A public hearing for a proposed 180-seat restaurant on a busy section of County Road 39 recently came and went without a word of public comment from residents.
The owner of the property, Leland Lane Inc., filed a site plan modification with the Southampton Town Planning Board in January asking that a proposed 76-seat restaurant at the site be expanded to 180 seats.
Rumors have circulated for months that a new Outback Steakhouse, which has its regional headquarters in Southampton Village, plans to open in the space. Both the restaurant chain and the developer denied such plans last week.
Outback Steakhouse’s regional vice president, Bill Leahy, said in January that the chain is “actively trying to get a deal” for a store in the area but had not yet found a suitable location. Mr. Leahy, who works in the company’s Southampton headquarters, was traveling and unavailable for comment. His representative in Southampton said that Outback does not have anything new to report on the search for a site.
The developer of the project also declined to comment on what restaurant might occupy the space. James Eckel is a partner in the Oyster Bay firm F&J Realty Group, which is managing the property for Leland Lane. He said that the final layout of the restaurant will depend on the needs of a future tenant, regardless of the design currently before the Planning Board. He refused to elaborate on the status of negotiations with potential tenants.
Leland Lane currently has permission for a 76-seat, 2,700-square-foot restaurant in the newly constructed shopping plaza, located on the south side of County Road 39 in Tuckahoe. The expanded restaurant would take up 5,100 of the building’s 15,000 square feet in the southeastern portion of the building.
Currently, only a 5,000-square-foot Sleepy’s mattress store has opened in the plaza. If a restaurant of the new size proposed were to open, there would be room for one more 4,900-square-foot retail store on the site.
Though members of the public did not voice any concerns at the public hearing on March 13, Southampton Citizens Advisory Committee Chairman Frank Zappone sent a letter to the Planning Board raising concerns that the restaurant could exacerbate the dangerous traffic along the highway.
“The conditions along County Road 39 are deplorable and getting rapidly worse, notwithstanding the recent improvements made by the county,” he wrote. Mr. Zappone also requested an immediate moratorium on all planned development along the route “until a comprehensive corridor study can be completed.”
Tom Neely, who heads the town’s Public Transportation and Traffic Safety Department, also sent an e-mail to the Planning Board requesting that a traffic engineer look at the plans. That message was read into the record before the board closed the public hearing.