Fair Process - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2061110

Fair Process

I am an unabashed affordable workforce housing advocate. Numerous citizens and I participated in a village-led process to write this year’s comprehensive housing legislation. The village provided a codified public process, which, from my experience, was fair in practice and intent. That process required substantial time, research, debate, multiple drafts, and public hearings by those willing to participate.

Some in the community feel Sag Harbor Village failed to follow due process and undermined public participation. Their Article 78 proceeding seeks court annulment of village Local Law 12 to, in the attorney’s words, “ensure informed public participation” in the process.

Their claim is erroneous and contradictory.

The Article 78 undermines the very process it pretends to ensure. It seeks to deny the village the process of enacting laws and the process that protects the rights of the public and those of property owners. It is the antithesis of process. The court will predictably see the proceedings not as a matter of process but the objection to affordable workforce housing in the office and village business districts.

There is another plaintiff issue that deserves our attention. They claim the village ignored existing risks such as the presence of contaminated soil and area flooding. These issues were extensively noted in Local Law 12 (see the planning analysis). Moreover, they contend — clairvoyantly, one supposes — that any property development will not address existing risks, while also causing additional significant harm.

The important point is this: Local Law 12 itself cannot resolve these issues in advance of an application. Issue resolution, if possible, is the burden of an application. The role of village boards is to evaluate whether a proposal provides empirical evidence, solutions and commitments that will lessen an existing harm, while also avoiding significant harmful impacts.

Simply put, this is the environmental review process, one the Board of Trustees is privileged to lead and the community is expected to participate. This and only this process, in action, will constitute the evidence of fairness or due process. An Article 78 cannot ensure fairness or provide solutions or the means to evaluate them.

The village now faces a costly and cynical legal petition whose muddled aim targets affordable workforce housing zoning provisions and a separate mixed-use proposal for Rose and Bridge streets. It does so in the name of process and public participation.

The more likely reasons lie elsewhere.

Rob Calvert

Sag Harbor