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Jul 14, 2010 12:45 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Planning process inches forward for Hampton Business and Technology Park in Westhampton

Jul 14, 2010 12:45 PM

Suffolk County officials are busy getting Francis S. Gabreski Airport ready for a major face-lift next year—even though some of the preliminary work has caught some Southampton Town Planning Board members by surprise.

The main entrance to the airport on Wallen Street was closed earlier this month and the area is now cluttered with heavy machinery. The county is upgrading utilities there, including gas, electric and sewer lines, and will repave the road in preparation of breaking ground on the much-anticipated Hamptons Business and Technology Park, said Gabreski Airport Manager Anthony Ceglio.

People must now enter and exit the Suffolk County-owned airport at Cook Street, just south of the main entrance, along Old Riverhead Road. A new traffic light was installed there and will be removed in November, when the resurfacing project at the main entrance is scheduled to be completed, Mr. Ceglio said.

Suffolk County is footing the bill for the $2.5 million project on Wallen Street, according to Mr. Ceglio. DF Stone Contracting, Ltd, of Medford, has been hired to do the work.

Mr. Ceglio explained that the county did not need Southampton Town Planning Board approval to start that work because it is taking place on county property and the upgrades are included in a 40-year lease agreement that Suffolk signed with Mitch and Gregg Rechler, the developers and owners of Rechler@Gabreski LLC, a smaller branch of Rechler Equity Partners of Melville. The firm will build the 433,100-square-foot technology park that’s slated for construction next year.

Still, Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty said that while the county technically does not need his board’s approval to move forward with the utility and road improvements, members are not thrilled over its decision. He added that the Planning Board is still struggling to figure out its role with the technology park, but would have preferred if the county had waited until the projected received final approvals from the town.

“It’s called the whole process into question,” Mr. Finnerty said of the town’s role in helping design the technology park. “All municipalities seek to retain as much local control as possible. It’s oftentimes a source of frustration.”

The Planning Board will get to review, and ultimately sign off on, the final designs for the new industrial park—and that could happen in the next few months, according to officials.

It is not clear when the Rechlers intend to break ground on the project. Lloyd Singer, a spokesman for the developers, said Tuesday that he could not immediately get in touch with the Rechlers.

Mr. Ceglio explained that the county was obligated to complete the upgrades near the airport’s entrance, which is located just south of where the technology park will eventually be built, as part of its lease agreement with the Rechlers.

“It’s all in preparation for the development of the industrial park,” Mr. Ceglio said. “It’s all part of the process that the Rechlers are going through to get the building permit. The county has to meet certain conditions.”

The Rechlers, Mr. Ceglio and Carolyn Fahey, Suffolk County’s Intergovernmental Relations Coordinator, were scheduled to make an extensive presentation on the commercial project before the Southampton Town Planning Board last Thursday, July 8, but were asked by board members to skip it. They made a very similar presentation at a board work session a few months ago, according to Mr. Finnerty. Last week’s presentation was expected to last at least an hour 
and the project was not addressed by the board until around 9:30 p.m. Instead, they were asked by the Planning Board to provide a brief update and answer questions.

Scott Pollack, an architect with the Somerville, Massachusetts firm Arrowstreet that is working with the Rechlers, said the architecture of the buildings in the technology park has changed from a traditional look to a more modern design. Still, the buildings facing Old Riverhead Road will have the more traditional East End look, he added. Mr. Pollack said he had to revamp his designs after some of the high-tech firms interested in leasing space at the commercial facility did not like the traditional architecture, stating that it did not match their image.

Last week’s meeting with the Planning Board was considered a “pre-submission conference,” and an opportunity for the community to comment on the project, but no residents spoke. Guy Germano, an attorney with Germano & Cahill, P.C. in Holbrook who is representing the Rechlers, said his clients will submit a formal application in about eight weeks, after they receive a report on the project from the Planning Board.

Gregg Rechler, one of the developers of the multi-phase project, said that he and his team have been working diligently over the past 10 months on ironing out the infrastructure and road work that will accompany the commercial development. Mike Divney, an engineer with Divney Tung Schwalbe LLP in White Plains who is working with the Rechlers, noted that a roundabout will be installed along Wallen Street, near another main intersection in the technology park.

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Planning Board Chairman Finnerty complains about being cut out of the County's plans for Gabreski, and maybe he's right, but what about the Planning Board itself cutting out the people? Displaying its usual public-be-damned attitude, this Board goes ahead and cancels a scheduled, detailed presentation by the main players because, hey, the Board already heard it in a work session, and who cares if the people don't get to hear it? Even if work sessions are public, when an item is slated to go on ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1952), Quiogue on Jul 20, 10 2:39 PM
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