It's About The Code - 27 East

Letters

Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1298219

It’s About The Code

Thank you to The Southampton Press for hosting the candidates’ forum on Friday, June 7 [“Southampton Village Candidates Debate Top Issues On Friday,” 27east.com, June 11]. The evening was very informative, and it was great to see so many village residents in attendance.

It is important to clarify a statement made by Mayor Michael Irving. In response to a resident’s question, he correctly stated that controlling the size of homes was a goal of the village’s Comprehensive Plan. But he also implied that this fact gave village boards specific powers to limit the gross floor area (GFA) of homes as a stand-alone objective. It does not.

The only source of power for village boards is the village code. The Comprehensive Plan is not part of the code and does not have the force of law. The plan is a set of recommendations adopted in 2000 as a blueprint for future amendments to the code. Sadly, much of the work has been ignored, and many of its recommendations have not been translated into code amendments.

While village code has been amended to address size—including the recent GFA reductions, which I applaud—there are many village residents, including me, who would like to see greater limits or more explicit powers and discretion granted under the code. This discussion must continue, and further limits should be created if a majority of the village agrees.

For instance, the word “size” does not appear currently in either of the two sections of code that empower and limit the Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation. And the decision last fall by Judge Joseph Pastoressa neither rewrites that code nor empowers the ARB to consider or limit the GFA of a residence as stand-alone criterion. Rather, that decision recognizes the board’s proper focus on scale—a word that does appear in the code. The Judge then indicates that in assessing scale, the board “may consider the size of the proposed dwelling as it relates to the property itself, surrounding properties and the neighborhood.” The focus of his decision is on relative size, not on GFA, per se; this nuance may appear small to some, but it is significant.

If village residents wish our boards to have greater discretion over the size of homes, we must amend the code to say so. Several candidates indicated their support for amending and strengthening the code. Any greater discretion granted must balance the wish to control size with the property rights of homeowners. It must also be based on consistent and transparent principles, not arbitrary and/or emotional arguments.

I welcome any discussion aimed at making this change happen.

Rob CoburnSouthamptonMr. Coburn is a member of the Southampton Village Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review—Ed.

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