Kathryn Eiseman, who serves as an environmental consultant for the Southampton Village Planning Board, is defending a recommendation she made to board members back in July to go ahead with the proposed demolition of a retail courtyard on Jobs Lane, which would make way for a pair of new two-story, commercial buildings.
In a memo that circulated at the Planning Board meeting Monday, Ms. Eiseman doubled down on the board’s July 2 decision under the State Environmental Quality Review Act that the proposal would not have an impact on the environment, before community members—namely, Ann Madonia Antiques next door—had an opportunity to weigh in.
Since July, community members have spoken out against the plan during several public hearings, which has caused board members to question whether they acted too quickly in making the SEQRA determination.
Ms. Eiseman said the report was intended to assist the board in considering the issues, and to provide guidance to the property owner—currently listed as East End Holdings LLC—in any future submissions.
The Planning Board was required to follow SEQRA to determine if the proposal was going to have any environmental, aesthetic and historical impact on the area, like it does for all other site plans.
Community members—who claim the private courtyard is an important community resource and that the aesthetic of the proposed storefront isn’t harmonious with the character of the village—say the board acted without the proper public input. They are calling for a positive determination, which would require much more extensive and thorough review than a negative one the board adopted.
Board member Roy Stevenson, who has toyed with the idea of reversing course, questioned what the downside of a positive declaration would be, other than slowing down the project. Ms. Eiseman said it can be an onerous expense for the property owner.
“If there is no reason to do that, why put the applicant through it?” she asked.
Ms. Eiseman contends the courtyard, which was built in the 1970s, does not have any historical significance, and there are limited views into the courtyard from Jobs Lane.
She also notes that state law doesn’t require a public hearing to be held before the determination is made, but the community will have a chance to weigh in as the project goes through site plan review under the Planning Board and design review under the Architectural Review and Historic Preservation Board, as well as obtain several variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
For instance, Ms. Eiseman did suggest that the property owner could set the front of the building back 10 feet to allow for handicap accessible entrances to meet required standards. “In fact, that could eliminate the need for certain zoning variances for building setback,” she said.
With that in mind, Mr. Stevenson said there will be more opportunities to make changes to the overall plan.
“Seems to me that if there is going to be a change of the plan, then there could be many changes to the plan,” Mr. Stevenson said. “That way it’s not cookie cutter and adheres with the character of the village.”
The property owner’s attorney, Gil Flanagan, was in attendance, and said that his client “is developing a methodology to deal with the construction concerns neighbors have pointed out.”
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