Amend The Law - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1777613

Amend The Law

As the Southampton Village demolition code now stands, outside of historic districts, the Building Department may issue demolition permits without review for any building built after 1926. For buildings outside historic districts built before 1926, “the building inspector shall consider whether such building meets one or more of the criteria for designation as a landmark under Chapter 65. In considering the foregoing, the building inspector may consult with the village historic preservation consultant.”

The current vacancy of village historical consultant prevents any such consultation — and we should not expect the building inspector to practice a discipline that is not part of the job description.

Moreover, the Building Department has been inundated and understaffed for over two years. Until that is rectified, public safety, zoning, fire prevention, energy conservation, FEMA, coastal erosion management, general construction inspections, etc., take precedence over village preservation concerns.

The first proposed change to our demolition code brings landmark consideration out of a beleaguered Building Department and into the public forum of the biweekly meetings of the Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation. In fact, Southampton Town has codified a similar procedure for any structure built prior to 1941 and has compiled a Historic Resources Survey as a guide for the building division to “refer all application materials to the Landmarks and Historic Districts Board for review and/or recommendations.”

Since 1998, the village has compiled its own survey of contributing buildings, most recently updated in March 2021, that can serve as a resource for our ARB, just as the town’s Historic Resources Survey does for its historic districts board’s review and recommendations.

The second proposed change is to amend the date for landmark consideration from buildings built prior to 1926, to a rolling construction date of 50 years prior to the present. The National Register of Historic Places, the New York State Historic Preservation Office, New York City, Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Montauk and designated heritage districts in Southampton Town all use that rolling 50-year period prior as a cutoff for landmark consideration.

Opponents of the 50-year rolling period ground their arguments in the notion that the ARB will landmark undistinguished ranch homes built prior to 1971. The typical 1950s suburban ranch is ubiquitous on Long Island and nationwide, and as such is not likely to meet landmark criteria (e.g., association with a famous person, noted architect, distinctive design, or historic enclave), as codified in Section 65-3 of our village code. Only a mid-century building built prior to 1971 that meets these criteria would be subject to public review. In any event the provisions regarding hardship exemptions, that any applicant can pursue per Chapter 65-7, remain unchanged.

Amend Village Code Chapter 116-37.

Peter DeWitt

Southampton Village

Mr. DeWitt is a member of the Southampton Village Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation — Ed.