Should Height Restrictions Be Amended?

This blog is part of an ongoing public education effort by the Citizens Campaign For Open Village Government

At the Patchogue village board meeting of of Jan. 14, 2013, Trustee Tom Ferb introduced a resolution to amend height restrictions in areas zoned E industrial.

A public hearing on this resolution is scheduled for Jan. 28, 2013 at village hall at 6pm.

This resolution, in an attempt to accommodate the new FEMA floodplain requirement, addresses the definition of "height of building" and, as well ,would allow a 15 foot increase in building height, that is, from 45  to 60 feet in E industrial areas. 

Introduction of this resolution, at this time, suggests that the Board wishes to attract and accommodate further development in the villlage.  In and of itself, this may not be a bad thing.  Why not, however, let the Zoning Board of Appeals decide issues, such as height, on a case by case basis?  This provides residents the opportunity to have a voice regarding each application, allows the ZBA to fulfill their responsiblilty to protect the interests of the residents and helps to maintain a reasonable balance between the rights of the residents and the rights of the developers.

Allthough the impetus for this resolution is the new floodplain requirement, this is not a riverfront issue only. It affects E industrial throughout the village. It was introduced, however, without specifically identifying all of the areas in the village zoned E industrial and therefore impacted by the height amendment.  Some residents may be unaware that they live in close proximity to an E industrial zone and may suddenly and surprisingly find themselves living next to a 60 foot building.  Itemizing the affected parcels would serve to notify those residents, living in or near E industrial, of a change which can have significant impact on their property values, their quality of life and the character of their neighborhoods.

A "blanket" or overall extension of height allowance throughout the village ignores the fact that many E industrial areas are not in floodplain, are not subject to the new FEMA requirement and therefore those residents and their neighbors will be unecessarilly exposed  to the effects of overdevelopment

Why the haste?  If this resolution becomes law the aesthetics and character of the entire village will be forever altered.  Shouldn't that require more careful consideration of the issues?


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David Kennedy January 24, 2013 at 11:31 PM
Been There...I bring up the ethics code question not as a way to stop the proposal, just that what ever happens, the Village should try to do it in as "above board" and open as possible, with all perceptions of conflicts removed...its just the right thing to do regardless the outcome. But I concur with you that there is no reason this needs to be rushed and I hope the village will take some time to consider all views before making a decision, though I suspect the Mayor would just like to see this pass asap, since he seems to cringe at the idea of having open thorough discussions on anything. Certainly, if for no other reason, as I stated previous, lets complete the LWRP initiative for the River first before making such a big change that could change our River landscape dramatically...that is if they really do want an LWRP plan for the River to begin with. But as John stated, if the public at large doesn't show up to be heard at the next meeting or in other public forums (such as on here) we can't complain about the outcome. Lets never forget...the residents are in charge.
Pam Rice January 24, 2013 at 11:46 PM
Trustee Freb Please answer why we need this resolution? And will your this resolution affect your property in how much it would be worth?
Pam Rice January 24, 2013 at 11:48 PM
Sorry.. And will this resolution affect your property value?
Pam Rice January 24, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Thank you John, Jo and David for all the work your group does and keeping us informed. I hate to say it but if you didn't bring this to my attention i would not of know about this resolution until it was to late. Right now i am not for this increase in height. I wish i could make the meeting but i work in the city and i get home late. What else can i do?
Jo Miller January 25, 2013 at 03:48 AM
David, as a resident of the riverfront, I certainly share your concern about the changes this resolution will bring to the River. I would like to point out,however,that the riverfront is not the only concern. There are many areas throughout the village , zoned E industrial, which will be potential sites for very tall buildings if this resolution becomes law. This is an issue which requires careful consideration.
David Kennedy January 25, 2013 at 04:15 AM
Pam I would suggest continuing to comment on here, writing a letter to the Long Island Advance and telling your friends and neighbors about this hearing would be helpful in getting the word out and expressing your opinions on this. I admit, though I have voiced strong reservations, I will keep an open mind until after the public hearing, though I too will have to rely on the Video, since I can't make the earlier meeting time either...my biggest concern right now is the Village will make a rush decision and not allow for thorough debate and discussion.
David Kennedy January 25, 2013 at 04:46 AM
Excellent point Jo, E industrial zones do exist in pockets throughout our village, so many areas would be open to Highrise development and every resident should be aware, keep abreast of how this proceeds, and express your opinions before it's decided. Still, there is no question the largest swath of E industrial zoned property is along our Riverfront. Maybe this debate can begin to answer why an area that is primarily residential and commercial/recreational maintains the "ancient" industrial zoning of the days of oil terminals and shipbuilding. At the surface, the Village is stating this new height proposal is a result of new Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) regulations in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Coincidently, if passed, this new code would greatly enhance the prospects of a long simmering development proposal on the River, known as Fatfish. I am not comfortable the Village is touting FEMA regulations for the need for this when a case can be made this proposal was written to accommodate the Fatfish development. Why FEMA's request for raised foundations along flood zones should translate to allowing for 60ft+ buildings is beyond me. Certainly, I do know Fatfish has been looking to get approval for a tall structure on the River for a few years now, well before Hurricane Sandy and FEMA's new regulations. Using that disaster to give developers what they want would be sad. And as you say, Jo, would set a precedent that may be repeated village wide.
Patchogue Snoop January 25, 2013 at 02:09 PM
Excellent article!! This encourages many questions to be raised at the meeting.
Patchogue Snoop January 25, 2013 at 02:17 PM
Over time, if this is approved, we will see who really benefits from this. John, I agree but we need to focus on why the ZBA has been cut out of the process. This surely pertains to future development and new construction. A blanket change now is not needed. We need to take each future application individually and let the ZBA do the job our Village law requires them to do.
John Bogack January 25, 2013 at 02:45 PM
I just want to direct attention to two new tools now available for interested residents to look at provided by the Patch. Above now see a vdeo clip of the last meeting of the Trustees. The clip documents the comments of Trustee Ferb who called for a public hearing on a proposal to change height restrictions in the E Industrial zone. As well there is now a pdf document that allows readers to see the actual wording of the proposed change in the law. Interested residents of the district that mostly hugs the riverfront but not entirely can use both of these tools to learn important facts about what appears to be a sweeping change with long term consequences for the village. Again as I have said before I am not sure that this change is a good one. It may be the direction Patchogue Village needs to go if it wishes to push the ongoing revitalization in a new expansive direction. Or it may signal a new wave of high density development that may squash existing neighborhoods with new concerns relating to over crowding, extra traffic, even more noise during the summer months and an unwelcome change in the character of the village. What I do remain convinced about is that this change should not occur without some reasoned judgement from all our elected officials about how neighborhoods will be impacted. I may be naive but I continue to hope that they will, because they live here too, take the time before voting to do what is best for all of us.
Frank Finnamore January 25, 2013 at 04:46 PM
John, thank you for the two new tools. Mr. Ferb stated on the video that FEMA takes the first floor away, that makes no sense. A first floor is constructed on top of the base that might have the ground level footage determined by FEMA or NYSDEC. The present 45 foot height requirement would not be reduced by a FEMA recommendation or requirement if the ground level measurements are adjusted to address flooding or water surge as requested in this legislation. No mention was made why a building's height would need to be increased from 45 to 60 feet, even after FEMA recommendations/requirements are met and excluded in the height measurements as proposed. He further stated it was for property on the Patchogue River, but failed to mention that there are many other E Industrial zoned properties not located on the river. Maybe the intent is to only increase the height of future development or present buildings on the Patchogue River from 45 to 60 plus feet. However this is surely a conflict of interest for Mr. Ferb to sponsor or vote on this this legislation, since he directly benefits from it, not by raising his home for flooding or a water surge, but by allowing him to greatly increase the height of this home or the change in the property value. Also the pdfs shows that the Village Attorney must attest that the legislative process adheres to all legal requirements, that includes the Village's Ethics Code. .
John Bogack January 25, 2013 at 07:16 PM
All good points Frank and more reasons why a lot more information needs to be shared with the public to get a true consensus about this potentially game changing proposal. With respect to the sign off from Attorney Egan he has already verbally attested that the resolution meets all legal requirements including the Ethics Code. Now here is another tool you may find useful. And I have to say thanks for the interactive nature of the Patch. You can find Mr. Egan's comments on the ethics issue by doing the followiing. And this advice is also for all others who are also interested. Find the Patch search box, type in Patchogue Board. A drop down box will appear that will show a link for videos. Go to the meeting of 1/14/13. A link to the video should then appear. Use the time bar to go to one hour three minutes. That will take you to the question I asked about the Ethics Code. I asked that question during the public be heard portion of the meeting. Mr. Egan provides an extensive answer to the question. Now although Mr. Egan cleared the resolution at that point time has passed and perhaps Trustee Ferb, who has his own mind, his own conscience may decide to recuse himself just to avoid the appearance of self interest. He may do that. Village Hall is not Mt. Olympus. Trustees are real people who can make their own decisions and just like you or me when there are new facts, and time to think a position taken at one point might change.
Daniel Cole January 25, 2013 at 10:39 PM
I find it very interesting that Trustee Ferb, or whoever wrote this changes, went out of his way to exclude FEMA floodplain requirements when determining the height of a building (see the first paragraph of new law in the pdf). You would think that the simplest way to handle these new floodplain requirements would be to simply exclude the first floor of new construction (up to some reasonable number of feet) when determining the height of a building and, out of fairness, leave the 45 foot height restriction intact. This way, only building in the floodplain would benefit from this new law. The author of this new law, however, wanted to make it crystal clear that excluding the first floor is not the intention of this law. This new law is clearly written to benefit owners of Zone E property outside of the floodplain. For those of you who want to look at the zoning map for the village, there is a pdf on the village website from a 2008 draft for the LWRP. Google "zoning map of Patchogue" and look for the link titled "Appendix D." This map may not absolutely current, but it gives a good picture of where the Zone E property is. Most Zone E property is along the river, but there is also a Zone E corridor along the railroad tracks in the eastern part of the village, as well as pockets west of Waverly in the north. Briarcliff, the YMCA, Heatherwood, and the corner north of Bargain Bilge are all Zone E, as well as a large patch of property south of West Lake.
Gerald Rothaus January 26, 2013 at 05:16 PM
The document by fema (http://www.fema.gov/pdf/floodplain/nfip_sg_unit_5.pdf) says, best as I can understand it, that in order to qualify for flood insurance the base of the building must be 1 foot above the Base Flood Elevation line. I don't know what the BFE is for that area. I know that there is an official FEMA map with those definitions, but I couldn't find it. Maybe someone can research it better than I. However, I don't think the BFE is fifteen feet. Sound more like they are looking for an excuse to add 2 stories to their buildings. I am just so tired of the perpetual shenanigans. This is only about someone making lots of money, as usual. This is just more consequences of the election of 2012. Like the old Persian proverb says, 'the dogs bark but the caravan moves on'.
Sara Smith January 26, 2013 at 05:28 PM
Great Six Story building on the Patchogue River. Patchogue 2012 is for the developers not the residents. They are out of there minds. Were does this stop.
Sara Smith January 26, 2013 at 05:31 PM
We are all going to be living in Patchogue City. Just remember to thank the Mayor and Tom Ferb. Whoever vote of this i am not voting for in next election.
Sara Smith January 26, 2013 at 05:34 PM
Look at the photo i receive the other day from a friend. Looks like the Mayor is no friend to local residents. What happen here.
Joseph Adriano January 27, 2013 at 07:01 PM
The residents are in charge? Ha ha ha ha! With Pontieri in office? Please share whatever you are smoking.
John Bogack January 27, 2013 at 10:18 PM
In America I trust Joe and should so you. There is much truth in your comments. But hope should not be abandoned even when it seems darkest and no one can predict the dawn. Dave Kennedy when he says we the residents are in charge is saying nothing less than Lincoln who said the same when he said government must be of, by and for the People. We the people of Patchogue Village when united are stronger than any forces aligned against the best interests of Patchogue Village. The proposal to lift height restrictions may or may not be a good idea. But I tell you what is not a good idea: rushing this proposal through. Not even Fat Fish, which has gotten Zoning Board approval for its proposed development under the current rules, needs a quick decision. So where's the fire? Mayor Pontieri should take this opportunity to take the time to find a consensus that includes a majority of the public about this proposal. Our village needs to be united not divided. Let's hope he hears that message along with the trustees who after all in whose hands this proposal truly rests.
Gerald Rothaus January 28, 2013 at 02:13 AM
If you guys think Ferb or Pontieri care about what you think, Mr. B., forget it. They do not care a whit. Money talks, and you and I are not offering any.
Gerald Rothaus January 28, 2013 at 02:16 AM
Oh, and our tax money doesn't count, they will get that anyway.
Joseph Adriano January 28, 2013 at 02:30 AM
Sounds great in the history texts JB but have you ever seen these clowns on the board stand up to the Mayor on behalf of the residents? This is no Lincoln movie it is more like Nixon. They all seem to back him right up even when there is serious ethical concerns. Where is the healthy debate and discourse? The differing of opinions and the fight for what is right? The challenging of his authoritarian rule? It might exist on this board but not in that board room. It is truly pathetic.
Jack Morris January 28, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Got to love this old mail piece Mayor Paul sent out when he was part of Pactchogue First. Talk about a 180 on an issue. Please vote No Paul on this issue. Please.
Jack Morris January 28, 2013 at 08:10 PM
once the PDF open you can Right Click again and turn the PDF counter-clockwise so it is easier to read
John Bogack January 28, 2013 at 10:31 PM
Joe and Gerald. Perhaps you are right. I can not say that you are not. My comments actually were directed not so much at the Mayor and the trustees. In the end what happens here in our village is up to us all of us. In any event off to the meeting and let's see where this ends up.
John Bogack January 29, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Well, well, well we all got surprised. No proposed 60 foot allowance...gone. Old standards reamain effect. Changes now related to the flood zones of the village and not just the E industrial district. Homeowners and business owners of all zones get the same break in terms of measuring height. That is an offset for what FEMA wants for safe building. The people spoke, the Mayor and the Trustees listened and the law that was passed seems a lot more practical, has more common sense, and less the appearance of self interest than the law ealier that had been slated for approval. So maybe things can change for the good after all. BTW big turnout of residents too.
David Kennedy January 30, 2013 at 03:13 AM
Well, well, indeed! But alls well? Not so sure... Yes, glad to see what the Village passed was more reasonable and more directed to answer new FEMA regulations regarding building in floodplains. And John, you are right...the public spoke up, showed up, and the Village responded. ( To Mr. Adriano...residents are in charge when residents take charge.) Make no doubt about it, these changes were made do to the growing concerns coming from residents on this proposal. Still, some concerns linger...while no reasonable person can argue that those who rebuild from damage sustained by sandy, or new construction being built in a flood plain zones, should expect some compensation in height to make up with lost usable space on lower levels as FEMA now requires. Still, the rush to pass this really left no time for some proper analysis and explanations what these changes could result in long term. Which leads to my next point...why the rush? The fact is, when the smoke is cleared, a current project along the riverfront (Fatfish), currently stalled because of their request to have current height restrictions lifted, now can see a clearer path to approval under these new regulations. The speed in which these changes were approved enhances the argument this was really about Fatfish all along.
David Kennedy January 30, 2013 at 03:15 AM
More importantly, the quick passage kept residential comments and questions to a bare minimum. Truth is what was passed was very different to what was proposed. Though I understand Attorney Egan did a nice presentation, it was the first time anyone had a chance to digest the information presented. What would have been wrong if the public comment period on this was extended? As far as I see it, we deserved, at the very least, a second public hearing to consider the new changes. Obviously the public showed interest on this, no one would have objected more time to consider. Why not provide that? Regardless, what’s done is done, just keep it all in mind. Those newly engaged by this, please say engaged.
Been Here a Long Time January 30, 2013 at 09:17 PM
David, I agree 100%. The law/statute they passed on Monday evening was completely different from the one which was being considered in the first place. The initial change should have been voted down and the new information should have been presented at a new public hearing on a date certain so that the board and the community had an opportunity to digest it. Fatfish can now rise to 53 or 54 feet which is, I believe, their initial fall-back height. The whole thing smells!
Jo Miller January 30, 2013 at 11:00 PM
David, Indeed it was about Fatfish from the start. The goal was never 60 ft but Fatfish getting 53 or 55 ft without going before the ZBA. Furthermore, there should have been a new public hearing scheduled re the revised plan. I guess they didn't want to give the public a chance to think about it.


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