The owners of the 13 acres on Montauk Highway that had been considered for a new “Bridgehampton Gateway” shopping center, gym and workforce housing have backed out of a proposed Southampton Town-sponsored Planned Development District for the site, and are now considering building a gym on the site using the existing zoning.
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman announced the new development at a public hearing on the proposed PDD May 24.
Carol Konner, who is one of the principal owners of the property, said at a public hearing May 3 that if this project isn’t approved, she will develop her property under existing zoning, which allows her to build 90,000 square feet of retail space with two residential estate lots on the south side of the property.
“It’s a mixed bag. I’m thrilled to have off my plate a very controversial project, but the developer had worked with me” on reducing the scale of the project under the PDD and promising an advanced sewage treatment system, said Mr. Schneiderman.
“The old adage ‘be careful what you wish for'” is appropriate here,” said Kevin McAllister of Defend H2O at the public hearing. “Ultimately it could be a mixture of deficient (septic) systems and failure to employ and incorporate bayscaping concepts.”
Others who spoke welcomed the news.
“It’s a narrow island and it’s a very unusual situation,” said Fred Havemeyer of Bridgehampton. “Destination projects draw cars from all over and create more traffic. It’s just the opposite of what we want to do.”
Al Algieri of East Quogue said that “what came out of the town is just as bad as what the developer wanted.”
Town Planning and Development Director Kyle Collins said the owners of the property will still need to go through site plan review, and may need to go before the town’s zoning board of appeals because the gym project, which is slated to be in two buildings of 13,000 and 14,000 square feet each, is on a lot where the code does not permit more than 15,000 square feet for any one use, regardless of the number of buildings.
The board also agreed May 24 in a 3-2 vote to adopt a one-year moratorium on consideration of any new planned development districts, while the board assembles a “blue ribbon committee” to examine issues with the way PDDs have developed in the town, particularly with regard to the public benefit associated with the projects.
For instance, some PDD proposals have included donations to community organizations in lieu of a project actually intrinsically providing a public benefit, like affordable housing or a public park.
Mr. Schneiderman, Councilman John Bouvier and Councilwoman Julie Lofstad voted for the moratorium and Councilman Stan Glinka and Councilwoman Christine Scalera voted against it.
“I think the right thing to do is take a careful look at it,” said Mr. Schneiderman, who added that the Suffolk County Planning Commission has asked the town to provide quarterly updates throughout the one-year moratorium.
“Their biggest concern is that it will drag out,” he said.
Mr. Bouvier said he believes board members shouldn’t go in to the study with preconceived notions of whether or not to get rid of PDDs.
“I don’t think it serves the public to go into this with their mind made up,” he said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Mr. Glinka said he believed the town board should have held more than one public hearing.
“There seems to be a lot of community cry to repeal PDDs,” said Mr. Schneiderman. “I think a lot of good work went into PDDs. A lot of our land use goes back to the 1970s, and the understandings of land use may have changed since then. Traditional zoning led to suburban sprawl, and the community strived to find a way to address that.”
Brewster House Extension
The board also agreed May 24 to hold open the public hearing on the potential demolition of the former Brewster House boarding house in Flanders until June 14 at 1 p.m.
Owners of the property, who plan to renovate it, perhaps as a boutique hotel, have submitted an engineering report to the town and the town’s director of public works inspected the property earlier this month and found that work had been done to make the property safer than before.
“At this time I think that we’d like to talk to the owner and his representative about the contents of the report,” said Director of Public Works Christine Fetten at the May 24 public hearing.
Town Landmarks & Historic Districts Board Chair Sally Spanburgh said that she had misspoke at a public hearing two weeks prior when she said the building couldn’t be considered for landmark designation in its current condition.
“It has generally not been our practice to recommend to you a building in poor condition,” she said. “But landmark designation can be an incentive to the owners, and the’d be eligible for New York State rehabilitation tax credits because of the census track. Some members of the landmarks board believe we should be doing as much as possible to help them, but there are also some members of the Flanders community who insist we bless the demolition.”
Janice Young, who lives in Flanders and is a member of the Landmarks & Historic Districts Board, said she believes the owners, who have owned the property for less than two years, deserve time to restore the building.
“Once a historic resource is gone, it can’t be brought back,” she said.
Owner Jamie Minnick said his company, Restoration Equity Group, is collecting stories about the house from longtime Flanders residents on their website here.
“We don’t take lightly tearing somebody’s property down,” said Mr. Schneiderman. “It seems like they have done what they need to do to stabilize the structure.”
The board will continue the public hearing May 14.