Bridgehampton students Ayamma El, Milo Youngerman, Patricia Figueroa and Amoy Webley in the Sprouts garden. DANA SHAW
Kyle and Melissa Lohr at their home in East Quogue on Wednesday morning. DANA SHAW
Volunteers begin demolition on the inside of the home. DANA SHAW
The Southampton Village Planning Board is keeping a public hearing open to allow more discussion on the possible demolition of a retail courtyard on Jobs Lane to make way for a pair of two-story commercial buildings.
After a lengthy conversation with opponents of the plan who packed Southampton Village Hall on Monday night, Planning Board Chairman Alan McFarland said the public hearing’s extension would allow residents and the board more time to review the proposed lot line modification and site plan. Mr. McFarland noted that the review was necessary to potentially rescind the board’s determination that an environmental study under the State Environmental Quality Review Act was not necessary—which it could do.
This will be the second continuation of East End Holdings LLC’s plan to remove the courtyard, which features a fountain, bench seating and six mostly vacant storefronts, and the construction of three new storefronts situated on the lot line in its place. The board originally sought to extend the public hearing after Susan Madonia’s testimony on July 2, indicating she was unaware of the scope of the project next door to her business and needed more time to hire legal counsel.
“And, immediately after the chairman granted Ms. Madonia more time, the board approved SEQRA,” said Jeffrey Bragman, Ms. Madonia’s attorney, at Monday’s meeting. “That’s the ultimate decision [the board] makes when considering its impact.”
Mr. Bragman, who was elected to the East Hampton Town Board last year, said the Planning Board essentially made it impossible for Ms. Madonia to comment effectively as a neighbor by making a SEQRA determination before she had an opportunity to weigh in.
The proposal was classified as Type I under SEQRA, which is reserved for projects that have the potential to have the most impact. With the classification, the board must act on any critique—no matter how minimal—a neighbor has on a project to see if a modification to a site plan is necessary to protect the environment or preserve community character.
Mr. Bragman called on the board to immediately rescind their negative declaration.
Gil Flanagan, the developer’s attorney, contends that the new construction “is not inconsistent with the character of the neighborhood” of the business district on Jobs Lane.
He pointed to a newer two-story, four-storefront building across the street at 58 Jobs Lane, of similar size. The proposed construction would nearly mirror the building’s size and facade—with lesser setbacks than the current courtyard configuration, concurrent with village code. The proposed commercial buildings also will allow access to the rear municipal parking lot, which few businesses on Jobs Lane do.
Mr. Flanagan also touted the project’s “first-of-its-kind advanced sanitary system in the village that will have substantial impact on [Lake Agawam].”
“Septic is going to be required anyway—it’s not a gift,” Mr. Bragman countered. All new commercial buildings in Southampton require sanitary system upgrades.
Ms. Madonia has operated her family’s antiques store on Jobs Lane for more than 30 years. She said she needs to hire an engineer to assess the potential damage the proposed construction at 38-42 Jobs Lane will have on the foundation of Ann Madonia Antiques, which is planned to be dug along a shared lot line.
“I want the best for the future of Jobs Lane development. … But I will be the first store on Jobs Lane to lose light on the second floor,” said Ms. Madonia.
The proposed height of the storefront would block 14 existing windows on the second floor of the neighboring building. Also, the storage of required mechanical equipment is positioned on a shared lot line adjacent to Ms. Madonia’s rear garden, and her store’s electrical service system will need to be relocated.
The Southampton Association echoed Ms. Madonia with the submission of 27 letters on the issue, which generally argue that the project cannot move forward in its current state. Opponents of the plan have called the design of the buildings to be generic and unlike the rest of Southampton Village’s rich history—factors that should have been considered by the board in its SEQRA declaration.
Evelyn Konrad, an attorney who lives in the village, said the construction would impair the important historical and aesthetic resources of the community’s courtyard space.
“The same architectural pattern … is replicated just east of the threatened courtyard, with a small but delightful brick walkway that leads in west to the entrance to Jildor shoe store, at the south to the Tripoli Art Gallery, and in the east to a number of fashionable retail stores and art dealers,” Ms. Konrad said.
Mr. Bragman—calling on his experience on the East Hampton Town Board—speculated that if the village decides that the private space is worth saving, it should work with the Town of Southampton to tap the Community Preservation Fund to purchase some of the privately owned space for the public.
“Over in East Hampton, we are doing our hamlet studies—if you don’t have these spaces, I can’t tell you how hard it is to re-create these spaces in the future,” he said of the walkable pedestrian areas in Southampton Village.
The public hearing will continue at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 4, at Village Hall. The matter also will be discussed by board members at a work session at 5 p.m. on August 27.
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