by Melissa Lynch
One of the major gateways into the Village of Sag Harbor, along the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike, was the subject of debate at Tuesday’s Southampton Town Board meeting. The public hearing was held as part of the board’s plan to change the original zoning of the area from highway-business (HB) to hamlet-office (HO).
Â Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, said the reason for the proposed change of zone is to preserve the rural character of the area and prevent over development along the turnpike.
Â “‘The Sag Harbor Gateway Plan” includes eight parcels just beyond the village’s southern border that would be subject to the rezoning.
Several of the subject properties belong to the Reid family and brothers Pat and Mike Trunzo. The Reids own an automotive repair business on the turnpike and the Trunzos have been exploring the idea of building affordable housing on their parcels.Â
One of the speakers at the public hearing was Katherine Reid who explained that she bought the property in December 1984 because it was commercial property.
“I am destroyed with what’s going on” she said on Tuesday, “people are saying that I can’t do this — well why can’t I?”
Â “It’s not American and I’m sorry.”
Southampton Town Planning and Development Administrator Jefferson Murphree explained that the gateway is defined as being a rural and environmentally sensitive area.
Jeremy Samuelson of the Group for the East End, a non-profit environmental watch dog organization, said on Friday that the area that is being talked about “is next to one of the single most significant natural resources in the state.” He explained that Ligonee Creek, which begins at Long Pond, goes under the turnpike and empties into Sag Harbor Cove, is the sole connection for drainage out of the Long Pond Greenbelt.Â
But he added, “It is important to provide opportunities for growth, affordable housing and for families to make a living. For doctors and walk-in medical care there is a lack of affordable space.”
“We know that there is a sensitivity because of the proximity to the village and complimentary to that stretch of the road,” said councilman Chris Nuzzi. “There are so few opportunities for affordable housing.”
“The irony of it is – it [rezoning] doesn’t impact what currently exists, it offers alternative scenarios to surrounding areas so that they can benefit,” said Nuzzi after the hearing.
“You are chasing away business and taking money away from working families in this town,” Bruce Anderson, an attorney who represents the Reid brothers said at the hearing. “You should do something to enhance the economic base of this area. Could the looks be accomplished by landscaping and making the businesses look prettier?”
Â “We are not looking to stop business,” said Priscilla Ciccariello, member of the Sag Harbor Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC). “We are looking for a way to make it compatible to all that live there.”
Eric Cohen, also of the Sag Harbor CAC said, “The Sag Harbor CAC is in favor for recommendations to see this be adopted and the intent is not in any way looking to preserve it as open space. We would like to see it available for affordable housing but what we would not like to see, however, is theÂ continuation of random development.”
Cohen continued by saying that intensive business use in the gateway area would not help current businesses along the turnpike, nor would it help maintain the historic nature of the village.
“Why is it that the Reid family gives up everything for the environment?”Â asked Robert Reid. Though the Reid’s business would be pre-existing, non-conforming under the new zoning, they would not be able to develop a more intensive use of the property. He also asked if anyone from the press or other groups had been up to Ligonee Creek, which runs along his property, to have a look at it.
Â “It’s a dry creek,” he commented.
Â “It comes down from Long Pond and is considered wetlands,” countered Ciccariello. “It is the main artery for the nine ponds ofÂ the Greenbelt area.”
“Not only does the creek have this ability but it would affect the bay and all the fish and the crabs — it would affect everything that goes on,” she added. “It’s a subtle environmental contributor.”
John Landis, co-owner of Bay Burger on the Sag Harbor turnpike, said that his property is one of four parcels that should be kept at HB zoning.
“It is an asset to the community,” he said on Tuesday. He said he has developed a thriving business and created jobs for the people of Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton and is concerned that if the area is switched to an HO he will not be able to change the type of business operated from the location.
Councilwoman Nancy Graboski proposed the town consider a hamlet commercial (HC), or a mix of HO, HC and HB if necessary, which Kabot said has been done in East Quogue and North Sea.
The Southampton Town Board asked the Department of Land Management to prepare the Sag Harbor Gateway Study in February, 2007 and make recommendations for future land use development. In June of this year, the Southampton Town Board hired Cashin Associates for the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQRA) of the area. Most recently, in August the town’s planning board reviewed the draft Sag Harbor gateway plan and asked the town board to continue implementing the recommendations of the plan.
On Tuesday Southampton Town board adjourned the Sag Harbor Gateway study for one more month. The public comment period remains open.