Bridgehampton residents this week encouraged Southampton Town officials to move forward with plans to revisit the Bridgehampton Gateway, a mixed-use planned development district proposed in the hamlet.
At a Citizens Advisory Committee meeting on Monday night, Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Town Planning and Development Administrator Kyle Collins told Bridgehampton residents that they have been in discussions with the owners and developers of the empty stretch of land on Montauk Highway, across from the Bridgehampton Commons, about bringing the project back. Ms. Throne-Holst had initially proposed the idea at last month’s CAC meeting, when it was met with guarded enthusiasm from residents, who had not given a definite answer on whether or not they wanted to proceed.
Plans for the Bridgehampton Gateway Planned Development District first materialized in 2003. Proposals included a variety of retail, office and residential spaces on a 13-acre expanse of land, one of which was a 90,000-square-foot complex anchored by a Barnes & Noble bookstore. The project stalled and eventually fell through in 2009, however, after a portion of the land the bookstore giant owned was sold following a default on a property tax bill.
On Monday, Mr. Collins presented the latest conceptual plan from 2009 as an example of what the Gateway could possibly entail. He said the parcel currently allows about 60,000 square feet of building space—which could include apartments along with retailers that would “build on the agricultural heritage of the hamlet”—but that number could be easily increased to up to 80,000 with the approval of a PDD, which allows certain uses currently excluded by the zoning of the site. The majority of the lot is currently zoned for highway business, which limits it to retailers such as car dealerships and appliance stores.
“This has a lot of redevelopment potential,” Mr. Collins said of the site, adding that since the project was nearly 80 percent done the last time around, it would not be difficult to pick up where the former Town Board had left off. “The intention today is to come back and see, does the community want to come back and revise?”
In response to this question, CAC members referred back to their previous concerns about the project years ago. Many said they wanted to be involved in the process the whole way through this time, and that they would prefer to see affordable housing and a move away from “big-box” retailers like Barnes & Noble. Others questioned what the public benefit of the PDD would be, as town code states that to obtain a PDD, a developer must provide some type of benefit to the community.
“We didn’t see an increase in square footage as a public benefit” last time, said Bridgehampton resident and CAC member Alejandro Saralegui.
While town code doesn’t actually lay out what the benefits could be, Ms. Throne-Holst and Mr. Collins said they could range from adding affordable housing, installing underground utility lines, upgrading septic systems, or designing the buildings to mirror the style of others in the community.
The officials stressed to residents that approving a PDD and allowing the increase in square footage would open up many different opportunities for development. For one, rather than being an applicant-driven site, the owners and developers, Carol Konner and her son Greg, would be able to work with the community in deciding what they would like to see in the complex in terms of building aesthetics and use. Secondly, the expansion of square footage would bring a variety of stores the hamlet doesn’t already have that could cater to residents’ needs.
“The point of the PDD is that it gives the town the ability to look at a property like this with a blank slate and say, in our planning wisdom, ‘We believe the best way to move forward with this property is ...’ whatever it may be,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “There’s some very good examples of some very good PDDs that have happened in this town. It gives us the flexibility then to work with the developers.”
Last year, the Konners submitted a site plan pre-application to the Town Planning Board for two barn-like buildings slated to house Equinox, a fitness facility. The barns total a bit more than 27,000 square feet of space on 6 acres of property adjacent to where the Bridgehampton Gateway PDD would be.
After an hour of discussions, the CAC eventually made a motion to support the idea of revisiting the Gateway. Ms. Throne-Holst and Mr. Collins said the next step now is for the Konners to work with land use advisers and architects to start drawing preliminary plans based on the model from 2009.
Mr. Konner, who was present at the meeting, told residents he would gladly work with them to “come up with a comprehensive plan that we’re all happy with.”
“I think we, my family and I, might be able to do something by the next meeting,” Mr. Konner said.
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