Outcry Over Posted Notices

Residents who spoke at Tuesday’s Sag Harbor Village Board meeting were concerned over possible deletions in the village code having to do with the board of historic preservation and architectural review and the posting of notices. 

Anthony Brandt, the chairman of that board, explained before the public comment portion of the meeting that the decision to delete a provision requiring such notices to be posted for every application, and the removal of another requiring that every decision be put in writing, was to take pressure off the Building Department. 

“We get dozens of applications all the time,” he said, “which are really minor — I mean, I want to paint my door red instead of blue, and it’s silly to waste the board’s time on these things.”

“This is for minor things, so if I’m going to paint my back door purple I don’t have to post it?” Mayor Sandra Schroeder asked him. “If I’m putting something up legally in the village, I don’t have to make a poster?”

“That’s right,” Mr. Brandt answered, “it doesn’t need to be posted publicly, in my opinion.”

To lessen the workload for the small staff at the Building Department, it was proposed, the removal of the provisions would allow the review board more discretion in choosing what projects need a public hearing and which need a physical posting outside the construction site. This, Mr. Brandt said, would also allow the board more time to concentrate on bigger issues and projects. 

While Mr. Brandt and David J. Gilmartin, the village attorney, said that every application would still need to be reviewed by the board, the public was nevertheless concerned. 

Hilary Loomis, a village resident and a member of Save Sag Harbor, read a letter from Jeffrey Bragman, whose law office represents that group, saying that it is opposed to the changes because they will “eliminate public notice of upcoming board reviews, and reduce transparency and accountability.” The letter went on to state that there was no reason to eliminate public posting for every application. (Mr. Bragman, who formerly worked as an architectural review board attorney, could not attend the meeting because of his run in the East Hampton Town Board primary on Tuesday.)

Another resident, Renee Simons, worried that the removal of the provisions would “deprive village property owners their rights to due process.”

“I think the answer to anybody’s concern as they look at this law,” Mr. Gilmartin said, “is the board has the right to take any application that it sees and call a public hearing on it. So nothing is going to fall through the cracks. Due process isn’t being interfered with by this law, but there is going to be some judgment by the A.R.B. on what requires a public hearing and what doesn’t, and really what is noticed in a poster in front of the house.”

“What isn’t going to need to be posted anymore,” Robby Stein, a village board member, said, “are things that are clearly minor.” 

Despite attempts to clarify the language during the meeting, residents continued to press the point: “I think it needs to be more specific, because right now, the way it reads, it has a lot of discretion,” Ms. Simons said.

“What changes with this law is some of the procedural stuff associated with the scale of the matter,” James Larocca, another village board member, said. “Some of the smaller issues that require people coming to court still require that, it’s just that the steps for posting are reduced.”

After an hour of deliberation among the public, the board members, and the village attorney, Ken O’Donnell of the village board suggested tabling the revision and revisiting it next month. 

The board also invited residents to informally submit in writing changes they would make to the statute for the board to consider.