By Kathryn G. Menu
Owners of T.J. Maxx in the Bridgehampton Commons hope to add a 17,000 square foot expansion to its existing 33,000 square foot building and will need two variances from the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals in addition to approval by the town’s planning board to move forward with their plans.
According to Richard Warren of Inter-Science Research Associates, which is serving as the environmental planning consultant for Kimco Realty – the company that owns the 30-acre Bridgehampton Commons – the addition will be used to expand its furniture and housewares selections at the discount retail outlet.
On Monday night, Warren presented the proposal to the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) in advance of the application being seen by the Southampton Town planning board or zoning board of appeals.
He said the addition would be constructed at the rear of the existing T.J. Maxx building in an area currently reserved for parking, but seldom used by any customers or employees at the Bridgehampton Commons.
Warren added if the addition is approved, T.J. Maxx hopes to “dress up” the exterior façade of the building visible from Snake Hollow Road with siding.
“The plan going forward will require a parking variance,” he said.
The firm has already contracted with traffic and engineering consultants, said Warren, who created a traffic demand study focused on times – like the holiday season – when the Bridgehampton Commons is particularly busy. The Commons has a total of 1,241 parking spaces.
In the 55 parking space area over which the expansion is proposed to be built, Warren said at a maximum point only five cars were parked in those spaces. For the most part, he said, it is never occupied.
The proposal, he added, does not include a loss of parking spaces, as that back parking lot has been reconfigured to accommodate the 55 lost parking spaces. However, the project will still need a parking variance as there are no plans to create additional spaces to cover the 17,000 square foot expansion.
Warren said he does not believe this should be an issue, pointing to the fact that the proposal does not add a new store on the property, and that the stores often share parking with patrons using several stores on the property.
A second variance will be required from the ZBA as the town prohibits buildings larger than 15,000 square feet under its code. The project will also need a site plan special exception approval from the town planning board.
Newly named Bridgehampton CAC co-chair Carey Millard wondered if the plan would include a rear exit out of T.J. Maxx. Member Leonard Davenport said he believed they should develop and promote a rear entrance to attract people to that portion of the property where parking is so underutilized.
“And we have talked about that, a lot,” said Warren “It’s a security issue.”
In other CAC news, the committee has undergone some changes, including the appointment of Millard and Cathie Gandel as co-chairs of the CAC. Jeff Mansfield and Alejandro Saralegui are also a part of the CAC’s new executive committee, which will set the agenda for each meeting.
On Monday night, members also discussed the role the CAC should play by law, and whether or not it should have formal communication with the Southampton Town planning or zoning boards. The issue was raised by member John Millard following a discussion about a ZBA case involving an approved front yard pool.
“The intent is you act in an advisory capacity to the town board,” said Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera, who attended Monday night’s meeting. She added she was unsure how appropriate it would be for the CAC to send a formal letter to the planning or zoning boards regarding a specific application, although as residents of the town, Scalera added, individually they would all be within their rights to do so.
“We were privileged tonight to have Rich Warren here,” said former chairman Fred Cammann, asking why a planner would bring a proposal to a CAC before the planning board if it was not understood throughout the town that CAC’s weigh in on planning and zoning issues, in addition to legislative matters before the town board.
“He was here to get your feedback,” said Scalera.
“The point is — and obviously you can do whatever you want to do — we are an unincorporated group of people that have no standing unless the CAC is behind us,” said Cammann, adding the CAC spent over two decades fighting to get in front of the planning and zoning board, as well as state agencies like the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT), and has been successful.
Davenport, agreeing the mandate of the board does not technically extend to the various town boards, said he believed that should be revised given the history of the CAC.
“I am not necessarily disagreeing with you,” said Scalera, who added there is a difference between a CAC and a civic organization. Scalera added as the CAC liaison and working with the town’s citizens’ response center, she hopes to strengthen communication between the CAC and the town board.
“I am not trying to limit the function of this group, but one of the points that has been repeatedly made is that this group is not listened to,” said Millard. “I think a formal modification of the CAC mandate should be done to make clear we may weigh in with advice —not just to the town board but the various boards — might make it easier to be listened to.”