Provide Guidelines - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1825595

Provide Guidelines

Isn’t it time for our mayor to provide guidelines to turn our Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Planning Board into the powerful regulatory boards responsible to the Village of Southampton that they are meant to be, rather than the rubber stamps for developers, which the former mayor’s lawyers had turned them into?

Some months ago, I provided our mayor with a proposal for a study designed to provide him with the factual and legal information to help his administration to achieve that essential objective: turning our ARB, ZBA and Planning Board into regulatory boards using their broad discretion to grant applications that are in the interest of our village, which preserve what should be preserved on our little local streets as well as in the valued historic district, and our magnificent estate section.

As a management consultant for years before becoming a lawyer, I have a handful of recommendations to start our conversation.

1. The ARB needs a new mission statement. No, it is not an aesthetics board. It is a regulatory board, responsible to our village, and charged with the duty to preserve what is of value in our village, in our various neighborhoods, in an applicant’s immediate environment, and refusing applications with environmentally disastrous plans and which would negatively alter the character of a local street, neighborhood, or our village.

2. No member of the ARB should be taking part in any decisions until he/she has taken the mandatory four-hour training offered by New York State. And every member should visit the site of the applicant’s property before deciding whether his/her application will be “in harmony” with its neighborhood and in the interest of Southampton Village.

3. The Building Department should vet every application prior to submission to the ARB to make sure that the application is in compliance with the zoning code. The ARB lawyer should be charged with vetting every application to make sure the deed is not constrained by restrictive covenants, that the deed permits the grant requested, and that all legal, historic or environmental concerns of the neighborhood have been brought to the members’ attention.

4. Only after these preliminary steps have been taken should the application be admitted for evaluation by the ARB, and, after visits by all members to the site and to the neighborhood affected by this application, these neighborhood characteristics as well as the interests of Southampton Village as a whole should be part of the public deliberation.

The zoning code provides maximums. It cannot grant applications. The ARB is not an enforcer of the zoning code. It should be a regulatory board responsible to the entire Village of Southampton, not to developers.

Evelyn Konrad