After seven public hearings and months of community input, the Southampton Town Board voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt reforms to planned development districts.
A planned development district is a zoning tool that allows greater density on a parcel than is allowable by current zoning in exchange for a community benefit. Members of civic, environmental and business organizations came forward at Tuesday’s public hearing urging the board to adopt the legislation.
Highlights of the PDD reform include enhanced participation, such as a pre-submission public hearing and citizens advisory committee representation on a PDD oversight committee to be established for the life of each approved project. Also included in the changes are early referrals to advisory boards and established time frames.
Community benefits are addressed, with clarification regarding what is not a community benefit, and a documented list of hamlet-specific community benefit priorities.
Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst kicked off the discussion by saying the step-by-step process has been a healthy one, engaging a wide spectrum of community members.
“Land use policy is perhaps the most important responsibility we have as town board members, because the manner in which our community is developed informs every aspect of our way of life, from traffic to taxes, environmental health to economic sustainability,” Throne-Holst said after the hearing, adding that PDDs are the “number one” issue she has been asked to address.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Hampton Bays resident Eve Houlihan expressed lingering concerns with the legislation, including “ambiguity” and “purposefully vague” language relating to community benefits.
Overall, residents lauded the board for their efforts and embraced the legislation.
“The town board did it the right way, to the best logical end,” Bob DeLuca, the president of the Group for the East End, said. DeLuca presented the board with a final letter of support signed by approximately 1,800 residents and community organization representatives.
He added the nine items comprising the amendments are “a significant step forward.” The legislation, he said, improves procedures for applications, submission and review and allows for early public participation.
Wayne Bruin, an attorney for several landowners with PDD applications past and present, thanked the board. “What you have is product that does provide some certainty to landowners. Are we absolutely happy? There are a couple of things we could be critical about, but it’s a good compromise.”
Andrea Spilka, the president of the Southampton Town Civic Coalition, added, “No one got everything they wanted. But what we got was something really important for Southampton Town. This is a major step forward for all of us – the best possible move forward.”