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Feb 3, 2010 9:14 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Planning Board balks at plans for Speonk condos

Feb 3, 2010 9:14 AM

The Southampton Town Planning Board is balking at a developer’s plan to build 60 condominiums for senior citizens on the west side of North Phillips Avenue in Speonk, directly over a plume of contaminated groundwater.

At their meeting last Thursday, January 28, board members urged developer Barry Bernstein of Manhattan and his attorney, Wayne Bruyn of Southampton, to reconsider the application because of the potential health impacts the contamination could have on people living in the proposed units. The contamination, known as the Speonk solvent plume, extends for about 1.5 miles, north to south, from Speonk-Riverhead Road to just south of Montauk Highway.

The Southampton Town Board will be holding a public hearing on Mr. Bernstein’s application at its meeting on Tuesday, February 9. Mr. Bernstein needs the Town Board to change the zoning of his 15 acres from residential to a planned development district. The Town Board must approve the change of zoning before the Planning Board can sign off on the project—if it decides to do so.

Current zoning would allow Mr. Bernstein to build 13 single-family houses on the property, which would be subdivided into approximately 13 one-acre lots.

At their work session last week, Planning Board members suggested that Mr. Bernstein look into having industrial or light industrial buildings constructed on his land. They even suggested that he build a mixed-use development, namely a commercial building that includes both apartments and office space.

One of the recommendations of the Eastport-Speonk-Remsenburg-Westhampton Area Study, which was adopted by Southampton Town in 2004, recommends that the land be redeveloped into senior citizen housing. Mr. Bernstein previously stated that he changed his application based on the recommendations of that study.

The same document also notes that his land, which is also known as the Old Feather Factory, could accommodate a mixed-use development, one featuring medical offices for example. “Design should consider extending sidewalks on North Phillips Avenue and addressing potential environmental remediation,” the study states.

But Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty noted that the Eastport-Speonk-Remsenburg-Westhampton Area Study was adopted before there was extensive information available about the plume.

“The study was adopted five years ago,” he said. “It predates ... Woodfield Gables.”

Woodfield Gables is a development that calls for the construction of 57 single-family homes on 160 acres also situated over the Speonk solvent plume. The subdivision received preliminary approval from the Planning Board in 2008, and members were criticized at that time for not waiting until more information became available about the contamination. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is still investigating the source of the pollution.

Mr. Bernstein explained that he wants to build condominiums for senior citizens on the land because the inhabitants of the units will not burden the Eastport South Manor School District.

“The community does not want single-family homes with kids,” Mr. Bruyn said.

Still, Mr. Finnerty and the other Planning Board members stated that they were reluctant to approve the application. The board must issue an advisory report on the project that the Town Board will consider when it decides on the request for the planned development district.

“We expressed our concerns about increasing the residential density until the environmental data has been finalized by the DEC,” said Mr. Finnerty, referring to the 60 condos that are now being proposed.

Planning Board members are still awaiting a copy of the DEC report, which will not be available for several months, according to Maureen Wren, a spokeswoman with the state agency.

“The site characterization report will be out before spring, but not within the next few weeks,” Ms. Wren said.

The report should provide details on the type of contamination present in the plume, and its extent, she said.

Mr. Bernstein emphasized to Planning Board members that he is aware of the plume and its environmental impacts. He said that if he secures approvals for the condo complex, he will ensure that all the units will have public water hookups and vapor barrier systems installed under the structures.

Tom Datre, the developer of Woodfield Gables, previously promised the Planning Board that he would provide the same two protective measures for his subdivision.

The land owned by Mr. Bernstein was also formerly home to a feather-cleaning factory, according to town officials. Mr. Bernstein said that “sludge” remaining from the factory has been removed.

Mr. Finnerty and other board members, meanwhile, continued to push for light industrial or industrial uses to be considered for the property. A light industrial complex is located just east of the land, across North Phillips Avenue. A welding facility now operates to the south and stables are to the north. Long Tree Pond, a housing development in Eastport, is to the east.

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There goes half the Democratic Whining Campaign!!
By Terry (380), Southampton on Feb 3, 10 3:24 PM
If by that, Terry, you mean the Planning Board has gotten it right for a change (as in maybe the first time in about five years), you're quite correct. You call it a "Whining Campaign"; I call it demanding that the Planning Board do the job they're paid to do.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 5, 10 4:18 PM
2 members liked this comment
This would be an excellent article to apply 27 East's fall-back graphic of a Google or Yahoo map to better illustrate the property discussed, as well as the nature of the "plume."
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Feb 4, 10 12:26 PM
That's some sourpuss Alma has one in the photo huh!
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Feb 4, 10 4:30 PM
1 member liked this comment
This is a guess but I think that the plume is cupric arsenate from a plant on the southern end of the Speonk-Riverhead road that produced treated lumber. It had a sign on it alerting motorists that the clouds emerging from the plant were steam from their production process rather than a fire, (so don't call the fire department). Shortly after it closed for good around fifteen years ago, it was revealed that, rather than capturing all the poisons left over from the processing and shipping them ...more
By highhatsize (4214), East Quogue on Feb 6, 10 2:13 AM
Trichlorethelene, tetrachlorethelene, carbon tetrochloride and chloroform are the pollutants as per the DEC. Bad stuff.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Feb 6, 10 9:41 PM
Did the Planning Board just approve a site plan for a Hooter's in Bridgehampton.
Hamptons Hooters, it's about time.
By danrudan (40), Southampton on Feb 8, 10 4:42 PM
No No...maybe Speonk or WHB???? Is Fleming or Hughes for or against? Now this is a HOT topic!
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Feb 8, 10 11:59 PM
They actually "balked" at something? That is news!
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Feb 9, 10 2:28 PM