Need Some Training - 27 East

Letters

Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1739018

Need Some Training

Congratulations to our mayor, Jesse Warren, and our newly reconstituted Board of Trustees!

Together, the mayor and his new board have made some promising appointments to our three regulatory boards, whose chairs and members are responsible to Southampton Village, and who determine the future of our village.

In the past era of giveaways to developers and of unvarnished greed, our village lost many a historic building, plenty of open spaces, and, above all, some of the character and charm of our small streets in local neighborhoods. Perhaps we will finally emerge from an era of money-fueled development, without thought of the real needs of our village and with disregard for sensible planning and for the Rule of Law.

So far, the choice of legal counsel to those important village boards has not been quite as successful. Incidents in two recent public hearings caused me a couple of sleepless nights.

I pointed out that one variance under consideration would violate both settled New York State law and the restrictive covenants in the applicant’s own deed. One member of that board stated, “We’re just going according to our zoning code.”

This would have been the moment for the new lawyer advising that board to state that (1) a zoning code is local law; (2) local law does not give license to violate state law; (3) the restrictive covenants in the applicant’s own deed run with the land, and have not been rescinded. They have been authorized, along with the common plan and scheme, by an earlier Village Planning Board, are filed with the Suffolk County clerk, and are legally binding.

The other troubling incident happened at a public hearing of another regulatory board. A boisterous attorney representing the applicant stated that the neighborhood of the applicant’s new property had “boring, cookie-cutter architecture.”

What an opportunity for the new young lawyer to point out that the essence of a subdivision is its common plan and scheme, which determines setbacks, type and size of ancillary structures in the backyard, size of houses, and distance required from any structure to property lines. The “neighborhood” in which the applicant had bought his property is a certified and legal subdivision, and the restrictive covenants in his own deed forbid him from doing what he wants to do.

In the past, the regulatory boards have blindly followed whatever their legal counsel told them, granting applications that destroyed many a local neighborhood with its uncluttered and livable charm. That’s why the mandated four hours of training for board members should be enforced.

The new lawyers need to learn the past of our village, legal and historic. They also need some training.

Evelyn Konrad

Attorney at law

Southampton

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