Bridgehampton Neighbors Worry About Eco-Friendly Farm

Posted on 04 December 2008

By Marianna Levine

October’s enthusiastic curiosity about a planned eco-farm on Ocean Road in Bridgehampton turned into November’s passionate plea for further information during a Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee meeting last week. The meeting’s packed agenda was meant to focus on a Butter Lane commercial and residential development designed by architect Fred Stelle, and a presentation by the new director of the Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE). However, many new faces in the standing-room-only audience waited patiently to express their concern over the development of this agricultural reserve land.

Georgia Rose, who lives adjacent to the proposed eco-farm arrived early with architectural renderings of the development. She pointed out that plans for the farm already included a 100-foot greenhouse for a commercial flower business, numerous solar panels, and a windmill that Ms. Rose considered to be more “Dutch or Disney” than one fitting into the East End of Long Island. Another concerned citizen, Whitney Fairchild, mentioned that she had attended the Southampton Town Board meeting earlier in the month and had learned that the developers plan to put lights up every ten feet around the storage buildings on the farm. Work on this property, owned by the Chairman of Polar Investments, Mr. Ziel Feldman, has already begun and several citizens present at the meeting were alarmed by the building they had already seen. Both Fairchild and Rose speculated that the developer might be creating a bigger, more commercial enterprise on the agricultural land because he cannot sell the land near it, which had been developed into luxury homes by the same firm.

CAC member Dick Bruce said that, although the idea of a self-contained green farm had been received with interest, the plans as they exist now have stretched the idea of agricultural reserve beyond the notion of anyone present.

Rose concluded that if they are intending to sell flowers regionally “there’ll be trucks going in and out of the newly planned road off Ocean Road day and night.” It was suggested by CAC Chair Fred Camman, and unanimously agreed upon, that the CAC should file an official letter of complaint prior to December 12, when a public hearing on the development, which is in front of Southampton Town’s planning board, is closed. Camman also suggested they extend an invitation to Feldman to speak at a CAC meeting in order to understand his intentions. Bruce said there was clearly a need to define what is meant by agricultural use for any future projects of this sort.

According to the site’s designer, Rocco Lettieri, the farm and surrounding development of high-end homes was conceived as a cutting edge, self-sufficient green community. The farm structures will include a greenhouse, a barn, a windmill, and a mechanical building.  The farm will grow wildflowers, peaches, and organic herbs to be sold wholesale to local shops and restaurants. One of the developer’s primary goals was to design new ways of harvesting energy attractively so as not to detract from the beauty surrounding it – the farm’s purpose being to combine energy efficiency with a beautiful aesthetic to enhance and fuel the project’s surrounding estates. Therefore they have decided to lay the solar panels flat into the ground so they look more like reflecting pools. Lettieri said they have compensated for the loss of efficiency incurred by not angling the panels toward the sun by using a geothermal process to run the farm as well. The proposed windmill may look traditional on the outside, but its sails are also solar collectors so that when the air is still, it may still gather energy. The sawgrass planted is not only ornamental but will be used to make biofuel for the farm’s vehicles as well, he added.

 “We want to look to the future and leave no carbon foot print at all,” said Lettieri.

                                                         Hamlet Study

This question of agricultural development related to Jeffery Vogel’s earlier report on plans for a revised Bridgehampton hamlet study. Last month Vogel noted Bridgehampton’s hamlet study is out of date and yet still used as a basis for planning in Southampton Town. He pointed out that some of the hamlet’s priorities in the study have already been taken care of and others have changed since its commission. After meeting with town board member Nancy Graboski, who agrees the study needs an update, Vogel suggested the CAC could edit the study and pass along their suggestions to the town planning board. Suggestions include defining the hamlet’s northern and western boundaries, looking at historic designation for the commercial center of Bridgehampton, and a strategy to keep local merchants on Main Street instead of at the Bridgehampton Commons.

Earlier the meeting kicked off with a presentation about a piece of property in Bridgehampton at the intersection of Butter Lane and the Montauk Highway.  North Haven resident and architect Fred Stelle has been hired to design a low-lying commercial structure, as well as create two small residential houses toward the back of the property. CAC members were concerned how the modern design would blend within the historic nature of this end of Bridgehampton’s Main Street, as well as the speculative nature of the development. Stelle showed digital reproductions of modern wood and glass structures that referenced the area’s former potato barns.

Vogel wondered, “Did the developer do an economic study to see if there was a need for more office space in the area. The last thing we need is another empty office space especially with a lot of vacant offices and retail spaces now due to people going out of business.” 

In the end Bruce commented that he’d rather have a developer with a good, locally concerned architect involved in this property than see something else happen to the vacant lot. The CAC gave its consent to the plan with only one member, Steve Steinberg, opposed.

The CAC also invited Steve Young, the new director of CMEE, to speak about the changes and the current mission of the museum. Several members said they didn’t really know much about the museum or what it did and that perhaps he needed to promote the museum better, perhaps through meeting with local church groups and schools. Bruce suggested promoting summer programs to grandparents who are hosting their grandchildren over the summer. Another suggestion was for the museum to build a playground at its site as Bridgehampton has yet to have a public playground to call its own. 

 

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