Silenced By Zoom - 27 East

Letters

Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1714877

Silenced By Zoom

I’m writing in regards to the article “Bridgehampton CAC Voices Concerns about Plan to Convert Farm Stand to Fire Truck Storage Building,” which appeared on July 20 in your online edition.

The applicant is the Bridgehampton Antique Fire Truck Museum Inc. When asked why this application needs a special exemption, a member of the Southampton Town Planning Department explained that all museums need one. And there is the confusion: Ed Deyermond states that his group is only seeking to use the property, the former farm stand at the intersection of Scuttle Hole and Millstone roads, as storage for antique fire trucks — but the organization’s name, as well as its stated mission on Guidestar, the non-profit transparency website, is to build a museum. They have been working since 2011 to do this in Sag Harbor, but, according to articles in The Sag Harbor Express, failed to meet the village’s building codes in terms of size.

So have they come to Bridgehampton to take advantage of what may be more liberal building codes and easier reviews by Southampton Town as opposed to Sag Harbor Village?

The property is zoned for agricultural and residential use. Storing antique fire trucks fits neither allowed usage, nor does a fire truck museum.

Information on Guidestar indicates it is the Sag Harbor Fire Department that owns the land that this organization intends to sell to fund the purchase of this site in Bridgehampton, a hamlet with its own fire department and its own fundraising needs. The Sag Harbor Village Police Department already stores its impounded vehicles in Bridgehampton on property they had purchased.

The article further says that at the June 25 Planning Board public hearing, “no one offered public comment.” Rather, what actually happened — and this information was related to the paper’s reporter — was that I had signed up in advance on the town’s website to “speak” at the videoconference hearing. I logged on to the hearing, and after the applicant’s attorney had finished speaking, Jacqui Lofaro, the chair of the Planning Board, asked if there was anyone from the public who wished to comment.

I clicked on the appropriate icon to speak — but no one at this virtual hearing could see me, or hear me, or know that someone from the public was asking to speak. Nor did they know I had signed up in advance.

When I later spoke to the Planning Board attorney and asked that there be another public hearing, I was told that would be illegal, because the public portion of the application had been closed at the meeting. I replied that perhaps this wasn’t a legal public hearing if the technology malfunctioned. I did not receive a response.

Pamela Harwood

Bridgehampton

Ms. Harwood is chair of the Bridgehampton CAC — Ed.

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