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Keep Listening

Posted on 06 February 2009

Based on what we heard and saw at the public hearing last Thursday night on the new Sag Harbor code, it seems the village board and some members of the business community still have a long way to go before they will see eye to eye on this piece of legislation.

Thursday’s hearing was a vast improvement over previous meetings. It opened up dialogue between the two (or three) sides. If this conversation is allowed to continue, through more hearings structured in a similar fashion, it will make for a better code and a happier community.

The meeting on Thursday proved to be a good lesson in communication. There is no shortage of misinterpretation in terms of what the code actually dictates and what it doesn’t, and what the actual implications will be for local landlords and shop owners. Certainly, there was some misunderstanding on the part of some members of the business community, but the language of law can be arcane, baffling and daunting. We believe that members of the village board made a great effort to clear up some of those misunderstandings.

Still, the conversation should be left open until those who will be most effected by the code fully understand its implications, and feel that their concerns have been taken into consideration during revisions of the code. The business community is a powerful and substantial constituency in this village, and their grievances must not be taken lightly. If more than half the businesses on Main Street believe the code is onerous, someone’s not getting the message.

That being said, the business community must also recognize that while they see this code as being restrictive, zoning is designed to be restrictive. By definition, a village zoning code creates rules, but these standards are also designed to protect. The impetus for the code revision was to protect the local diversity of Main Street businesses and we believe it goes a long way to accomplishing those goals.

There is no doubt that the code needs to be changed to better serve this need. The code of the 1980s no longer suffices in this village in the 21st century. 

We ask the village board to keep their ears open and remain flexible to meeting the needs of the segment of the community they seek to protect.


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