratorium or something else, the Town Board needs to send a message to the public and the developers that is isn't going to consider PDD applications ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Oct 1, 10 12:44 PM
It should be noted that Chris Nuzzi was the only board member to vote against allowing the Morrow Tuckahoe Mall PDD to move forward and to publicly state that the application should be withdrawn. Credit where credit is due.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Oct 1, 10 2:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
We all do have the right, and ability to change our minds.

Maybe Chris finally realizes the hazards of overpriced housing, and high density population in a confined space, namely Long Island...
By Mr. Z (11677), North Sea on Oct 1, 10 3:45 PM
The Town of Southampton is the only local government that uses this supposed planning tool. Have we (the taxpayers) not paid hundreds of thousands of dollars on study after study, master plans, blight studies and revitalization studies that all end up on a shelf in a back room to be forgotten. We have current zoning in place for a reason. Enough is enough. A moratorium is a great idea, abolishment may be a better alternative.
By Brad (28), Northampton on Oct 2, 10 8:28 AM
1 member liked this comment
The Master Plans and all the studies total into the millions!!!
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Oct 2, 10 10:26 PM
Now lets go forward and tear down the CPI and the dump next door. Put up your Marriott Time Shares , that would bring money into the community. If you want more restaurants use the stores in town , this way it would clean up the area.
By longislander40 (37), hampton bays on Oct 2, 10 12:16 PM
1 member liked this comment
Is it just me or in loseing the PPD process we give the town board a pass on development. We then just put everthing on the zoning board of appeals and politics is out of the equation. I see this as a lack of leadership. "Nature" is correct the board can ENC any application. The vague reference to community benefit is better NOT defined so that those that we elect (and unelect) are accountable. The real skinny on the PDD and its process is that current zoning has NOT produced acceptable development. ...more
By Bob Schepps (77), Southampton on Oct 3, 10 8:50 AM
I think I share Mr. Schepps' goals, but believe he's going after them in the wrong way. He says we'd be better advised not to define "community benefit," declaring "the more you try and pigeon hole things like community benefit the more you play into the hands of some really smart, resourceful, wealthy people." I understand why he feels that way, but long experience has taught me the opposite. The less definition there is, the wider the hole through which the developer can drive a truck. The ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Oct 3, 10 12:45 PM
I echo those comments - kind of like how an acceptable ag use on ag easements in clustered subdivisons is polo-fields... give me a break
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Oct 3, 10 11:01 PM
Anna you are a pretty woman on the outside...and with this action -you became pretty on the inside as well. Thank-you for supporting the citizens of Southampton Towns. Thank-you.
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Oct 4, 10 2:30 PM