On July 16, the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals granted all variances requested by Farrell Building Company, aka 2331 Montauk LLC, for its application to build a new 5,587-square-foot office building on Bridgehampton Main Street (on a site right next door to its existing approximately 6,000-square-foot office building).
Included was a variance relieving Farrell of the responsibility, mandated in Bridgehampton Hamlet Office (HO) zoning, to include three affordable housing apartments. The ZBA relieved Farrell of having to build two of these, mandating that only one need be built. I am told by a staff member in the Planning Department that Farrell was given similar relief on its existing building, meaning that Farrell has now been given relief to not build a total of four affordable apartments in their Bridgehampton office buildings.
Where are all the so-called affordable housing advocates in Southampton Town on these variance applications? Why are they not appearing and speaking out at the Planning Board and ZBA public hearings? This application has been in play on and off for two years.
I know that I and other members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee did attend, did speak and did write protest letters to these boards. Are our town’s affordable housing advocates only interested in bigger, stand-alone, new housing developments? Are second-floor apartments on Main Street not worthy of their attention and advocacy?
One of those advocates is Michael Daly, who sits on the ZBA. I do not know how he voted on this issue, because the ZBA decisions do not reveal how each member voted. (This was the subject of a December 16, 2018, article in The Southampton Press, “Official: ZBA Process is Flawed,” in which it was suggested that non-public deliberations may violate New York State’s Open Meetings Law.)
Supervisor Jay Schneiderman frequently mentions that creating more affordable housing in each hamlet of Southampton Town is a priority. And yet the members of the ZBA who give these apartment variances are appointed by Mr. Schneiderman and the other members of the Town Board.
Another Southampton Press article, “Schneiderman Sees Room for Improvement in Southampton Town ZBA Procedures” [January 30, 2019], said, “Mr. Schneiderman suggested that the ZBA may be too lenient in approving applications.” And yet the make-up and procedures of the ZBA does not appear to have changed since then.
The ZBA’s decision in the Farrell building application explains that relief was being granted because having to build the three apartments would create a financial hardship on the applicant, because they could not get approvals from the “Suffolk County Department of Health Services Board without acquiring additional Pine Barrens credits at a considerable expense.”
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