Highway Study Will Propose Zoning Changes, Won’t Rule Out Tuckahoe Shopping Center

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As they wrap up a comprehensive study of the County Road 39 corridor, Southampton Town planners unveiled some zoning changes recommended by an appointed committee that has been studying the troubled roadway for more than two years.

The committee is also expected to find that a much-pilloried proposal for a shopping center on the south side of the highway does not go against the recommendations of the town’s Comprehensive Plan, though it remains to be decided whether the location of the proposed shopping center is appropriate.

Town Planning and Development Administrator Kyle Collins told Town Board members at a work session last Thursday, December 12, that the drafters of the original Comprehensive Plan in 1970 acknowledged that shopping centers could and even should be allowed along the roadway on a limited basis as residential development patterns dictated.

“They identified three sites for that but acknowledged that would not be adequate alone, and other spots should be identified in the future,” Mr. Collins told board members. “As residential development expands, some new shopping center zones will be appropriate. So the Town Board has the ability to consider that. But the question then is still, is that an appropriate location?”

The shopping center’s would-be developer, Robert Morrow, has argued that his plan, known as the Tuckahoe Center, could be a new model for development along blighted sections of the roadway. But Mr. Collins said that the committee will recommend that most of the road be left as a “highway business” zone, focused on hosting primarily retail business that will accommodate low numbers of cars per hour.

The committee is going to recommend that zoning in four areas of the road be tweaked to accommodate uses that have either existed there since long before zoning, cropped up there organically or are wholly unsuitable for highway business uses. The recommendations are mostly to create more “hamlet office” zones that allow for professional offices to inhabit buildings along the highway, some mixed with residential allowances where highway-frontage properties abut areas already developed residentially.

One particularly problematic section of the roadway, between the Burger King restaurant and North Sea Road, should have its highway business zone lifted and replaced with an office district to encourage development of some long-vacant properties, Mr. Collins said.

Included in that recommendation is the suggestion that the list of what businesses qualify under that zone be updated from the long outdated cross-section in the town code now.

“The existing use table is based on 1970 … codes,” Mr. Collins said. “As part of this project we would like to … go at least to the 2002 [national standard for highway businesses]. We want to look at uses that are still applicable and which ones should be added and which ones still meet the HB goals of lower traffic and higher order goods.”

The committee recommended that several properties also be preserved using money from the Community Preservation Fund, including the Elks property, a golf driving range and the historic potato barn known as the Rosko barn.

Mr. Collins said the committee is waiting for a market analysis of the roadway but expects to submit a final draft of the study and its recommendations to the Town Board sometime early in the new year. He estimated the board would be able to begin public hearings on the study in February.

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