Seeking Solutions - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1327158

Seeking Solutions

Lynn Manger and Pamela Michaelcheck are right: We should clarify village code [“We Need Clarity,” Letters, June 27]. I have volunteered considerable time pursuing just that, meeting with mayors, village trustees, board members, officers of the Southampton Association, and authors of the Comprehensive Plan.

Having preserved nearly 200,000 square feet of historic structures in Southampton before joining the Architectural Review Board—following community wishes and code at every turn—my commitment to preservation is tangible and longstanding.

Their claim that I “attempt to parse scale from size” is wrong. I agree with State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Pastoressa: The ARB is “specifically authorized to consider the ‘scale of proposed new construction in relation to the property itself, surrounding properties and the neighborhood.’” He further wrote that “scale necessarily requires a consideration of the size of a structure in relation to other things. Thus, the board may consider the size of a proposed dwelling as it relates to the property itself, surrounding properties and the neighborhood. [Emphasis added.]”

He makes clear that size may be considered in relation to other things, not in isolation. The ARB’s work is primarily visual, so relative size is a visual determination, not an abstract concept, like gross floor area. Nothing in the code or his decision says the ARB may mandate a reduction in GFA, per se. If we want our code to say that, it must be changed.

Jeffrey Bragman’s letter [“Flatly Wrong,” Letters, June 27] is fine rhetoric, but it might be more effective if it were accurate. I do not attempt to justify anything. I attempt only to raise awareness of the need to revisit and revise the code.

His statement that I failed to “properly consider house size” in a recent decision is both speculative—he does not live in my head, fortunately—and incorrect. I spent more than 30 hours evaluating the size-related information submitted by Mr. Bragman’s experts alone. Nor did my prior letter recycle anyone’s previous claims; I did not squelch discussion of size nor argue against the ARB’s power to effectively reduce size.

I support Justice Pastoressa’s view: Code requires assessment of scale, size may be considered in doing so, an application may be denied based on scale (and, therefore, size) regardless of zoning maximums, and this could effectively reduce GFA. But such reduction must be an outcome, not an abstract starting point. I wrote that this critical nuance may appear small to some. Perhaps it escapes others entirely.

Again, I welcome any discussion aimed at amending the code to strengthen preservation. My desire to improve the code is the reason I have volunteered the hours I have.

Unlike some paid to argue, for whom a solution could be bad for business, I remain committed to actually solving this issue.

Rob CoburnSouthampton


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