Hardy Plumbing
September 06, 2006

Artists Paint Proposed Law as Too 'Harsh'


Artists are not the problem but they will suffer from the solution. That was the message delivered to the East Hampton Town Board during a lengthy public hearing on a proposed revision to the section of the town zoning code relating to artists' studios.

Geared toward keeping studios from being transformed into illegal living spaces, the proposal lays out a variety of regulations pertaining to the size of detached studios and what amenities it can accommodate. It also "tightens up," in Supervisor Bill McGintee's words, rules regarding who is eligible to have "the privilege" of an artist studio.

Whereas any property owner whose land has room can build a detached structure up to 600 square feet in size, artist studios at present can be built at 2500 square feet. The draft law reduces the size to 1250 square feet. It requires artists to prove they are professionals and committed to art by providing affidavits and portfolios of work. As with the first incarnation of artist studio regulations adopted over 20 years ago, the law continues to prohibit the installation of toilets.

Several dozen artists showed up at town hall last Friday morning to offer comments on the proposal. Although the outing was an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the draft code change, Supervisor McGintee and board members Pete Hammerle and Deb Foster broke with traditional public hearing protocol, rebutting or debating with almost every speaker who took the podium. In fact, at one point during the hours long hearing, Foster interrupted a speaker mid-testimony, calling for a bathroom break. The hearing could not proceed in her absence since board members Brad Loewen and Pat Mansir were absent from the day's session.

Over and over throughout the hearing, board members told the artists that they were not the problem. The law is designed to target abusers, but many of those who spoke appeared to feel abused and targeted both. None of the speakers testified in support of the law as drafted.

Even before the speakers weighed in, all three council members provided comment. McGintee explained the initiative's genesis. Although the town code calls for the removal of an artist's studio when a property changes hands and is sold to a non-artist, that has not happened. Instead, Hammerle continued, purchasers who wanted a detached building suddenly decided they were artists. "People were taking advantage," he said. Foster told audience members that she was eager to hear input on the proposal, particularly with regard to the size studio artists need and what amenities are critical. She got an earful.

Toilets were at the top of many speakers' lists. "We've been talking about it for 22 years, and artists still have to go to the bathroom," said Gordon Matheson, vice president of the Artists Alliance.

Alliance president Tom Steele, presented a petition with over 500 signatures from people in East Hampton Town in favor of letting artists have toilets in their studios. He and vice president Ellen Dooley both reminded board members that when they were on the campaign trail they promised to change the code to allow loos. McGintee vowed repeatedly to "sit down and take a good hard look at the toilet issue."

Jim Posner complained that the notion of unannounced inspections contained within the draft "is the beginning of a police state." Board members corrected him, explaining that the town will give "reasonable notice."

Several speakers worried about whether what inspectors find would lead them to issue violations. Matheson said he often takes breaks to watch television and Ann Stanwell does her drawing curled up on a day bed. Both felt such practices might run afoul of the proposal. But they were assured inspectors would be sensitive to artists' differing styles.

And if there are violations, "the sanctions look particularly harsh for the crime," Carol Saxe Buda offered. Sanctions include being forced to tear a studio down after repeated violations. Buda wondered if the town would do the same to others who violate the town zoning code, such as landlords who rent their houses to dozens of people at a clip.

Additionally, Buda spoke to another provision that limits the number of tours an artist can host at a studio. A typical homeowner can hold up to three yard sales per year. Buda and other speakers felt artists should be able to have a comparable number of studio tours. Also, speakers felt more clarification is needed for a provision that attempts to discourage sale of art from the studios. Hammerle By Kitty Merrill

Artists are not the problem but they will suffer from the solution. That was the message delivered to the East Hampton Town Board during a lengthy public hearing on a proposed revision to the section of the town zoning code relating to artists' studios.

Geared toward keeping studios from being transformed into illegal living spaces, the proposal lays out a variety of regulations pertaining to the size of detached studios and what amenities it can accommodate. It also "tightens up," in Supervisor Bill McGintee's words, rules regarding who is eligible to have "the privilege" of an artist studio.

Whereas any property owner whose land has room can build a detached structure up to 600 square feet in size, artist studios at present can be built at 2500 square feet. The draft law reduces the size to 1250 square feet. It requires artists to prove they are professionals and committed to art by providing affidavits and portfolios of work. As with the first incarnation of artist studio regulations adopted over 20 years ago, the law continues to prohibit the installation of toilets.

Several dozen artists showed up at town hall last Friday morning to offer comments on the proposal. Although the outing was an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the draft code change, Supervisor McGintee and board members Pete Hammerle and Deb Foster broke with traditional public hearing protocol, rebutting or debating with almost every speaker who took the podium. In fact, at one point during the hours long hearing, Foster interrupted a speaker mid-testimony, calling for a bathroom break. The hearing could not proceed in her absence since board members Brad Loewen and Pat Mansir were absent from the day's session.

Over and over throughout the hearing, board members told the artists that they were not the problem. The law is designed to target abusers, but many of those who spoke appeared to feel abused and targeted both. None of the speakers testified in support of the law as drafted.

Even before the speakers weighed in, all three council members provided comment. McGintee explained the initiative's genesis. Although the town code calls for the removal of an artist's studio when a property changes hands and is sold to a non-artist, that has not happened. Instead, Hammerle continued, purchasers who wanted a detached building suddenly decided they were artists. "People were taking advantage," he said. Foster told audience members that she was eager to hear input on the proposal, particularly with regard to the size studio artists need and what amenities are critical. She got an earful.

Toilets were at the top of many speakers' lists. "We've been talking about it for 22 years, and artists still have to go to the bathroom," said Gordon Matheson, vice president of the Artists Alliance.

Alliance president Tom Steele, presented a petition with over 500 signatures from people in East Hampton Town in favor of letting artists have toilets in their studios. He and vice president Ellen Dooley both reminded board members that when they were on the campaign trail they promised to change the code to allow loos. McGintee vowed repeatedly to "sit down and take a good hard look at the toilet issue."

Jim Posner complained that the notion of unannounced inspections contained within the draft "is the beginning of a police state." Board members corrected him, explaining that the town will give "reasonable notice."

Several speakers worried about whether what inspectors find would lead them to issue violations. Matheson said he often takes breaks to watch television and Ann Stanwell does her drawing curled up on a day bed. Both felt such practices might run afoul of the proposal. But they were assured inspectors would be sensitive to artists' differing styles.

And if there are violations, "the sanctions look particularly harsh for the crime," Carol Saxe Buda offered. Sanctions include being forced to tear a studio down after repeated violations. Buda wondered if the town would do the same to others who violate the town zoning code, such as landlords who rent their houses to dozens of people at a clip.

Additionally, Buda spoke to another provision that limits the number of tours an artist can host at a studio. A typical homeowner can hold up to three yard sales per year. Buda and other speakers felt artists should be able to have a comparable number of studio tours. Also, speakers felt more clarification is needed for a provision that attempts to discourage sale of art from the studios. Hammerle said the town doesn't want to see studios become galleries. The studio is "a place to work, not necessarily a place to sell," he said.

If the primary goal is to prevent abuse by subsequent owners, Irwin Perton said the law should apply strictly to subsequent owners. "You're going after a fly with an elephant gun," he declared. Stanwell said the way the draft is written, "It does make it seem like you're out to get us." Address the illegal housing problem in some other way, "without strangling the artist," sDooley urged.

Ernst Lurker spoke about the artist's need to justify the studio under the proposal. Vincent van Gogh, who sold just one painting in his lifetime, would not qualify for a studio under the proposal, he said.

Finally, speakers opposed the reduction in permitted size proposed. It would virtually dictate, "You shall now only create small art," Dooley said.

"Everything we've heard today is good," Hammerle summarized as the hearing drew to a close. McGintee said the board would tighten up some aspects of the law and loosen others, tweaking it so the art community "feels comfortable." Not totally comfortable, though. The three didn't agree to allow toilets.

Site Search


Lang
2107 Capeletti Front Tile
Gurney's Inn