Alternate Means - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1779826

Alternate Means

At the May 14 Southampton Village Board meeting, Jeff Brodlieb, chair of the Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation, and Paul Travis, chair of the Planning Commission, suggested an amendment to the local code which would redefine “historic” as being built 50 years from the then-date.

The intention is noble: to save more architecturally significant houses from the wrecking ball.

The approach is legally ignorant. Such a local law, which is contrary to the New York State and even federal definitions of “historic,” could and would be easily attacked in any court of law, where federal and state laws trump local laws — unlike the procedures prevalent in ARB hearings.

What I tried to suggest last night, when the chair would not recognize my raised hand, was that our mayor ask our village attorney to research New York State statutory and case law to find a more reliable, state level precedent that could become part of the Building Department and ARB custom for evaluating whether structures like Four Fountains could or should be saved, even if they were built after 1926, the present limit for “historic.”

It seems to me, just from horseback, that SEQRA, the New York State environmental law continuously and illegally ignored by our own Planning Board, may have a gem or two within the statute, or certainly in case law, which makes it unnecessary to amend our own code with a redefinition, which will populate our New York State Supreme Court and deplete the village administration’s legal funds.

State landmarking case laws may be yet another source for a precedent for saving houses that constitute a contribution to our community, without searching for a local answer that can be defeated so easily and successfully by use of federal or state definitions of historic.

Evelyn Konrad

Attorney at law