Mocomanton in Southampton Village. DANA SHAW
A hearing on an application to nearly double the size of Mocomanto‚ÄĒa 125-year-old Victorian home in the estate section of Southampton Village, on Lake Agawam‚ÄĒwill be re-opened to look into allegations that the village‚Äôs historical consultant overstepped his boundaries and gave private advice to the applicant‚Äôs historical consultant.
The application for 472 First Neck Lane, which was first presented to the Southampton Village Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review, or ARB, in November, seeks to add a two-story addition to the north along with a smaller one-story addition. ARB members closed the hearing on February 26 after nearly four months of going back and forth with the developer to adjust various aspects of the plans, and listening to residents who opposed the project.
According to a letter from ARB attorney Elbert ‚ÄúBeau‚ÄĚ Robinson Jr., members of the ARB made the decision to re-open the hearing in an executive session‚ÄĒduring which cameras are off and the public may not be in the meeting room. The letter was addressed to John Bennett, the attorney representing Mocomanto homeowner Ken Fox; and Patrick Fife, the attorney representing neighbors Robert Giuffra, Joyce Giuffra and Whitney Stevens.
Mr. Robinson Jr. said in the letter that the re-opened hearing would be limited to testimony related to allegations concerning the conduct of Mr. Studenroth.‚ÄĚ
Mr. Fife submitted a letter to the board on March 8 requesting that the hearing be left open until the ARB reviews a string of emails between Mr. Studenroth and Joel Snodgrass, a historic preservation consultant hired by Mr. Fox.
Mr. Fife said Mr. Studenroth and Mr. Snodgrass had communications that the ARB members were not made privy to.
‚ÄúThe communications reveal that Mr. Studenroth afforded the applicant preferential treatment, including providing Mr. Snodgrass feedback on the applicant‚Äôs plans before they were presented to the board,‚ÄĚ Mr. Fife said in his letter. ‚ÄúMr. Studenroth even sent his February 7, 2018 report to Mr. Snodgrass before he sent it to the ARB, stating: ‚ÄėPlease let the others receive through their regular channels.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
Some people are questioning whether or not this constitutes a violation of ethics.
‚ÄúThe difficulty is perception,‚ÄĚ Southampton Village Mayor Michael Irving said in an email on Thursday, April 5. ‚ÄúWhen done in a prudent and transparent manner, it is not an ethical issue, but becomes a useful tool in helping boards reach rational and balanced decisions.‚ÄĚ
Mr. Robinson said the hearing will not be open to discussing anything other than these claims.
Because of public notification requirements, the earliest that ARB members will be able to discuss these matters in a public meeting is on Monday, April 23.
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