Vintage Vines, a proposed 37-lot subdivision in Bridgehampton, drew a handful of ecological and environmental concerns from members of the public at a Southampton Town Board Public hearing on Thursday, August 26.
David Emilita, a planning consultant, was on hand at the meeting earlier that day to help assist the board in evaluating the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and its State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR). Going through his analysis, Emilita made several suggestions for amendments to be made to this report.
He noted that the site of the subdivision, an oddly shaped parcel off Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike, is believed to be habitat of the eastern tiger salamander, which is endangered. Emilita believed this issue deserved further investigation by the town’s department which handles environmental issues of this nature. Habitats for the box turtle may exist on the property, he added.
He noted that the network of animal and anthropogenic (activity caused by humans) trails should be mapped out, and more work was required. In terms of human use of the parcel, Emilita mentioned that there exists a network of trails which are used by individuals. He recommended configuring the open space to create linkages for these hiking and walking paths.
On a side note, Emilita pointed out that the proposed subdivision does have a negative impact on the Bridgehampton School District tax revenue. He theorized that roughly 10 students from the residential development would matriculate into the public school at a cost of around $132,500, while the completed subdivision would only pay roughly $79,350 in school taxes.
Project planner Kyle Collins noted that he would like to give his client’s professional environmental planner an opportunity to respond to reconfiguring the layout of the open spaces. Though Collins noted that certain trails are undisturbed by this project, while rerouting others will make them more accessible to residential areas. At the public hearing, Collins also pointed out that the open spaces were located to sync up with bordering open spaces belonging to adjacent subdivisions.
Jennifer Hartnagel with the Group for the East End commented that although the project was amended from 50-plus parcels down to 37, she said the project left much to be desired from an ecological point of view.
“This is one of the last remaining wooded parcels in Bridgehampton,” she remarked, adding that this status made it environmentally important and a good candidate for preservation. Hartnagel asked for the applicants to form a habitat protection plan, which was suggested by the town’s conservation board. She criticized the placement of a road cutting through the largest swath of open space in the development. Hartnagel said her organization would appreciate any efforts to consider their suggestions and provide alternatives to the current plan.
Speaking on behalf of a number of Hamptons Farm subdivision residents, Leslie Kapon said, “At this point in time we feel whatever we say will fall on deaf ears. We waged a good fight. We the residents of Hamptons Farm and the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike have lost.” She reiterated the perceived negative environmental impact the project will have on indigenous wildlife, including the great horned owl. Kapon also believed that the construction process will force, or kill off, the remaining animals from the designated open spaces.
Fellow neighbor Theresa Rewinski chimed in, “My feeling is [that this parcel] is already intact and perfect the way it is. We have had a very hot summer and people tended to run their air conditioners. The forest and wooded spaces keep the earth cool — the area cool.” Rewinski added that she not only sees tiger salamanders while using the trails but also owls.
Noting the potential reaction from the community, planning board chairman Dennis Finnerty left the written public comment period open until September 25, after which the board will decide whether the project will progress for a final environmental impact statement. Emilita was careful to note that he felt the environmental issues at hand, namely the eastern tiger salamander and box turtle habitats, begged further analysis and added that the planning board was still waiting on comments from other agencies on this issue.
Vintage Vines has been in the works for over two years, and was first proposed by former councilman Dennis Suskind and prominent East End builder William Koral. Of the 48.6 acres of wooded property, according to the current plan roughly 19.5 acres will be preserved for open space with the rest of the land divided into 37 plots. The average parcel is 30,024 square feet and will be individually sold for development.