The Southampton Town Board this week heard competing advice on how the results of the years-long analysis of the County Road 39 corridor should be read, with regard to the proposal for a King Kullen shopping center on the roadway in Tuckahoe.
To business interests, the town should not write off the project out of hand, board members were told during a public hearing on the study’s recommendations on Tuesday. But adding more traffic to the roadway should be seen as a hazard to be avoided at all costs, others said.
At the first public hearing on the study, Tuckahoe Citizens Advisory Committee Chairwoman Bonnie Groebert had pointed to recommendations in the study that the corridor’s “highway business” zoning be left largely intact as a sign that the proposal for a 40,000-square-foot grocery store and other large development proposals should be flatly rebuffed.
But a former president of the Southampton Chamber of Commerce, Bob Schepps, asked that the board not be quite so quick to dismiss larger development proposals. “As a businessperson, it’s very difficult to start negotiating from ‘no,’” he said. “I’ve been fighting for years [for the] perspective that business is not a four-letter word. We should not start from ‘no.’”
Mr. Schepps’s stance and portions of the corridor study that seemed to offer openings for the proposed shopping center drew barbs from others in the community.
“I think it’s very difficult to take County Road 39 now and say you are going to put any more traffic on it,” said Valerie Harte.
“The market analysis is outrageous,” Ms. Groebert said of one part of the study, which cites losses of business traffic along the roadway—something residents interpreted as a hint that the study was suggesting that having a destination shopping center might improve business for others on the roadway. “Do we want more people shopping out here? Do we want them on County Road 39? We’ve got some rules in place. If you are going to build there, you have to follow these rules.”
The developer who has proposed the King Kullen shopping center, Bob Morrow, has said another supermarket is needed outside of the traffic congestion of Southampton Village, and that the design of the shopping center could be a catalyst for more redevelopment on some rundown properties nearby. But residents have said that any potential benefits of the center would pale in comparison to the potential negatives.
“The Tuckahoe Center is the consummate clash of ideals,” Susan Van Olst said, referring to the developer’s name for the proposed King Kullen shopping center. “It goes against the ideal of small development. It goes against the ideal of traffic being reduced. We’re at a watershed moment where you as a board have to balance a lot of competing thoughts.”
There will be another public hearing on the corridor study on November 12.
Southampton Town will buy four more waterfront parcels—in Noyac, East Quogue and Hampton Bays—using Community Preservation Fund money, as part of its effort to preserve wetlands and waterfront lands for water quality enhancement and storm damage protection.
The Town Board on Tuesday afternoon approved spending some $3.6 million to buy a total of 6 acres of waterfront land. The purchases include two parcels totaling 4.4 acres on Weesuck Creek in East Quogue, which will be purchased from McKee Inc. for $2,112,500.
The two properties are primarily wetlands and undeveloped uplands but also include a former nightclub building that has housed the Mad Hatter and Turtle Bay bars. Once the purchase is finalized, the building would be razed and the land allowed to return to its natural state.
Another 1.3-acre parcel fronting North Sea Harbor, near the entrance to Fish Cove, would be purchased from Kritzer Marketing Corp. for an agreed-upon price of $1 million. The land, which is on Noyac Road, is vacant.
The fourth parcel to be purchased is a quarter-acre lot on Dune Road, fronting Shinnecock Bay, in Hampton Bays. The lot is owned by Matthew P. Francis and will be purchased for $500,000. A small cottage currently on the property will be razed, and the land will be allowed to return to its natural state.
Historic preservation proponents this week applauded town plans to give owners of historic properties more latitude in deviating from zoning restrictions if they pledge to preserve the historic features of their properties.
“This is another way the town can encourage the public to appreciate and preserve its historic resources,” Sally Spanburgh, who chairs the town’s Landmarks and Historic Districts Board, said at a public hearing on the proposed incentive Tuesday afternoon. Pointing to a collection of historic buildings the town hopes would be preserved if granted variances from their zoning designations, Ms. Spanburgh said of the Gideon Halsey House: “Any way we can encourage the owner to rehabilitate and use the building will be a benefit to Water Mill.”
The legislation reinstates a portion of the zoning code that was removed in 1988 that gives homes that have been registered by their owners as historic landmarks deference in receiving variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
“When people talk about preservation … it’s not just about tree-hugging, it’s about business,” George Lynch told the board, likening the preservation of historic structures and the character they project on the entire area to the beaches and waters that draw people to the East End.
Historic preservationists have pressed the board for the changes in the wake of the loss of a handful of historic homes because new owners sought to build larger modern structures.
“I’m not certain that a lot of people in the community understand what a treasure is,” said Bridgehampton resident Ceal Havemeyer. “We saw some beautiful houses go down in Bridgehampton this year. They were the pride of Bridgehampton. They are gone, and we can’t get them back.”