On November 25, the Town of Southampton decided to expand the study area of Sag Harbor’s Gateway — the area along the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike — by adding four residential parcels totaling three acres to the study. Any change in the zoning along the Gateway would ultimately be incorporated into the town of Southampton’s comprehensive plan — a master planning document for the town.
Numerous issues surround the proposed change in zoning for the area which would turn it from highway business (HB) to hamlet office (HO). Those in favor of the change cite traffic and environmental concerns associated with HB zoned parcels and would like to see a less intensive usage along the gateway. Opponents of the change want it to stay highway business because it allows for many different business options along the stretch, which, they argue, was the reason many owners purchased these properties in the first place.
Last week, town planning and development administrator, Jefferson Murphree suggested to the town board that the town close the public hearing so that the study area can be increased and revisited again in January.
“We are just expanding what has already been analyzed,” explained Murphree.
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, the study included an area of just under eight acres, excluding four property owners to the south. But the new study will include those properties, bringing the total acreage to just over ten.
During Tuesday’s meeting, councilwoman Nancy Graboski asked Murphree if there was a possibility of considering a re-zoning and adding an alternative Planned Development District (PDD) at the Reid’s automotive garage – Reid’s Brothers Inc. The Reid family has been opposed to the re-zoning of the area, which they have said will greatly reduce certain business opportunities for them. A PDD would give the Reids different commercial options for their property.
“The Reid Brothers property is pre-existing non-conforming,” Murphree explained, “They will still have a wide variety of options for business uses.”
He also added that a zone change is very specific and there are already too many PDDs in the area but there may be the possibility of a commercial PDD for the Reid Family.
Town supervisor Linda Kabot Kabot added that this change may be done by the zoning board – when the Reid family decides they want to apply for a different business opportunity.
She added that the Reid family would still have “a lot of rights with the HO overlay.”
At the last public hearing for the Sag Harbor gateway study, Group for the East End’s Jeremy Samuelson brought three large displays that explained what types of businesses can be established under Highway Business, Hamlet Office and what would be allowed under a special exceptions category. This exercise was to show Samuelson’s support for the re-zoning and gave examples for the types of businesses that would be allowed under hamlet office, which he said actually added more opportunities over the current zoning.
Owner of Bay Burger, John Landis, who has spoken at prior public hearings in opposition to the change of zoning spoke again on Tuesday. He told the town board that his business offered more employment opportunities to the area.
“We [Bay Burger] have created some jobs,” said Landis, who added that by removing the HB designation, a number of business opportunities will be lost for the areas at Sag Harbor’s boundaries. “We are removing those business opportunities — removing opportunities for our citizens — those that could continue to live in our environment.”
Landis offered a potential compromise, to make the area Hamlet Commercial, which would continue to allow retail use, whereas the Hamlet Office would not.
“We are losing people,” Landis argued, “People that are not skilled enough to work in an office, that are only able to work in a place like Bay Burger.” He continued that if the area cannot be used in its full advantage then certain types of jobs would be lost.
Kabot answered that the board would like to see, “a nice happy mix of residences with businesses.”
She also noted that the Southampton Town Trustees have taken the responsibility of keeping Ligonee Brook clean and clear. The brook runs adjacent to the area under review and is considered by environmentalists as being an important artery in the creeks and brooks connecting the Long Pond Greenbelt area of Sag Harbor to the ocean in Sagaponack. The trustees took a tour of the brook last month, to determine its ecological importance.
Sag Harbor resident and advocate for the zone change, Pricilla Ciccariello, also argued at Tuesday’s meeting that there would be more possibilities for business use from the zone change.
“There are more under HO for businesses than under HB,” she said and added that with the change, it would provide more opportunity for workforce housing and noted that this is the only area left bordering the village with this type of housing. Ciccariello also told the town board that the zone change was needed in order to preserve the rural character for the entrance to Sag Harbor.
“More importantly,” she added during an interview on Friday, “it needs to be done to protect the environmental value of this area because of the environmental aspects pertaining to Ligonee Brook and the Long Pond Greenbelt area.”
Kabot announced that everyone would be given “another bite at the apple” in January and added “We can’t change the world with the entrance way to Sag Harbor.”