Students in Kristin Webber's second grade class at Hampton Bays Elementary School are donating crayons to a school in Texas that was devestated by Hurricane Harvey. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Two prominent zone change applications took steps forward at Southampton Town Hall this week, though departing Town Board member Bridget Fleming declined to vote in favor of either.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ms. Fleming voted against a motion declaring the mandatory Final Environmental Impact Study associated with the Tuckahoe Center project complete. She maintained there was no way the applicants could have sufficiently answered complaints about traffic and maintaining community character without making vast assumptions.
At the same meeting, she abstained from a vote to schedule a public hearing regarding the Bridgehampton Gateway project, saying that she did not have enough information in front of her to warrant a public hearing, noting that the pre-application report being supplied by the Town Land Management Division has not been finalized yet.
Both measures were approved by the rest of the Town Board.
“The legislative intent in the resolution asks whether the Town Board finds, as lead agency, that the FEIS adequately responds to comments,” Ms. Fleming said of the Tuckahoe Center project on Tuesday, which would require a change of zone approved by the Town Board. “I have spent a lot of time with it, and we have talked about it for many years, and my concern is that the proposal is just not appropriate for the proposed site. So, in many respects, the answers to the comments have to be assuming the conclusion in order to make the argument.”
The bigger vote on Tuesday was in regard to the Tuckahoe Center, which has been before the Town Board for more than a year and requires a change of zone from highway business to shopping center business. Under the proposal, applicants Robert Morrow, Lyle Pike and Lance Nill are looking to build a 40,000-square-foot supermarket, 15,000 square feet of small retail stores, and a 3,500-square-foot bank building, with an additional 200 parking spaces.
While many people support the project, there have been concerns raised over the traffic the shopping center complex, proposed for Magee Street, could create. By approving the impact study, which the board ultimately did, 4-1, with Ms. Fleming casting the lone dissenting vote, the board will wait for comment on the project from Suffolk County officials before casting a final project approving or denying the project in the next few weeks.
According to Ms. Fleming, her main concerns with the project continue to be traffic and maintaining the rural character of the Tuckahoe community. As part of the EIS, the applicants had to answer a series of questions posed by the board in regards to environmental, traffic and density concerns. However, Ms. Fleming said on Tuesday that in regards to some of the questions, there is no way they could have adequately answered them.
“I know it is unusual at this particular stage of the process to be saying that I don’t feel the question answers are adequate, but my view at this point is it just doesn’t fit where it is and there is no way to answer adequately the comments, because there really isn’t an answer for the traffic or the community character,” she said. “I know that at this point many of my colleagues don’t agree, but at this point, I need to vote no on this.”
During the meeting, Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said this is not the right time for Town Board members to be making judgments on the project, saying that will come when the final vote is made in a few weeks.
Come January, both Ms. Throne-Holst, who is running for Congress, and Ms. Fleming, who will be moving to the Suffolk County Legislature, will no longer be on the board to vote.
According to Ms. Throne-Holst, adopting the final impact study is a necessary component to eventually move on to approving or denying the project.
While Councilwoman Christine Scalera, who has publicly opposed the Tuckahoe Center in the past few months, said she could understand where Ms. Fleming was coming from, she voted in favor of the study, agreeing with Ms. Throne-Holst that it was better to move the project one step closer to a final vote.
“I don’t disagree with some of the ending conclusions as a result of that, but I think those objections are more appropriately made at the finding stage,” Ms. Scalera said. “For that reason, and in particular moving the process forward, I find these are complete answers.”
Similarly, while Ms. Fleming did not vote against scheduling a hearing regarding the Bridgehampton Gateway project, she did abstain from voting, saying she felt rushed in scheduling the hearing without a detailed report of the project.
The Bridgehampton Gateway property is 13 acres owned by Konner Development and consists of nine parcels. Under the current Southampton Town Comprehensive Plan, it is recommended the town consider a planned development district allowing a mix of residential and commercial use for the property, which is why the town is sponsoring the project and has been working with locals to create a project they consider to be better than what would be allowed under current zoning. The property is zoned mostly for highway businesses.
Currently, there are 12 buildings planned, ranging from 3,600 square feet to 15,000 square feet each, and totaling 90,000 square feet of commercial space. Two of the larger buildings, at 13,000 and 14,000 square feet, are expected to house an Equinox gym, which is a high-end fitness facility. The second stories of eight of the buildings, according to the plans, will be residential units—there will be 28 “community benefit” units and two market-rate units.
While Ms. Fleming said she can appreciate all of the hard work that has gone into this project, which has been on and off the town’s radar since 1999, she does not think it is prudent to schedule a hearing without seeing the pre-application report, which details all of the proposal, first.
Town Planner Kyle Collins defended the move as simply protocol, saying the Land Management Department must provide the report two weeks from the date of the hearing—but it takes a month to schedule the hearing. He added the Town Board will have the report in plenty of time for the first hearing.
A second hearing will also be held on the project in January, when there will be two new members of the Town Board, Supervisor-elect Jay Schneiderman and Councilman-elect John Bouvier.
Ultimately, the board also approved the public hearing, with Ms. Fleming abstaining from the vote. The hearing will be held on Tuesday, December 8, at 1 p.m. in Southampton Town Hall.
“Today, we are here because the code requires that any PDD, specifically a town-initiated PDD, goes through a pre-application process,” Mr. Collins said. “My staff is currently preparing that staff, and the Town Board will have it by the 14-day deadline.”
A Remsenburg property owner has been fined $27,000 in State Supreme Court for repeatedly violating the Southampton Town rental laws.
According to a press release issued on Monday, Michael Hurley has been cited more than once for renting his property for less than 14 days, a direct violation of Town Code Chapter 270. In response, the town brought charges against Mr. Hurley, who must now pay the fines to the town or face up to 150 days in jail.
“It is our hope that violators of the town’s code understand that where there are violations that are not rectified, we will prosecute,” Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato said in the release. “And we will seek the most significant penalties allowed by the law.”
As a result of the case, Mr. Hurley has also lost his right to rent his property at all in the future.
“We understand that property owners may want to seek rental revenue benefits from their properties,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “But they must do so in compliance with town code. Otherwise, they will be subject to substantial fines and incarceration, and they may lose the opportunity to be granted a rental permit in the future, as is the outcome in this case.”
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