We Need Clarity - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1326521

We Need Clarity

In a recent letter, Rob Coburn, a member of the Southampton Village Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review, attempts to parse scale from size [“It’s About The Code,” Letters, June 20]. Mr. Coburn misses the real argument.

As plaintiffs in the recent case that overturned the ARB decision permitting construction of a 14,561-square-foot house in a historic district, we are thoroughly acquainted with the nature of New York State Supreme Court Justice Joseph C. Pastoressa’s decision regarding the board’s power to consider “size” when reviewing an application for new construction or alterations in a historic district.

The village code requires, broadly, that new structures “be compatible with the character of nearby properties in the historic district.” In assessing that compatibility, the board is required to consider various factors, including a building’s general design and “scale in relation to the property itself, surrounding properties and the neighborhood.”

Scale, by definition, means size. In fact, the Architectural Design Guidelines adopted by the village in October 2000 define scale as “the measure of the relative or apparent size of a building or architectural element.” The guidelines warn that “a stark contrast of scale between adjacent buildings is visually disruptive.”

The village zoning code establishes setback requirements, which define the maximum footprint of a house. It provides for a gross floor area (GFA) governing the “total gross horizontal area of all floors of the dwelling.” In his decision, Justice Pastoressa held that regardless of compliance with the formula in the zoning code for maximum GFA, the historic district constitutes an additional regulatory requirement beyond the zoning laws that is applicable to all property owners within the district, and that the board may consider size as it relates to the property itself, surrounding properties and the neighborhood, and reject an application if the project is over scale.

The entire discussion brings forth the need to bring absolute clarity to our village code to allow the ARB explicit authority to assess the visual compatibility and appropriateness of all structures—articulating mass, volume, bulk, scale and size—which will assure appropriately sized dwellings everywhere in our community, whether in a historic district or not.

Lynn Manger

Pamela MichaelcheckSouthampton Village


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