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Jun 30, 2010 11:55 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town PDD process upside down, critics say

Jun 30, 2010 11:55 AM

Public criticism of several current proposals for planned development districts has put Southampton Town’s use of such zoning exemptions up for public debate in recent weeks, with some critics saying the town’s intricately engineered zone-changing tool is not being used in the way originally intended when the law was created a decade ago.

The original perception that drove the creation of the PDD law was that a significant benefit to a community was possible in certain instances if a specific property’s zone could be changed. Now, some argue that in too many instances, the PDD has become just a new form of development application, with which developers seek to ignore zoning by offering some token “benefit” to a community, whether or not the community needs it, or wants it.

“The problem is that the process is being driven by the application and not the community need,” said Bob DeLuca, president of the Bridgehampton-based Group for the East End. “When that happens, control begins to slip to the applicant. They say: I will address a community need, but I need this extra density or that new use in return. I’m not sure why this happens, but the town ends up trying to negotiate a better outcome for a proposal, when the proposal might not have had a leg to stand on to start with.”

All PDD applications should be born from a directed study of a need, Mr. DeLuca said: identify that a grocery store is needed, for example, then start looking at all the properties where one could go, and build a proposal up from there.

Public benefit, the seminal concept behind the PDD law, has grown too vague in many of the applications that have come before the Town Board in recent years, Mr. DeLuca said. He pointed to a Hampton Bays shopping center approved six years ago via the PDD process—anchored by a new King Kullen grocery store, less than 2 miles from where one of the markets already stood.

“Other than moving a grocery store up the street from another grocery store, what does the community get—besides traffic?” he quipped. “I don’t know who said they’d like to have a grocery store in Tuckahoe, but now we’re prepared to suspend reality about the traffic on County Road 39 to get it.”

Mr. DeLuca was referring to a PDD application by the same developer of Hampton Bays Center. Dubbed “Tuckahoe Main Street,” it seeks special zoning to allow a combination of retail and residential uses, including a King Kullen supermarket and more than 100,000 square feet of commercial development on 12 acres near Magee Street in Tuckahoe.

Other critics of recent PDD applications, including some within town government, say the Southampton Town Board was too quick to accept the Tuckahoe Main Street application on the basis of past requests by Tuckahoe residents for a supermarket outside of the traffic-snarled Southampton Village business district. The board’s action started a methodical and costly process of official review, one that critics say will inevitably lead to some form of the proposal being approved.

The process, Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi said, should have begun with the developer participating in community forums, allowing the project to be tailored specifically to what residents said is actually needed in their backyards, long before it ever showed up on the Town Board’s docket. The official review process is too time-consuming and costly to applicants to be embarked on if it doesn’t ultimately produce a good project in the public’s eye, according to Mr. Nuzzi, the only Town Board member who voted against commencing environmental review of the proposed Tuckahoe PDD application.

“The first stop with a change of zone application should be the community,” he said. “When some of these PDDs wind through a three- to five-year process, only to never be approved, I ask, why would we go through that?”

Other board members, most notably Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, have dismissed the inevitability claim, saying that they will flatly reject the zone change if the public is not in support—in a Viewpoint published in the June 24 edition of The Press, the supervisor expressly pledged as much. And they say the official process is the best way to make sure a project that was rooted in requests by the community ends up coinciding with an actual need.

If there is not a clear benefit to residents, Ms. Throne-Holst said, the project will not win the support of the board. The official review schedule in place after a PDD application is accepted by the board is the most efficient way for the public’s concerns and needs to be documented, she added.

“The public benefit only gets lost if you choose to lose it, which is far from our intention here,” she said this week. “The intention is that the public benefit be front and center—things that the community says they want and need. I think the process sets a record. To me, having these scoping sessions and meeting and following the process we are now in is the best way to gather the comments and suggestions that we will base our decisions on.”

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What does Mr. DeLuca know about Hampton Bays-the new King Kullen and shopping center created six years ago was a real benefit to the community and its residents and is an example of how PDD should be used.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jun 30, 10 4:22 PM
Indeed the example of the King Kullen in Hampton Bays was a poor choice for Bob to use, considering the old King Kullen became Wild by Nature. This didn't happen by chance as King Kullen owns Wild by Nature. I have also seen Mr. DeLuca in Wild by Nature on several occasions, doubt he would be in there if it was still King Kullen.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jun 30, 10 7:04 PM
I disagree - the example is a fine one. You need to familiarize yourself with the definition of "public benefit" in regards to PDDs. I believe the public benefit they claimed was housing above the drug store which is an extreme stretch. Simply creating a "needed" strip mall is not a public benefit.

The idea behind the public benefits was to provide parks, ballfields, or major infrastructure (funds for sewers/sewage treatment plans, burying of lines, installation of public water that ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 30, 10 10:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
Nature is absolutely correct. "Wow, we really like having this grocery store" is not a "public benefit" in terms of the language of a PDD.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jul 1, 10 7:51 PM
Since when is a PDD is not needed to bury lines?

When the whole project is considered it is and will continue to be a public benefit. The traffic flow is controlled entering and leaving, maybe your driving skills leave something to be desired as I have never had a problem with it.

If you're looking for something the complain about, how about the old North Fork Bank building? What a waste that whole plan was. How long do you think that will sit there, looking like trash?


By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 2, 10 12:36 PM
"Since when is a PDD is not needed to bury lines?" - huh?

"When the whole project is considered it is and will continue to be a public benefit." - based on what criteria in the PDD code?

"The traffic flow is controlled entering and leaving, maybe your driving skills leave something to be desired as I have never had a problem with it. " - The design of the parking lot does not make for easy flow of traffic. Stop signs were added on the interior over time to help aleviate this ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 2, 10 2:39 PM
Maybe so, but look at the roads around that grocery. All the traffic that would spill onto the Magee streets, Moses La., and throughout the village are a serious issue.
It would be like routing King Kullen traffic through a Red Creek subdivision.
We have a Waldbaum's in Southampton already (plus a King Kullen in Bridgehampton), and if people can't get over their case of "canal disease" to shop in Hampton Bays, or stock the pantry with weekly/bi-monthly trips to Riverhead to buy in bulk, ...more
By Mr. Z (11285), North Sea on Jun 30, 10 4:46 PM
bob and all his environmental friends forget that property owners have rights and by right as of now the property in question can be built on. the developer wants more than what is allowed hence the pdd application. the developer doesn't to do any study to see what kind of store is needed. he can propose anything and its up to the various boards to see how it fits in the community and those boards are supposed to listen to the community desires. property owners have rights to build and develop. ...more
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Jun 30, 10 9:41 PM
Your view is on point, however you wrong when it comes to "the developer doesn't have to do any study to see what kind of store is needed". It is perfectly acceptable (and expected) for the Town, on a PDD application, to request a market analysis study showing that the proposal can be supported economically by the community.

By asking for this, it reduces the risk of the Town saying yes and the developer not going through with his plans because they are not economically feasable and ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 1, 10 9:14 AM
The developer has a right to build what is allowed under current zoning - there is absolutely no obligation for the town to let a developer build more than what is allowed (your words) -
A developer can ask for whatever they want and the Town has an obligation to the community to just say no -
Over development degrades the property values and rights of all SH property owners, commercial and residential.
By sunshine (47), southampton on Jul 1, 10 11:02 AM
1 member liked this comment
Ridiculous, please don't try to make this about "big government" telling people what to do. The property owners bought that land knowing exactly what it was zoned for. If they want to build there in accordance with that zoning that is, of course, their right. The "government" in this case and so many others has not stood in the way, in fact, it has historically been all to willing to allow developers to whatever they like. It is the people of this district that are fighting this mini-mall and ...more
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jul 1, 10 8:01 PM
2 members liked this comment
TRAFFIC??? WHO CARES ABOUT TRAFFIC??? You are taking a stance that will result in "negotiations" and that is exactly what the developer would like...to negotiate his way through the application process. What doesn't the Water MIll CAC understand when residents and businesspersons in the "immediate area" of the mall, say "NO MALL HERE". If you think there's a traffic problem, you're going to have to hire a traffic expert, pay for his services, and enter his report to the Town Board as "evidence" ...more
By Dodger (157), Southampton Village on Jul 1, 10 10:43 AM
1 member liked this comment
The King Kullen PDD was a perfect example. The problem is not the buildings the problem is that in order to build more than "as of right" there was a benefit to the town. The benefit wasn't supposed to be King Kullen. The benefit was the town building that was built and rented to us for an outrageous amount monthly. How is that a benefit to the Town? The other benefit was the "park" that was built on the site. Have you seen the park? Probably not since it doesn't exist. Or if it does it certainly ...more
By bb (878), Hampton Bays on Jul 1, 10 6:22 PM
3 members liked this comment
Thankyou!!!!
By lursagirl (207), southampton on Jul 4, 10 11:16 AM
Last time I checked, this country was about "We, the people", not "We, the 1%, who hold 95% of the wealth".

Far as I can see, the majority are choosing to speak, and should be heard.

NO MORE OVERDEVELOPMENT. NO MORE EXPLOITATION. NO MORE "ROBBER BARONS".

At least, that's what I hear...
By Mr. Z (11285), North Sea on Jul 4, 10 1:44 AM
1 member liked this comment
The King Kulllen PDD in HB will truly be a disaster if it is ever completely rented out. After a few years, it seems like there's always been vacancies. Now it's WaMu Bank and the former Noel's gift store. I don't know occupancy rate of 2nd floor offices. There isn't enough parking, for one. It is too big and too densely packed. And a previous writer was right that the town pays a huge rental for the community center space.
The joke about the 2 affordable apts out of 8 over the drug store is ...more
By baywoman (162), southampton on Jul 4, 10 10:31 PM
2 members liked this comment
i guess the affordable rental units above the rite aide don't count? nor does the pdd contribution to the hampton bays park district or the option to buy the nutrition center when the Town deems it appropriate.
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Jul 5, 10 11:16 AM
fyi the rent to the community center averages 30k per month
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Jul 5, 10 11:17 AM
1 member liked this comment
So let's just develop every last bit of real estate in whatever way developers see fit. Forget zoning regulations or quality of life issues. Forget the environment, children and families. Let's just give the developer what they want and keep going until Southampton is just like every other strip-mall town in America.
By setyoufree (69), Sag Harbor on Jul 6, 10 9:03 AM
To reply to "ridiculous"...There are two "affordable" rental units over the drugstore. Two. At what price for two "affordables". Also, try and let me know how they were rented and to whom. Also, are they still "affordable" or now fair market rents? When they were built and rental sign appeared, a friend of mine called immediately to inquire. The rental office in NYC said the town was handling the "affordables". The rental office was only renting the fair market apartments. The town said the developer ...more
By baywoman (162), southampton on Jul 6, 10 1:44 PM
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