Val Florio Resigns From Sag Harbor Village ZBA

The property owned by the Schiavoni family next to the Sag Harbor Post Office. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

An outpouring of angry criticism directed at the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals over the way it handled the application of the Schiavoni family for a waiver from a moratorium on development along the village waterfront has led to the resignation of the board’s chairman.

Val Florio, who was appointed to the position last summer, submitted his resignation last week, according to Mayor Jim Larocca.

The mayor said Florio decided to step down after he was subjected to unspecified threats and abuse when the ZBA was criticized for the pace at which it had reviewed the Schiavoni application.

“In Village Hall, we are disappointed with the loss of this chairman and angry about some of the circumstances that have contributed to that loss,” Larocca said. “The level of criticism and invective directed at him and other members of this board was intolerable.”

Florio did not respond to requests for comment, but Larocca said the current political climate, in which volunteers who serve “as a gesture of their love for this community” are abused for it, is making it ever more difficult to find residents willing to answer the call.

“It’s very disappointing that it would reach a level that would literally drive someone from serving,” he said, “particularly in Val’s case, where you have a man of exceptional integrity and honesty.”

The mayor would not disclose the nature of the comments that were directed at Florio or whether they were made by letter, email or telephone. But he said the often angry tenor of discussion on Facebook and other social media likely contributed to the situation.

Larocca and other board members also criticized coverage of the Schiavoni application in The Sag Harbor Express. They said a November 25 article, in which Gabe and Diane Schiavoni, lifelong village residents, announced that they would move out of the village, angry over the slow pace of the ZBA’s deliberation, failed to accurately explain the seven-year timeline over which they had filed several applications to redevelop their property at 31 Long Island Avenue and the gaps between their applications.

Village officials also said they were disappointed by an editorial in the December 2 issue of the Express in which the paper gave a “dunce cap” to the ZBA for its handling of the Schiavoni application, because, the editorial said, it implied the village was intentionally slow-walking the application to discourage the Schiavonis from developing their property.

Under the name VACS Enterprises Inc., the Schiavoni family has sought to build a new building at 31 Long Island Avenue. The original building was razed when National Grid remediated groundwater pollution in the area surrounding the Gas Ball lot.

The village assured the Schiavonis they would be able to rebuild in place and kind, but over the years, the family filed applications for a variety of larger structures. In the meantime, Gabe and Diane Schiavoni transferred the property to their son, David, who has been continuing the application.

The ZBA took up the request for the waiver from the moratorium in August and held a public hearing over two meetings in September and October. When it met in November to decide the issue, it had only three members present, and Schiavoni’s attorney, Dennis Downes, requested an adjournment until a full board could be convened.

The board later scheduled a special work session, on December 7, at which it agreed to issue the moratorium request by a voice vote.

The ZBA met again on Tuesday, December 21, without Florio. With only four members present, the ZBA officially approved the moratorium exemption.

Most of the other applications on the agenda were tabled, including a second one from VACS Enterprises requesting a series of variances that will be necessary before its plans can be reviewed by the Village Planning Board.