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Nov 8, 2011 10:07 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Remsenburg Estates Is Focus Of Debate During Annual Meeting

Nov 9, 2011 12:59 PM

Plans for a new 17-home subdivision, called Remsenburg Estates, were the main focus of debate during the Remsenburg Association’s annual meeting on Sunday.

Discussion about the proposed development, which dominated the two-hour meeting attended by approximately 50 people, was preceded by a presentation given by developer Lawrence Citarelli, the owner of the 23 acres on which the houses would be built, and Kyle Collins of KPC Planning Services, a planning consultant for Mr. Citarelli.

The land in question sits north of South Country Road and west of Nidzyn Avenue in Remsenburg, and is currently zoned residential, allowing one house per acre. The plan being proposed by Mr. Citarelli involves creating 17 new homes, preserving three older structures that now sit on the property, and donating a little less than 6 acres of open space to Southampton Town.

In August, Sally Pope, the president of the Remsenburg Association and a former Town Board member, presented a petition to the town containing 300 signatures of those who oppose the subdivision. The group had asked Mr. Citarelli and Mr. Collins to come to its annual meeting, which was held at the Remsenburg Academy on South Country Road, and address the concerns of community members.

Of the concerns raised by residents, the two most prevalent grievances were related to traffic and maintaining the historic nature of the hamlet. Many also wanted to know why the property had not been purchased and preserved by the town using Community Preservation Fund money. The first two issues were addressed by Mr. Citarelli and Mr. Collins, while the third topic was addressed by a panel that included Southampton Town CPF Manager Mary Wilson and Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, both of whom were in attendance.

According to Mr. Collins, the preferred access point for the subdivision would be along South Country Road. Both Mr. Collins and Mr. Citarelli said the road is wide enough to handle the increase in traffic that would be generated by 17 additional homes.

But those who live off South Country Road want the subdivision entrance on Nidzyn Avenue, while those who live on that street say they don’t want the additional traffic disrupting their residential neighborhood. As things now stand, the subdivision would have only one entrance and exit on South Country Road. Preliminary plans call for the entrance to feature four lanes—two for entering and two for exiting—while that road would terminate in a cul-de-sac. It is unclear if the entrance would feature a traffic light.

According to Mr. Citarelli, all three houses now on the property will be preserved under his plan. His proposal carves out separate lots for two of the houses. The third structure, commonly referred to as the “caretaker’s house,” is located on the open space that would be donated to the town. Planners noted that none of the structures is recognized as historic landmarks. According to Mr. Collins, Mr. Citarelli plans to refurbish two of the unoccupied houses and sell them as private residences.

Mr. Citarelli told attendees that he has hired two firms that specialize in maintaining older structures to evaluate the integrity of the two houses that he intends to restore and sell. He is awaiting the report of their analysis.

Many residents in attendance Sunday wanted to know why the town is not considering buying and preserving the entire property. Ms. Wilson explained that the town utilizes four criteria when evaluating land and that the property in question did not meet any of them. She said that CPF money is reserved for acquisitions that result in the preservation of farmland, oceanfront properties, wetlands or lands that sit above aquifer recharge basins, and properties that possess exceptional scenic value.

Ms. Wilson said the town did evaluate the land prior to Mr. Citarelli’s purchase of it last December, and determined that it did not meet the CPF requirements.

Even so, some residents are calling for the town to buy and preserve it.

“The CPF cannot be a bailout fund for development projects that we don’t want,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “We just don’t have the money for that. It would be impossible to buy all land that is not currently being used.”

According to Mr. Citarelli, he hopes to have information from various studies—traffic, archeological and historical—compiled within the next few weeks, and plans to present the data to the Southampton Town Planning Board before the end of the year at the latest. He also estimated that the next public hearing on the project won’t happen until next spring, in either April or May.

Noting the opposition to his project, Mr. Citarelli said he is open to considering other options. He said that an alternative plan is now being drawn up in case the town rejects his original proposal. That plan, he said, still calls for the construction of 17 homes but the entrance to the development would be in a different location. Also, the amount of land set aside for preservation would be different from what he’s now proposing.

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