Tag Archive | "Bridgehampton CAC"

Bridgehampton CAC Praises Beverage Store Project, Criticizes Intersection

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On Monday, the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) applauded proposed plans for retail and office or apartment spaces at the intersection of Lumber Lane, Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike — site of the dilapidated Bridgehampton Beverage Store.

In the same breath, however, many members criticized what they see as a poorly planned existing intersection resulting in “disastrous” and “complicated” traffic conditions in the center of Bridgehampton, and called for action from Southampton Town to remedy the situation.

At the request of the Southampton Town Planning Board, which has been reviewing BNB Ventures proposal to demolish the beverage store and a second ramshackle residence on adjacent property and construct the new approximately 8,700 square foot, two-story Greek revival inspired building, project planner Richard Warren of Inter-Science Research Associates presented the development to the CAC. Members were largely happy with the evolution of the project over the last several years.

In the project’s initial design, Warren explained, the building was larger — 10,000 square feet — clad in brick on one side and wood shingles on the other, wrapping the corner of Lumber Lane and Montauk Highway snuggly. After receiving a positive SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) Declaration from the town planning board, Warren said project sponsors chose to go back to the drawing board, hiring an architectural historian to aid in the project’s design.

The result is a smaller building that no longer wraps the corner and is now wholly clad in painted white wood, a similar style to neighboring Bulls Head Inn and Nathaniel Rogers House. Designed by Frank Greenwald, an East Hampton architect, Warren noted the plan also pushes the building back on the property, in excess of 25-feet from the road, where only 10 is required.

The development of the proposed two-story building, which would house three retail spaces on the ground floor and either three offices or two apartments on the second floor, would also do away with the curb cut that now offers access to the beverage store, redirecting traffic through the parking lot next to Starbucks and the offices of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, which BNB Ventures also owns.

Parking will also be reconfigured said Warren, resulting in 96 spaces between BNB’s proposed development, and the existing parking lot accommodating Starbucks and the real estate office. Seven spaces will be new, said to Warren, who added he is submitting a parking study that shows the number exceeds what is needed in the area.

“We felt it was important to try and see if we could come up with something that has an architecture that works for the area,” said Warren.

The town’s Landmarks and Historic Districts Board has already found the project acceptable, said Warren, although he added “the devil is in the details” and project sponsors want to ensure they don’t end up with a “Disneyland-like” structure.

Peter Wilson, an architect and member of the CAC, called the Lumber Lane, Main Street and Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike intersection “complicated” and said though the already difficult traffic issues at the intersection may not be BNB Ventures responsibility, it should be addressed by town planners.

“That corner right now is totally disastrous,” he said, to the agreement of several CAC members including Christine Smith. Smith suggested that a cut in the triangular piece of land at the right of way would prevent drivers leaving the lot from turning left onto the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike by crossing Lumber Lane, forcing them instead to either turn left onto Lumber Lane only or right towards the highway.

“I am very supportive of this project,” continued Wilson. “It’s the kind of commercial development I personally would like to encourage because it is taking place in the village, not like all this other stuff we are getting bombarded with, with strip mall development.”
Wilson’s endorsement will be adopted as the CAC’s official position on that site, however, the CAC will also be sending a second motion to the town board and planning board calling for Southampton officials to address the “troubling” intersection.

The CAC will also send a resolution asking the town to address safety at Ocean Road Beach by creating facilities that will allow the town to hire lifeguards for the beach.

“It’s the most attractive and most dangerous bathing opportunity we have in our community,” said CAC chairman Fred Cammann who added the issue has been broached before, with the town stating that in order to hire lifeguards they must develop sanitary facilities. A sliver of land near the beach, whose ownership is now being investigated by the town, may allow for that project.

The CAC agreed to ask the town to address safety through the introduction of lifeguards at the beach and present them with any plans in the future.

Water Mill Development Raises Traffic Concerns in Bridgehampton

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Fear of yet more traffic at one of the Hamptons’ busiest intersections has residents of Bridgehampton worried about what is happening five miles down the road in Water Mill.

A proposed development at the southeast corner of Montauk Highway and Flying Point Road has raised concerns among members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) who met with Southampton Town Planning and Development Administrator Jefferson Murphree and Water Mill CAC co-chair Rachel Verno this past Monday. The meeting focused on the details of a planned development district (PDD) which would allow for the construction of four new buildings on approximately three acres at the busy intersection owned by Harrison Gray and the Charos family. The development would also include the existing Princess Diner, former Fortunoff buildings and existing Pier One, the latter two which would be expanded. Property now used by a solar company on the corner of the development would be used for a cromaglass wastewater treatment system.

The development is proposed as mixed use, featuring commercial spaces on the first floor with 47 apartments proposed on the second floors of the buildings, with 16 units slated to be affordable apartments.

A PDD is a mechanism by which the town board can overlay existing zoning with new zoning for a specific project, as long as the development has a public benefit. Affordable units, in this case, would be the public benefit.

Bridgehampton CAC Chairman Fred Cammann opened the discussion praising the Southampton Town Board, under the leadership of Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, for giving CACs a greater role in projects that could impact not just the Bridgehampton community, but the surrounding region as well.

“It isn’t going to be perfect, but at least someone is listening,” said Cammann.

Verno agreed it is encouraging to see CACs working together throughout the town on big issues like this development, particularly when it will impact the town as a whole.

In the meeting, Cammann said that the proposed PDD would have an impact on traffic, not only in Bridgehampton, but also at the intersection of Montauk Highway, County Road 39 and Flying Point Road.

“It isn’t going to be perfect,” said Cammann of the intersection, “but at least someone is listening.”

Verno agreed it is encouraging to see CACs working together throughout the town on big issues like this development, particularly when it will impact the town as a whole.

“To clarify, we not only have a PDD proposal in front of us,” said Verno. “We have an option of sticking with the existing zoning.”

Under existing zoning, the properties can be developed under highway business, which would allow for uses like a furniture store or car dealership, businesses that tend to bring less traffic than other retail uses, noted Verno.

According to Murphree, after a failed attempt at developing one of the parcels in 2004 when residents bristled at the idea of a large scale, wholly commercial development on the site, the Charos family approached the town wondering what would be acceptable for the site outside of highway business uses. The town, said Murphree, thought residential development would be ideal, but the Charos family said they would need to have retail spaces as well to offset the cost.

The planning department initially worked with the family on a PDD similar to this one, but funding fell through and the Charos family took the project and came up with their own revisions with neighboring property owner Gray, said Murphree.

Cammann said retail at the site would encourage more traffic in the area when “it is already a nightmare.”

Gloria Rabinowitz, a member of the Water Mill CAC, noted that the Patio.com business owner – directly across the street – has purchased a northerly adjacent lot and has proposed an over-14,000 square-foot building to replace the current structure. Also zoned for highway business uses, Rabinowitz said, “You look at this corner and you think, whoa, a lot is going on.”

Bridgehampton CAC member Jeffrey Vogel suggested the committee hear the formal response from the Water Mill CAC before weighing in on the proposal, although he reiterated that traffic would be their number one concern.

Verno said Murphree will attend the Water Mill CACs July 12 meeting and the committee hopes to have a formal opinion by August.

Rail Proposal Draws Ire From Bridgehampton CAC

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Members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee said this week that a light rail service, as proposed in a pending state bill drafted by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, would not solve congestion issues on the East End.

The state bill would ask voters from the five East End towns, via a non-binding referendum, to approve the creation of the Peconic Bay Transportation Authority, which essentially would replace service currently provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The non-binding resolution is meant to poll the region’s residents to see if the proposal has support.

Members of the Bridgehampton CAC voted at their meeting on Monday to ask Thiele and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst to explore other options in an attempt to solve the area’s growing traffic problems.

Longtime CAC member Ian MacPherson raised the issue at a Monday, April 26 meeting, sparking debate on what solutions, if any, could solve congestion in Bridgehampton. MacPherson said the idea of a light rail system coupled with bus service on the East End – a concept introduced after the Volpe Center of the United States Department of Transportation studied the issue for the five East End towns – would not reduce traffic in a meaningful way, only taking two to 10 percent of cars off the road.

“The amount of good it would do for solving congestion problems, which is the sole point of the legislation, would be extremely limited at an extremely high price,” said MacPherson.

MacPherson acknowledged there are likely only three ways to reduce congestion — through rail, through improving existing roadways and lastly by building a new road.

Jeffrey Vogel argued that before County Road 39 was extended through Southampton, it took some four-and-a-half hours to reach the East End, and building and tourism increased once it was in place.

“If anything we should be making the roads smaller to discourage people from coming out,” he said.

Richard Bruce supported MacPherson’s point about increasing rail on the East End, stating people simply like being in their cars and he would like to see traffic diverted, through a new roadway or bypass, so it doesn’t come through the towns. He suggested a bypass from County Road 39 near the Omni in Southampton to Stephen Hands Path in East Hampton.

“From a convenience and quality of life standpoint, it would be nice in the middle of August to be able to drive to Southampton in the afternoon,” he said.

“It would never get done,” said Vogel. “Everyone on that road would fight you tooth and nail. It would never get out of court.”

“The point of my motion is the options should be considered,” said MacPherson.

The CAC passed a resolution stating they do not think the bus and rail system would serve the East End’s interests since vehicular traffic is fundamental to the area and therefore request other options, including bypasses, be considered. The resolution will be sent to Thiele and Throne-Holst.

Supports Bridgehampton Boundaries

Also on Monday, Vogel presented the committee with the new Bridgehampton boundary map, completed by the Town of Southampton, which has spent the last several months creating a solid map outlining its various hamlet’s boundaries.

According to Vogel, the town looked at different tax districts, voter records and postal addresses to come to their conclusion. As for Bridgehampton, Vogel said the new map is not controversial at all. The southern border is the Atlantic Ocean from Scott Cameron Beach to the cut at Sagg Pond. The eastern edge of the hamlet runs along the Village of Sagaponack’s boundary, from the center of Sagg Pond north, to just west of Poxabogue Pond. It then continues through the unincorporated portion of Sagaponack, ending a half mile north of Scuttlehold Road. The western boundary goes north from Horse Mill Lane to New Light Lane and from New Light Lane across Montauk Highway up Hayground Road and along Little Noyac Path where it meets Middle Line Highway.

While portions of Mecox and Bay lanes, often viewed as Bridgehampton by many residents, are not technically Water Mill, Vogel explained a number of the residents there see themselves as Southampton or Water Mill residents, not Bridgehampton residents.

The CAC passed a resolution supporting the new boundary lines.

Lastly, Kevin Tate, who lives next to the Wolffer Vineyard reported that the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals appears on the brink of approving a variance that would allow for the construction of six apartments in a converted six-car garage next to his house, pending an agreement about a tree buffer to the neighboring property.

Tate said the worker housing would be year-round, and his concerns have gone unheard by the zoning board of appeals.

“They are riding roughshod over us and we don’t have a leg to stand on in our own town,” he said.

“The solution is the Village of Bridgehampton,” said Vogel. “If you were in Sagaponack, this wouldn’t be happening to you.”

The next ZBA meeting on the project is slated for May 6.

Toddler Park

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In response to inquiries made by Bridgehampton parents, Southampton Town councilwoman Nancy Graboski says the town board plans to construct a toddler park on a town-owned parcel on Corwith Avenue off Montauk Highway. The 1.8 acre property is adjacent to the Bridgehampton Historical Society and was purchased for $800,000 in June 2005 from the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church.

Because the land was bought with monies from the Park Fund Trust, said Graboski, there is an easement on the property which limits its sanctioned uses. The church also still maintains a right of way through the property, which connects to the church’s parking lot, at the southern end of the parcel.

One permissible use for the site is a playground. Graboski noted the town has already allocated $100,000 for this project. She hopes the project will be completed by the close of 2011 at the latest. The next step, added Graboski, is to form a committee to vet designs ideas followed by creating a design package that could be put out to bid for companies.

The plan, however, already has a snag as the Bridgehampton Citizen’s Advisory Committee would like to see the toddler park placed at the Children’s Museum of the East End, which is located off the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike.

“It is an appropriate place,” said Bridgehampton CAC President Fred Cammann of the CMEE location. Cammann pointed out the museum already has bathrooms on the premises. He argued that Corwith Avenue and Montauk Highway are major thoroughfares, making the town-owned property dangerous for young children.

“You are going to end up in a situation where a kid is going to get badly hurt,” added Cammann.

CMEE Executive Director Steve Long said the museum would be open to a range of partnership ideas with the town.

“Maybe the town would purchase the land … Or it would make more sense for the museum to donate it and have the town build and maintain the park,” suggested Long. “We are trying to figure out how all of it would work.”

During an interview, Graboski said the town had set their sights on the Corwith Avenue parcel for insurance reasons. She added that the park would be within walking distance to the Main Street shops and restaurants in Bridgehampton.

Town May Open Door for Bigger Role for CACs

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Citizen Advisory Committees (CAC) across Southampton Town have spent the last year working towards a greater voice in government, particularly when it comes to development issues, forming coalitions east and west of the Shinnecock Canal. Now they would like the town board to allow the committees an opportunity to weigh in on issues in front of the planning and zoning boards in work session, rather then be limited to letters or three minutes of time during the public hearing phase of an application.

On Monday, April 27 Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot told the Bridgehampton CAC that she would propose an initiative that would “open the door a little wider” for the CAC when it comes to planning board access on development projects that could have a cumulative impact to a particular area of the town.   

Kabot recognized there is a sentiment from town residents that attorneys and planners for applicants have the upper hand in the planning process, with a greater ability to present their case to the board without the matched ability for the CAC to weigh in on a project in front of the planning board until the public hearing phase of a project is underway.

“You don’t feel the playing field is as level for residents, which the planning board wants to be responsive to, but at the same time there has to be a record established,” said Kabot, noting the town must protect itself from being sued by developers. She added that while people are “griping” about the level of development activity in Southampton, compared to other areas on Long Island, Kabot thinks the town has protected itself from being overdeveloped, primarily through “stringent zoning” and preservation.

Regardless, Kabot said she would like to pass a resolution that allows the chair of a CAC to speak on cumulative impacts in front of the planning board during a work session. While not finalized, Kabot said the board may decide to allow the opportunity every other month and split it between CACs on the east and west sides of the town.

“We have to start being able to be more responsive,” said Kabot. “I heard that outcry in the last several years and I would like to be the vehicle to get it there.”

Bridgehampton CAC co-chair Tony Lambert said he was concerned about the zoning board of appeals, charging the board has an agenda and often the CAC is noticed about issues only after the opportunity to weigh in has passed. Lambert also suggested the town host a public forum with both the planning and zoning boards.

Kabot said her local law would be specific to the planning board, noting the zoning board is a quasi-judicial board and the town attorney’s office has objected to the concept. She was open to the idea of a public forum with both boards.

Committee member Jeffrey Vogel said a specific problem with the zoning board was that the CAC often does not receive its notice until the last minute.

“The notice is so short we have to scramble,” he said.

Chairman Fred Cammann said the planning board has improved on noticing the committee and in access to the planning department, but charges the zoning board was inaccessible.

“The issue is we do need to protect the property owner’s rights, especially when it comes to this board,” said Kabot.

John Halsey countered the committee is not trying to infringe on property owner’s rights, nor are they looking for “secret meetings” with the zoning board, but they would like an opportunity to be heard by the board.

Another idea floated at the meeting was an annual report on development and variances — one that would spell out how many projects were approved town wide and how many variances were granted — a concept Kabot warmed to.

The other topic of the evening was the fiscal health of the town, particularly in light of a national economic downturn and a $5 million shortfall in the town’s capital fund.

“I think the town’s budget transcends politics,” said Kabot. “It is not about Republican or Democrat — it is about doing what is right and doing what is right requires working with the full board.”

Kabot said the capital fund shortfall has made her “lose sleep” at night and her top priority is ensuring the board works towards the adoption of a corrective action plan, which it will send to the state comptroller for review.

“We also have issues with our independent auditors,” she said. “Why did this not show up?”

With steep declines in mortgage tax revenues and the Community Preservation Fund with no cushion, Kabot said the board has needed to cut wherever it can without disrupting services for residents. All vacant positions have been abolished in town hall, as have interns, travel budgets and other discretionary spending in the town, she said.

“We really went to what we thought was a more barebones budget,” said Kabot, adding the board will revisit the budget mid-year so any unanticipated loses in revenue as a result of the economy can be addressed sooner rather than later.

The Bridgehampton CAC will meet again on Monday, May 18 at 7 p.m.


Vets Learn About Health Benefits in Hard Times

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Veterans young and old packed the Sag Harbor American Legion meeting room on Monday night and waited for representatives from the Northport Veterans Hospital to arrive. A few elderly veterans of World War II straightened their American Legion caps atop their heads as they chatted with fellow retired servicemen.
Tony Lambert, vice-chair of the Bridgehampton Citizen’s Advisory Committee and an Iraq war veteran, stood in the back of the room, outfitted in a baseball cap and sweatshirt, swapping stories with a former Marine. Lambert heard of the meeting on WLNG. He stopped by hoping to get his veterans health care network card renewed.
Christopher Stone, of Sag Harbor, came to see if his Veterans Administration benefits would cover some of his dependents’ prescription needs. Mark Wilson, a local gardener and former Navy officer, is currently uninsured and came to inquire about his eligibility for VA benefits.
Marge O’Malley, a community outreach coordinator for the Northport hospital, met individually with every veteran at the meeting. Overall, she said many attendees came to learn if they were eligible for any benefits at all. According to O’Malley, many veterans fail to realize they are eligible for benefits or have received misinformation on eligibility requirements. Other veterans believe they earn too much to qualify for benefits, since there is an income cap of $49,000 a year. With many former veterans losing their jobs or experiencing pay cuts, O’Malley said more veterans are eligible for benefits than before.
This is the case for Wilson. He was previously insured through his wife, but recently went through a divorce. Wilson’s gardening work has been scaled back lately. With less income coming in, he cannot afford even the cheapest health insurance plans, which cost between $300 to $500 a month.
Although O’Mally informed Wilson he is most likely eligible for benefits, a certain part of him believes it is wrong to accept this aid.
“It is a conflict for me … I feel like the benefits should be reserved for the guys who fought in World War II and Korea and Iraq, to the people who were seriously afflicted by wars. I sort of feel like this is something I should channel on my own,” said Wilson, who served in the Navy from 1976 to 1980 when the country wasn’t engaged in active conflicts.
Lambert is already enrolled in the VA health benefits program, but told O’Malley it is difficult for him to travel to Northport for general check-ups, eye exams and prescription pick ups. He is currently employed full time with the Bridgehampton Post Office, but reported it is still a struggle to cover his family’s monthly expenses. He added it is inconvenient to take a day off work to visit Northport’s satellite clinic in Westhampton.
O’Malley informed Lambert that the Northport VA Hospital will establish a full service health care and mental health clinic in Riverhead within the coming year. The clinic will be funded in part by the county and will serve the veterans of Suffolk County. The services provided at the clinic will include psychiatry support, optometry appointments, outpatient services and a pharmacy.
O’Malley reported many Long Island veterans use the VA health benefits to supplement their current health insurance plans, especially for senior veterans who are enrolled in Medicare. At the hospital’s pharmacy, veterans receive significantly discounted rates on their monthly prescriptions. However, these prescriptions must be written by VA doctors, instead of their primary practitioners.
Martin Knab, the first vice commander of the Sag Harbor American Legion, uses his VA health benefits for second opinions from other doctors. Knab already has an insurance plan, which covers himself and his family, but this plan doesn’t pay for second opinions on a diagnosis.
Knab feels fortunate to have another form of health insurance, especially when he sees many local veterans becoming uninsured as they are laid off.
“There are other people in our community who could use these benefits a lot more than me. A lot of veterans have their own businesses and are self-employed or they are hired by big contractors and were laid off. [Most of the time] they don’t have insurance. So when something happens and they end up in the hospital they are facing huge debts,” said Knab.
Helping out struggling local veterans was one reason Knab asked O’Malley to visit the Sag Harbor American Legion.
These are the types of veterans O’Malley hopes to specifically reach out to and help. According to O’Malley, only eleven percent of veterans on Long Island enroll in the VA health benefits program. She will soon send out a letter to more than 2,000 veterans on Long Island informing them, if their income has decreased in the last year, they could be eligible for VA benefits.
Although Northport hospital representatives continue to visit veteran organizations throughout Long Island, Knab believes the hospital does a good job in helping veterans, but the East End veteran community is still underserved because there isn’t a clinic nearby.
“They do a superb job, for they job they do; but there still isn’t a facility available for vets on the East End,” said Knab. Though Knab hopes this problem will be solved when the Riverhead clinic is established.

To learn more about VA benefits or the VA hospital in Northport visit http://www.northport.va.gov/

Above: Vets learn about their eligibility for VA benefits during one-on-one sessions with representatives of the Northport Veterans Hospital.