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Jan 30, 2019 10:39 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Schneiderman Says Southampton ZBA May Be Too Lenient

Jan 30, 2019 11:18 AM

The Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals is approving too many applications and may be too lenient when it comes to granting relief from the town code, Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said this week.

Following months of criticism from local community members and environmentalists who pointed at flaws within the regulatory board’s decision-making process, Mr. Schneiderman said he dove deep into the ZBA’s track record. After reviewing several months’ worth of decisions, he found that the board had approved variances for more than 98 percent of applications it reviewed.

He compared those numbers to the East Hampton Town ZBA and said that, during his tenancy as a board member and former chairman of that board, at minimum, 30 percent of applications were denied.

“One out of three were, ‘No, I’m sorry, I’m not going to waive the rules for you,’” Mr. Schneiderman said.

He noted that it’s “a complicated issue” and explained that the Southampton numbers could be the result of a combination of three things: the town code is too strict, the board members themselves are too lenient, or, less likely, only those whose applications are likely to be granted are coming before the ZBA—others are weeded out earlier in the process.

He speculated that board members could be relying too heavily on previous decisions—or “it’s cultural, and they don’t like to say ‘no’.”

The first step in addressing the issue is to further vet potential board members before they are appointed to ensure that they are willing to make tough decisions, Mr. Schneiderman said. “I want them to be fair, and I want them to do their homework,” he said. “If you give too many variances, you undermine your zoning code—and then what’s the point of having these rules?”

ZBA Chairman Adam Grossman defended his board’s decisions on Tuesday, noting that it’s common for an application before the board to be revised or modified several times to make it more compliant before it is approved.

“In other words, yes, it’s a vote of approval, but it’s not the same application that we got in the beginning,” he said. “It’s a little misleading to just look at the votes.”

As for the code being too strict, Mr. Grossman said it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Town Board to look at the code, specifically in regard to areas like Flanders, Riverside and Pine Neck in Noyac, where lots are so small that it’s almost impossible for property owners to develop them.

“The zoning code could be amended so that setbacks and other requirements in areas where there are very small lots are given more flexibility,” he said. “Currently, the zoning code doesn’t allow for that, so, instead, they have to go to us.”

Mr. Schneiderman said another solution would be to have ZBA members collaborate more with the town’s Planning Department when making decisions—a common practice done by the East Hampton ZBA. He said that planners can provide insight into the town’s Comprehensive Plan, as well make recommendations based on similar cases before the Planning Board.

“It’s really valuable information,” the supervisor said of his experience in East Hampton. “Every single application, the Planning Department weighs in on. That does not ever happen in Southampton.”

However, according to Mr. Grossman, 20 percent of all ZBA decisions—applications involving site or subdivision approval—are made in collaboration with the Planning Department, and in some cases, the town’s Conservation Board as well. In those instances, both provide the ZBA with detailed referral reports.

“That already happens,” he said of Mr. Schneiderman’s suggestion. “I would welcome comments from either board, but I don’t know that it should be a requirement when an application doesn’t require relief from either of those boards.”

Mr. Schneiderman said on Friday that his recommendations were in no way meant to diminish the work being done by the Southampton Town ZBA, but rather, to explore potential room for improvement: “I think it would make a better zoning board.”

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This guy needs to go. Jay its a law and rule and they followed it. You are def the worst supervisor this town have ever seen. Scaera please run if this guy stays another term I am moving my whole family out of the town of Southampton thanks to Jay Schneiderman and his garage decisions. . Guy just pisses away all tax payers money and just tries to sell everything to his buddies. The ZBA made a decision and the right one. Jay why would you have a ZBA make decisions if you just constantly change their ...more
By watchoutnow968 (56), Southampton on Jan 31, 19 8:28 AM
I will help you pack the truck. Move to Shirley.
By P. Revere (152), hampton Bays on Jan 31, 19 11:15 AM
To Shirley? Home of our esteemed congressman?
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Jan 31, 19 11:41 AM
Flip and Flop, JAY
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jan 31, 19 1:45 PM