Tag Archive | "CAC"

CAC Wants Voice at Planning Board

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Despite a stagnant economy, commercial and residential development in Southampton appears to continue. Oftentimes, the Southampton Town Planning Board’s agenda is filled with a sizable number of projects varying in size and scope. But recent projects like Trumpets Catering Hall in Eastport, Woodfield Gables in Speonk and Water Mill Station — a 20,000 plus square foot office and retail complex approved by the planning board just this week — has brought to light a problem that Jeremy Samuelson of Group for the East End says has been simmering for years. According to Samuelson, the public can comment on the possible environmental impacts of an application only after the board has already decided whether or not to make the applicant undergo a New York State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR).

“The piece that is missing is public input. It is set-up to exclude the public because a critical decision is being made before the public ever has the chance to testify against the application,” exclaimed Samuelson at a Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee meeting on Friday, May 15. “That is part of our outrage.”

Southampton councilwoman Sally Pope was in attendance at the meeting. She believes the planning board can be reluctant to go back and alter their decision once they have given a project a negative declaration, meaning the project doesn’t require a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

“I think their concerns are valid,” said planning board chair Dennis Finnerty referring to comments made by Samuelson and members of the Sag Harbor CAC. Finnerty noted, though, there are two types of projects the planning board analyzes: residential subdivisions and commercial site plans. The board holds a pre-application hearing on residential subdivisions, where the public can air any concerns they have with the project. For commercial site plans, however, there isn’t a pre-application hearing and the public comments on the project after the board has made a SEQR determination.

“We are trying to get the town board to amend the code to provide for some sort of public input prior to a SEQR determination,” Finnerty stated. “We are powerless to address this [unless the code is changed.]”

“For the last 10 years [The Group] has tried to change this … but we feel like we have been hitting our head against the wall,” Samuelson stated at the meeting. In reaction to public outcry, Group for the East End has formulated a solution in which the town would create an Environmental Review Committee (ERC).

According to the Group, the seven-member committee would “evaluate the potential environmental impacts of each application and issue a report, recommending a Determination of Significance to the appropriate lead agency” be that the planning board or the zoning board of appeals.

During the assessment process, the ERC would give members of the public three-minutes to speak on any particular project.

But some members of the CAC feel establishing the ERC would add another layer of bureaucracy.

“I could hear the pluses and minuses [of the proposal] at the CAC meeting,” said Pope later. “Why do we need yet another committee to take care of a process of another committee? I am definitely favorable towards the purpose of the proposal, but I think the planning board needs to hear the concerns of the public — not just get another set of recommendations.”

Opening the channels for public comment in the planning board proceedings is just one way CACs hope to establish a stronger foothold in town government. At a recent Bridgehampton CAC meeting, town supervisor Linda Kabot reportedly said she was taking steps to give CACs more access to the planning board.

The Sag Harbor CAC plans to hold Kabot to her word at an upcoming Shinnecock Hills CAC meeting on June 2, which will be attended by CACs and Civic Councils both east and west of the Shinnecock Canal. If their concerns are not met with tangible action in the town, Sag Harbor CAC chairman John Linder said the group hasn’t ruled out staging a protest in front of town hall in the coming months.

Opening a Door

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If Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot lives up to the promise she made at the Bridgehampton CAC meeting, then CACs across the East End will soon achieve one of their ultimate goals — they will have a formalized role in local government. East End CACs have come a long way since their infancy more than a dozen years ago. Once made up of small groups of concerned citizens, they are now formal committees and often forces to be reckoned with.

If it were not for the work of the Sag Harbor CAC the Gateway Study would still only be a nice idea. We understand the town is taxed on resources and manpower, and that is why CACs — comprised of people living in local communities — are needed to call attention to problems the town may not even be aware of.

But with great power comes great responsibility, and the onus is now on CAC members to remain current and well informed. If they are to be the representatives for the community at large, they must be sure they are representing the voice of a wide range of residents. If they are asked to weigh in on a development project, they must be well-versed on the points of procedure for an application. CACs cannot call for denial of a building plan simply because it means more development. They need to construct sound arguments and concrete reasons for their opinions based on zoning laws and codes that are in place.

We welcome a future partnership between local government and the CACs, but ask the members of these committees to brush up on their homework.

Sag CAC Eyes Work at Sag Harbor Industries

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Birds-eye view of the Sag Harbor Industries property.

An application filed for Sag Harbor Industries (SGI) was one issue discussed at this month’s Sag Harbor Citizen Advisory Committee’s (CAC) meeting, held on Friday, December 5, at the Pierson High School Library. 

CAC chair, John Linder, came to the meeting with a copy of a letter from Southampton Town Principal Planner, Claire Vail, to Noyac Citizen’s Advisory Committee Vice-chair, John Distefano. The letter detailed the basic points of the application.

According to Distefano, SGI plans to expand the various types of business occurring in the building to include a landscaping service, a wholesale business, an electrical repairs site, and a manufacturing operation. Many of these operations are currently functioning in the building, but the company would like town approval for the various uses. SGI also wants to build a 40 by 60 foot storage unit. Currently, SGI manufactures electronic devices, though they rent out space to other businesses.

According to Lisa Poyer, of Inter-Science Science Research Associates, a company helping SGI with the permits for the project, SGI will put 2.2 acres of the property under a non-development covenant, that will connect pieces of town land and county land to expand an area of open space. SGI is also seeking a wetland permit.

In the letter from Vail to Distefano, Vail encouraged members of the Noyac CAC to write her a letter detailing their objections regarding this project. Distefano says the Noyac CAC will give their decision on the project by February 5. Linder said that the Sag Harbor CAC will work in conjunction with the Noyac CAC to review the project.

According to Distefano’s understanding of the application, SGI would also like to operate a furniture business in their present location. “I wonder if this furniture business would include furniture stripping,” said Distefano. Distefano felt some of the materials associated with this process might be harmful to the environment. Poyer believes SGI isn’t seeking approval for the operation of a furniture business. 

According to Distefano, the building that SGI currently operates out of is dealing with issues of building code non-compliances, although he didn’t have specifics on this. “Sag Harbor Industries wants to get [the issue of non-compliance] straightened out. The town also wants to bring them into compliance.”

CAC member Bill Collins was sympathetic to SGI’s need for extra on-site parking. Poyer said SGI will build substantial additional parking.

The 8.4 acre site SGI operates from has been a controversial piece of land in recent decades. In the 1980s, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services found contamination in the groundwater beneath the property, resulting from the operations of a previous owner. (During the 1950′s and 1960′s Rowe Industries manufactured small electric motors on the site.) By 1992, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established the Rowe Superfund Cleanup site. Distefano is confidant that this previous issue will not factor into SGI’s recent application, since the cleanup project is almost fully completed.

Jeremy Samuelson, of the Group for the East End, is also planning on reviewing the application: “I am looking forward to looking at the application, given the environmental concerns associated with this site.”

 

 

Also on the docket at Friday’s Sag Harbor CAC meeting was a discussion of the status of the Gateway Study. CAC member Eric Cohen said, “We are certainly not for a Highway Business Zoning.” Shauna Conran said the CAC doesn’t want to see the creation of a commercial area that would compete with the business area in the village.

“We are correcting an error in the zoning laws. There is an anachronism back when they reviewed this and decided that it was okay to build strip malls,” Cohen added. “Everyone thought that was what we wanted, but that is no longer what we want. It seems to us like a very simple matter, but I understand that if you are a property owner it isn’t that simple.”

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and journalist Karl Grossman will visit the CAC for their January meeting.

 

Top Image: A birds-eye view of Sag Harbor Industries current property. 

Bottom Image: Sag Harbor CAC members hash out their opinions of the Gateway Study.