By Claire Walla
“I think this is the largest community meeting of this kind that I have been to in my four-plus years in office,” exclaimed Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst as she looked out at more than 100 faces at a Noyac Civic Association meeting last Wednesday, March 28.
The public had turned out en masse at the Bridgehampton Nutrition Center to weigh in on the town’s most recent version of a plan to reconstruct Noyac Road. Twenty-eight people spoke that evening, and all but one was adamantly opposed to the current 2011 plan detailing new traffic-calming measures to be implemented at the bend in the road near Cromer’s Market in Noyac.
Above: Southampton Town Director of Transportation Tom Neely addressed a packed house last Thursday at the Bridgehampton Nutrition Center.
Complaints mostly hinged on the scale of the town’s blueprint, which most residents agreed was much too extreme for their bayside neighborhood.
“Of all the plans I’ve seen, this is about the worst,” said Ralph Dispigna. “If you want to destroy a neighborhood, this is the way to do it.”
Tony Lawless, who owns and operates Cromer’s Market, echoed most of the sentiments that night, saying the current plan would create more traffic, causing cars to drive into Pine Neck to avoid congestion.
“On any given day I could have three tractor-trailers pulling into here,” he said, pointing to the proposed parking lot, where the 2011 blueprint calls for a stop sign to be implemented. “Do we need tractor-trailers driving in here [Pine Neck] because they can’t get in here?”
He continued, “Elm Street is one of the narrowest roads in Pine Neck and you’re diverting all the traffic onto it.”
According to a survey drafted and tallied by the Noyac Civic Association (84 people responded to 350 surveys which were sent out) 56 percent of respondents said “No,” the 2011 plan does not accomplish its mission. And an even greater number of respondents, 65 percent, felt the plan would “change the rural character of Noyac.”
.Ultimately, when asked point blank whether they were in favor of the 2011 plan, 64 percent of respondents voted “No,” versus only 27 percent who voted “Yes.”
Noyac resident Jim Posner said he felt the town should “respect the survey.”
“We’re not engineers, but the surface of it shows that we’re against it,” he added.
Like many, he said speed bumps and stop signs — part of what he called “the ‘let’s take it easy’ approach” — would be a much better solution than concrete barriers.
“If we did step one, then we could see how it worked,” he continued, and if it doesn’t, “then we could go into a fancier plan.”
Ultimately, after listening to many reactions from community members, Throne-Holst submitted that the current plan would need to change.
“I think what we’re hearing first and foremost is that this is overkill,” she said. “We have to take a giant step backward.”
The effort to improve the bend in Noyac Road near Cromer’s was first established on a town-wide level eight years ago when a 2004 Hamlet Study identified the potential dangers on that stretch of pavement. A year later, the town’s first conceptual plan for reconstruction involved adding a concrete barrier between the road and a proposed parking area in front of the commercial businesses on the north side of the street.
The plan also called for blocking access to Bay Avenue from Noyac Road, making it only accessible via Elm Street.
Six different iterations of the original plan surfaced over the years — all of them blown-up into large color posters, which peppered the walls of the Nutrition Center last week — the last of which seems to have brought on the most controversy.
The 2011 Conceptual Plan, like the original, proposes adding a concrete median between newly created parking spaces, in front of The Whalebone and Cromer’s Market, which wraps around Bay Avenue, cutting off direct access to the neighborhood. Like the original plan, cars would be forced to access Bay Avenue from Noyac Road by first turning onto Elm Street, then taking a right onto Bay.
Keith Schumann, who said he was representing the next generation of Noyac residents and just so happened to be a former traffic engineer, said he, too, believed the 2011 plan was too drastic.
This plan also requires cutting into the triangle-shaped property where Bay and Elm join — a piece of land belonging to Whalebone owner Linda Heine. Even though the town has drafted plans that build over that patch of dirt, Heine said last week that she was “offended” by the town’s intent to build over it.
“That piece of property is owned by my family,” she told the crowd. “I was told it wouldn’t be touched unless we wanted to give it away.” And, she said, they don’t. (Throne-Holst later stated that the triangular piece of land would not have to be touched in order to implement traffic-calming measures.)
Heine said she preferred the 2009 Plan over the 2011 iteration, saying it was much more “friendly.”
Resident John Anderson, who has lived in Noyac for 50 years, didn’t object to any of the statements made that night. Rather, he simply called for action.
“Sometimes, backing out of those spaces [at Cromer’s], you’ve gotta say your prayers!” he exclaimed.
“We’ve been talking about this problem off-and-on for 10 years,” he continued. “And I’ve seen faces here I’ve never seen before. My great concern is that we’re going to spend another 10 years talking about it.”
He paused before continuing, making his message was loud and clear.
“For crying out loud, let’s fix it,” he exclaimed, making no attempt to contain his passion. “Can the powers that be make some decisions?”
According to Southampton Town Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone, the town is now hoping to implement striping, rumble strips or stop signs before the start of the summer season. While the supervisor is also exploring the idea of preventing commercial trucks from traversing Noyac Road, an idea some in the audience seemed to favor, he said this is something that would take a lot longer to implement and would require an additional public hearing and a resolution by the board.