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Apr 27, 2016 10:43 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Environmentalists Continue To Push For Southampton Town To Repeal PDD Law

Richard Amper DANA SHAW
Apr 27, 2016 10:43 AM

Environmentalists continue to push for Southampton Town to repeal legislation that enables planned development districts, or PDDs—a zoning mechanism that can allow more intense development in exchange for community benefits—even as the town contemplates a moratorium on PDDs to allow a reevaluation of the rules surrounding their use.

Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, and Robert DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, argue that repealing the town’s PDD law altogether would be more viable than a moratorium and rewrite.

“At some point, you realize that the thing doesn’t work,” Mr. DeLuca said of the current legislation. “If you look at how many of these PDDs have sprung up over the year … obviously, the developers feel like they’re on to something.”

Proposed by Town Councilman John Bouvier, the one-year moratorium would mean the Town Board would stop reviewing and accepting new applications for PDDs. While the moratorium is in place, town officials would evaluate the PDD legislation, looking in particular at the rules surrounding the community benefit requirement.

According to the current law, open space, affordable housing, parks, day care, elder care or “specific physical, social or cultural amenities” are all acceptable community benefits. Developers also can essentially pay out of the benefits—for example, by giving a certain amount of money to the town instead of providing affordable housing units.

The moratorium would not apply to PDD applications that have already passed the public hearing stage of pre-application review—meaning that The Hills at Southampton proposal in East Quogue, Gateway in Bridgehampton, and the Townhouses in Water Mill all would be exempt. Several who spoke at a public hearing on the proposed moratorium on April 12 suggested that ought to be reconsidered.

Mr. Amper and Mr. DeLuca supported a push in October to repeal the PDD law, an effort at least partially inspired by town officials’ willingness to entertain the application for The Hills, a golf course and resort community that would go on a large tract of environmentally sensitive land in East Quogue. Then-Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said at the time that she had no intention of repealing the law, which was last modified in 2011 under her guidance, and that she would not support a one-year moratorium on new PDD applications.

With the public hearing phase of the process completed, the Town Board now is waiting for a 30-day written comment period on the moratorium to end before it voting on whether to adopt it.

Mr. Amper and Mr. DeLuca have said that the town already has the authority to reject any PDD application if it wishes to—something Councilwoman Christine Scalera has noted when arguing against the proposed moratorium.

“Why do you need to have a moratorium on PDDs [when it doesn’t] cover the problematic ones that have already been approved or are in the pipeline—and ... you don’t have to entertain [new applications] at all?” Mr. Amper said. “What the Town Board seems to be saying is, ‘We need to be studying it more,’ or ‘We have to be impartial.’ The answer is no—they were elected to make decisions.

“We think PDDs represent ‘let’s make a deal’ planning. Planning is supposed to tell the community what can be built where,” he continued. “When you invite builders to come in and tell you what they’d like to do, then the planning process is all about the developers and what they want, and is less about what is in the interest of the people.”

Bridgehampton Gateway touts affordable housing units as its benefit, while The Hills includes a slew of purported benefits, such as a new $200,000 playground at East Quogue Elementary School, a $700,000 donation to the single-school district’s capital reserve fund, upgraded septic systems for East Quogue residents, shellfish in Shinnecock Bay, and the dedication of 4 acres of land to the Suffolk County Water Authority.

If the town does allow more PDDs, Mr. DeLuca said there should be more oversight of developers to ensure that they follow through with the benefits they said they would provide, and any conditions to which they agreed.

“If you had two PDDs in the town, I could be persuaded that you know enough about them. The more the number of PDDs expands … the town has to have somebody who’s responsible for overseeing all of those conditions,” Mr. DeLuca said. “You just do not have the resources,” he continued. “The more you have, the more you have to keep track of.”

Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said he would not consider repealing the PDD law until it has been reviewed. He said that, when executed properly and carefully, PDDs can offer better options than some current zoning—for example, he said, the proposed Gateway would be a better use of the property across from the Bridgehampton Commons than highway business, the current permitted use. Mr. Schneiderman said he also likes that affordable housing is included in the proposal.

But in addition to further sharpening the community benefit portion of the law, Mr. Schneiderman said, he wants to tweak the number of Town Board votes required to even begin evaluating a PDD application. Only three votes are required to consider an application, while four of the Town Board’s five votes are required for approval.

“If you look at the amount of time we spend just on the vote to consider … I would rather just simply say, ‘We’re not going to even evaluate it in that respect,’” the supervisor said. “To me, that is the largest flaw in the law. I think if there’s only three votes to consider … that may send a message that, at the end of the day, it’s not going to have the four votes it needs.”

Comments at the public hearing focused on whether the PDD law should be repealed, rather than repaired, and on the fact that “certain properties should be in the moratorium that aren’t,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “They all fell into the category that it doesn’t go far enough.

“I’m not sure yet whether the moratorium will lead to a repeal of the law—it might,” he continued. “It would at least lead to major revision.

“I’d rather send a clear message: Don’t even bother to ask for the next year,” the supervisor said.
“I think that’s a much stronger statement.”

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Jay, Scalera, ATH, etc, etc all claim that when used correctly the PDD's are a valuable tool. That may be but our elected officials have proven time and again that they can't be trusted with the authority to pass PDD's. The only way the PDD's should be allowed to remain is, that after the town board has approved a PDD, it must be put on the November ballot for approval by the general population. There's just too much under the table money to allow the board to retain this authority.
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Apr 27, 16 3:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Bird, this came up in November election. Don't believe law allows it to be put on ballot. What you talk about though, amounts to "bribery" or something equally as unethical as under the table money. And there are already laws against that. Can't speak to current or past Supervisors because I don't know them more than in passing, but I have dealt with Ms. Scalera on any number of occasions. Through what I have heard and observed, she seems most ethical. You should be more discerning in your comments. ...more
By Roughrider28 (80), southampton on Apr 27, 16 4:06 PM
There is nothing prohibiting a PDD going to public referendum, and I think that solves the problem once and for all.

Every bond issued by a municipality HAS to be voted on by the
public--PDD should have the same requirement.
By aging hipster (201), Southampton on Apr 28, 16 5:55 AM
Rider - Follow the money. Look at the names of the developers and those with ties to them and then check the campaign finance records for our elected and previously elected officials.
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on May 2, 16 5:21 PM
When will we get some quotes from Bouvier and Lofstad? Or is Jay speaking for them? Since both elections the new council persons have been put on mute.
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Apr 28, 16 8:49 AM
Bouvier and Lofstad are not allowed to talk unless Jay approves it. That's why there was not a town board meeting this week, Jay was away... Good luck to Lofstad's re-election, she is going to have a tough time standing up in front of her home hamlet and telling them she is fighting for them... Also cant wait till she has to vote on the Hills!

Jay's house in the village has been sitting with no work - I remember him saying during the campaign he was only about 2 weeks away from moving ...more
By farmlocal (83), Southampton on Apr 28, 16 10:38 AM
The Hills vote will be interesting. Mrs. Lofstad and Mr. Bouvier are thoughtful people. I hope they vote with their conscience rather than reacting to internal pressure. It'll also be interesting to see what Jay does on the impending MF44 zoning change in Speonk. Same team that did Sandy Hollow looking to do similar in Speonk. Jay is on record saying he's for a spread out approach to affordable housing, and supports and accessory apartment initiative. It'll be difficult to explain how another Sandy ...more
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Apr 28, 16 2:57 PM
Give Julie a chance. She's only been in office for a two months. I'm confident she'll stand up against pressure and vote her conscience when counted on to do so, as will John.
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Apr 28, 16 4:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
Maybe he realizes how ugly the house is. No back yard. No side yard. Just a house and a driveway. looks over developed to me.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on May 2, 16 5:56 PM
Been over 3 months but I guess she's still in the "on the job training" phase she was talking about. Let's wait and see when that's over
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Apr 28, 16 8:04 PM
1 member liked this comment