Across The Boards:
Matters of zoning code and residential and commercial development are the purview of several East Hampton Town boards and departments. Who does what and how they interact can be a bit confusing if you are just getting involved with these issues. So here are the basics to help you navigate.
(Scroll down below this section to see important agenda items and access links for each board.)
First of all, there are four boards. The East Hampton Town Board (EHTB) is the finance board and legislative governing body of the Town. The Supervisor and the other four Councilpeople are elected by voters. The Supervisor serves a two-year term while Councilpeople have four-year terms, and their terms are staggered; there are no term limits. Any changes to Town code need to be proposed, drafted, considered and voted upon by EHTB and require public hearings as part of that process.
In addition to EHTB, the other the boards we focus on at Build.In.Kind/EH regarding matters of development are: the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), the Planning Board (PB) and the Architectural Review Board (ARB). The members of these three boards are not elected, but instead they're appointed by the EHTB. However, it is required that they operate independently of any direction, influence or interference from the EHTB. Though sometimes ZBA, PB and ARB interact or overlap on certain matters, each of these three boards has a specific jurisdiction and unique mandate -- which we define in brief below in each section.
What these three boards have in common is that they all review pending building permit applications and they interpret, administer and adjudicate the EH Town Zoning Code, Chapter 255. Oversimplifying it, they all have varying degrees of discretion to interpret the code and they have the authority at times to deny or restrain the scope or scale of an application, but ultimately, they are bound to large degree by the underlying parameters set forth by the code. The degree to which their discretion sets limitations on a proposed project relative to code building allowances brings with it the threat of legal challenge and litigation from applicants...a threat which is becoming more pronounced as increasing wealth and big money developer interests attempt to impose their will to develop unfettered by any conditions other than individual wants and maximizing economics.
The Build.In.Kind/EH motivation to advocate for reassessment and evolution of the zoning code in part reflects two important "gaps" with respect to the jurisdiction of our East Hampton ZBA, PB and ARB:
As I understand it, the bulk of building permit applications in East Hampton don’t actually come before these boards for review, mostly because of lack of statutory jurisdiction, but also sometimes due to interpretive judgment calls or, in some cases, outright mistaken failure to refer, I estimate less than 20% — possibly even below 10% — of building permit applications receive the added layer of a board oversight and public transparency, while the rest proceed directly to granting of so-called “as-of-right*” building permits.
At various points over the last year or so, during public sessions, members of all three of these boards have articulated concerns that their mandate to protect the natural resources, rural character and quality of life is no longer effectively buttressed by the Code relative to current overdevelopment trends. Most recently, the Planning Board Chairman referred to a "brick wall" of code that precludes important discretionary judgments/actions. It is my impression that all three boards have directly suggested to or requested EHTB to rethink various elements of current zoning code to better address the current and future state of development relative to our Town priorities and needs.
All of these boards work in coordination with and are supported by several essential Town departments, primarily: the Building Department, the Planning Department (not to be confused with the Planning Board), the Natural Resources Department, and the Ordinance Enforcement Department.
Finally, there are nearly three dozen Town Committees here and here -- comprised of citizen members appointed by EHTB and overseen by an EHTB councilperson liaison-- that study, advise and propose actions to the EH boards and departments. The committees Build.In/Kind follows closely and interacts with are: the Energy & Sustainability Committee (E&S), Community Housing Opportunity Fund Advisory Board (CHOF), Community Preservation Fund Advisory Board, Coastal Assessment & Resiliency Planning Committee (CARP), EH Housing Authority, Nature Preserve Committee.
With respect to public engagement: all four EH boards meet regularly each week/month. All meetings are broadcast live to the public on LTV local Channel 22 and are also live streamed on the LTV site and their YouTube site. (Once fully past Covid restrictions, members of the public can also attend meetings in person.) You can watch meetings live or see the replays/videos. Though the ARB does not generally take public verbal comments at meetings, all the other Boards do solicit and accept public input in one way or another, as summarized in the sections below.
One last note: as Build.In.Kind/EH is focused primarily on East Hampton Town, we are only discussing Town boards and departments on this page. East Hampton Village maintains its own separate governing and board structure, and information for the Village can be found here. From time to time, we'll flag Village issues that impact the Town and we'll make clear the relevant sites.
*( An as-of-right development complies with all applicable zoning regulations and does not require any discretionary action by Boards or departments.)
Feb 14, 2023: Our comments offered during "Public Portion" at the East Hampton Town Board Work Session meeting regarding the need for zoning change and a temporary moratorium on the most aggressive types of development and redevelopment. Read them here.
Upcoming "Work Session" meeting Tuesday, 6/7/22 will include an update about East Hampton Airport as well as an update on several projects related to affordable/community housing as well as a discussion about the section of zoning code regarding affordable accessory apartments (see text to be discussed here
Letters and information re: 175 Atlantic Avenue, Amagansett