A local developer who has applied to put a two-story building at the corner of Main Street and Library Avenue in Westhampton Beach is now considering letting Southampton Town use the Community Preservation Fund to take the property off his hands.
“It is something that we have always considered,” said the developer, Barry Bernstein of BMB Enterprises, on Monday.
Although he is still moving forward with an application to build a 4,550-square-foot, two-story building on his half-acre lot, the Remsenburg resident has also asked the town’s CPF manager, Mary Wilson, to evaluate the property, saying this week he just wants to explore all his options.
At a Westhampton Beach Village Board work session last week, Mayor Maria Moore explained that she had been contacted by Ms. Wilson about the village’s interest in the town exploring the property, noting that the village would most likely have to enter an agreement with the town to maintain the land. Village trustees agreed that the town should look into buying the property, which was valued at $468,900 in 2016 tax assessments, noting that the village already maintains the lot as a park under a current agreement with Mr. Bernstein.
Last year, Westhampton Beach Village officials signed a two-year lease for the land, for a total cost of $10, allowing them to remove a wooden fence that encircled the property so they could clean it up and use it temporarily as a park. The village spent about $3,000 to remove vegetation, dump and spread topsoil, seed the lot and install benches. As part of the agreement, Mr. Bernstein retained the right to cancel the lease at any time as long as he refunded the $10 and any expenses for upgrading to the village. This week, Ms. Wilson explained that the park would still be a permitted use if the property is ultimately purchased with CPF money.
Last week, Ms. Moore said she was surprised Mr. Bernstein was considering the CPF option, noting that he has had an application before the Village Planning Board for several months to construct the new building. She added that the town would be able to pay only market value for the property, a number that Ms. Wilson said this week it is too early to pinpoint.
“I was surprised,” Ms. Moore said. “He had always said to me that he wanted to develop with a luncheonette on the first floor and an office for himself on the second, but he reached out [to the town] on his own.”
The plan currently before the Westhampton Beach Planning Board would create a 3,050-square-foot first-floor space for a restaurant and retail shop. There would also be a 1,500-square-foot office on the second floor. Mr. Bernstein, who has owned the lot at 145 Main Street for a little more than a decade, said he expects to have final approval by the end of the year.
The lot once housed a gas station that was forced to close after officials learned that fuel had leaked into the ground. The property, which is zoned for business, has since been remediated and cleared by the State Department of Environmental Conservation for new development.