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Jun 16, 2010 11:43 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Water Mill residents worry about development planned for intersection

Jun 16, 2010 11:43 AM

Members of the Water Mill Citizens Advisory Committee hashed over ideas and opinions this week on a new commercial development that calls for four new buildings amid three existing ones at the busy corner of Montauk Highway and Flying Point Road, on the outskirts of the hamlet.

Committee Co-Chair Rachel Verno said this week that in a perfect world she would like to see nothing but greenery at the corner. That sentiment aside, CAC member Bill Berkoski, who is also a newly appointed Town Planning Board member, said that he thinks the citizens’ organization should seize the opportunity afforded to them by the proposed commercial development, which can only be built if the Southampton Town Board agrees to create special zoning via a planned development district, or PDD, at the site.

One of the mandates for a PDD is that it must provide a public benefit. “It’s our chance to say what we want,” Mr. Berkoski said.

The development being proposed for the intersection of County Road 39, Montauk Highway and Flying Point Road calls for the construction of four new buildings in addition to the existing Pier 1, Princess Diner and former Fortunoff’s buildings. The new structures would have a 35,400-square-foot footprint. The first floor of the structures would feature commercial space, while the upper level would house apartments, according to the plans. The Pier 1 and Fortunoff’s buildings would be expanded.

The developers of the project, Harrison Gray and the Charos family, have not yet formally approached the Southampton Town Board about the proposal or the required PDD.

The Town Planning Department, working exclusively with the Charos family, considered a similar PDD a few years ago, but those plans fell by the wayside because of a lack of funding to pay the consultants working on the project.

In their pitch on the proposal to the Water Mill committee last month, the Charos family, Mr. Gray, and their respective attorneys said that approximately half of the 47 apartments included in the plans for the PDD would be offered at affordable rates. Affordable housing is considered a public benefit.

But committee members questioned whether affordable housing is even needed in their community, and if so whether the housing the developers are promising would actually be affordable. Ms. Verno noted at the meeting on Monday that the rents for the one-bedroom apartments at Water Mill Ateliers on Montauk Highway go for around $1,600 a month. The two-bedroom apartments planned in the Water Mill PDD project in question could fetch as much as $2,000 a month, she suggested. “Who’s going to rent a two-bedroom apartment above a Gap or J. Crew?” she questioned. Fellow CAC member Steve Ambramson suggested that the developers be required to show how much the rental apartments will go for.

Committee member Marlene Haresign, meanwhile, said that when Mr. Gray bought the property in 2001, it was zoned highway business, and he had no reason to believe he would be able to get that zoning changed to allow for a grocery store, something he’s hoping to bring to the site. The highway business zone permits stores that attract a low volume of customers.

Mr. Berkoski pointed out that the highway business zone has not been successful. Numerous storefronts along County Road 39, which is zoned highway business, are empty, he said.

“It’s not our job to worry about the property owner,” Ms. Haresign shot back.

The Water Mill committee plans to solicit questions and feedback from the community, its members said at their meeting on Monday, and will advertise for such on the group’s website, ourwatermill.org.

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Fancy this, a proposed grocery store in Tuckahoe, AND Water Mill.

What's next, a grocery for Sagaponack too?

Leave nothing unexploited, and no postage stamp worth of land over, or undeveloped, right?
By Mr. Z (11376), North Sea on Jun 17, 10 8:47 PM
Please note, this is Bill Berkoski, the guy who was sneaked onto the Planning Board a couple of months ago by a last-minute, surprise resolution passed by the Republican/Conservative Town Board majority of Chris Nuzzi, Jim Malone and Nancy Graboski.

The appointment of Mr. Berkoski was in direct violation of prior pledges to have an open, public vetting process for these important appointments. Instead, his name was put forward with no warning and thus no chance for public input. It ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1949), Quiogue on Jun 20, 10 5:40 PM
How do you do pay for your overhead if you zone for stores that aim for a low volume of business? I don't know any business owner who wants a low volume of work. The last two years have been hell for every service person or store in the area.
Why not force them to do nothing and leave it blighted or better yet have a billionaire buy it for a vanity project that doesn't require returns? Heaven forbid something called affordable housing go there.
By Bandguy (23), Sag Harbor on Jun 21, 10 5:58 PM
Providence forbid it simply be empty space.
Simply preserve what's left.
There are enough empty storefronts.
I always hear, "If you don't like it, move." This my home, it's where I was born. Just because someone else is rich, and moved in, what kind of country is this that I/we should have to move out?

It's sick, and depraved if you ask me.

[expletive deleted] the whole lot of them. All the interlopers who have ravaged our home for their own greed, and excessive ...more
By Mr. Z (11376), North Sea on Jun 23, 10 1:39 AM
8k run & 3 mile walk, Agawam Park, Southampton Rotary Club fundraiser