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Town tweaks code to allow architects to serve on Historic Preservation Commission

Recently approved changes to Southold Town’s ethics code could make it easier to fill vacant seats on the Historic Preservation Commission.

The Town Board unanimously voted last Tuesday to tweak the code in order to allow architects to sit on the commission and continue working on projects within Southold.

Previously, officials said qualified members have been deterred from serving on the commission due to a rule that precluded them from representing applicants from any other town board or department, including the town Trustees and planning.

Now architects will be able to join the HPC so long as they do not represent applicants with projects that must appear before that commission.

During a public hearing at last Tuesday’s meeting, local architect Meryl Kramer applauded the measure, but said she didn’t think it went far enough.

“The revisions in the code are very helpful and definitely a great step forward,” she said. 

But a large portion of her business includes working on historic structures. “I enjoy working on those projects, I find them very gratifying,” she said, asking the board if there was any way a member of the HPC could recuse themselves if there was a conflict.

Supervisor Scott Russell said state law wouldn’t allow for recusals.

Tom Stevenson of Oysterponds spoke out against the proposal.

“I’m in favor of tightening ethics codes in these ethically challenged times, not loosening them,” he said, noting that changing the code is “dangerous territory” since only one member of the HPC is required to be a licensed architect.

The Town Board also voted Tuesday to approve another change to the ethics code which will limit political activities of town employees on town property.