On day two of being elected a trustee of Southampton Village, I would begin to turn the village’s Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation, Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board into the powerful defenders of all the physical, historic and treasured characteristics that the residents of our village love. It’s a challenge, for two reasons.
Mayor Jesse Warren has a retail merchant’s view of government, tending to change the window dressing rather than the policy. But his desk is the place where the buck stops.
Our mayor has done some good things, but he has not learned enough about the proper function of our three regulatory boards to understand how ineffective they are in fighting the degradation of our heritage for the sake of greed. He believes that changing and/or rotating members of our regulatory boards will cure the problems. But without knowledge of the laws that exist to give the regulatory boards the responsibility, duty and power to maintain what is valuable in our village, no reform can be effected, and flawed procedures will continue to take the time of well-intentioned volunteers.
The ARB still argues about the color of exterior paint of a landmarked building being bastardized into huge size for greed. The Planning Board still relies on a clueless lawyer to provide phony negative declarations, instead of negotiating exactions from developers to provide desirable conditions for the neighborhood, the village. The boards still ignore opposition of neighbors, limiting participation to the immediate neighbors even though an application will become an odious precedent for all neighborhoods. And, of course, opponents to applications are limited to three minutes each by these boards, while John Bennett and other hired guns drone on in unlimited advocacy of greed.
The ARB, ZBA and Planning Board did not accidentally become the emasculated organizations that they continue to be. They were systematically turned into rubber stamps for developers by the Epley administration. None knows the laws that define their board’s mission. Not knowing the elementary terms of laws that should guide the boards’ decisions has disastrous results for us, for our village.
Instead of accountability and reform, we are getting eyewash improvements. Fatally flawed subdivisions continue to be granted; variances are granted, as long as the variance falls within the village code, minimally reined in by Michael Irving as an election promise. Environmentally disastrous, architecturally appalling and illegal McMansions continue to throw themselves up on tiny village streets that used to have open lawns and three- and four-bedroom houses.
And a former building department head has squirreled away the incriminating documents, which should help our mayor’s and the boards’ understanding of their true mission.
Attorney at law
One fine body…