Tag Archive | "southampton town planning board"

CVS Challenges Southampton Planning Board Decision

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CVS

By Mara Certic and Stephen J. Kotz

CVS Caremark and BNB Ventures IV have filed suit against the Southampton Planning Board last week over its October 9 decision to require an environmental impact study for a proposed pharmacy in Bridgehampton.

The property in question is owned by BNB Ventures IV and had previously been the subject of a site-plan approval for a 9,030-square-foot building. The two-story building was approved for several different retail uses as well as potential residential uses.

When rumors circulated earlier this year that the pharmacy giant was eyeing the busy corner of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike for a new store, Bridgehampton residents reacted angrily, first through the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, which called on the town to step in and prevent the application.

Later, an organization called Save Bridgehampton Main Street was spun off from the CAC to raise money to fight the project by conducting its own traffic study and hiring an attorney.

When CVS made its plans official in July by applying for a special exception permit to occupy the building, which is now under construction at the site, Bridgehampton residents staged protests at the site.

On October 9, the planning board voted unanimously to require an environmental impact statement for the CVS proposal, reversing an earlier decision to not require one for the original site plan.

Southampton Town Planner Claire Vail, who made the recommendation that the board adopt what is called a “positive declaration” under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, told the board a CVS at the busy corner would have adverse effects on both traffic and community character.

John Bennett, who represents CVS Caremark and BNB Ventures IV, expressed frustration at the board’s decision. He warned the board at the time he thought the decision was “textbook arbitrary action.”

He said on Monday he hoped to have a judge direct the planning board to process the application through its regular site-plan and special exception procedures and not require “a full-blown environmental impact statement.”

“The building that’s there now had a traffic study and they gave it a building permit,” Mr. Bennett said.

Mr. Bennett said the first thing he insisted on when he began representing CVS Caremark was that it conduct a traffic impact study. That study, he said, showed the pharmacy would not create a traffic disaster at the intersection, as many had worried. In fact, he said, the study showed there would be 50 fewer trips into the site per hour, than if the lot were to house multiple tenants.

“When they talk about actions that are likely to have a significant impact on the environment, they’re talking about 50 homes that are not connected to a public sewer or a public water system,” Mr. Bennett said in a phone interview on Monday.

“Moving a new tenant into a building under construction is not likely to have a significant impact,” he said.

The suit contends that CVS “is politically unpopular with some as not ‘high end’ enough for the Bridgehampton hamlet and has resulted in the town agencies bending to political pressure.”

The only difference, it continues, between the first site-plan and the new one is that “one tenant, as opposed to two, will occupy this already approved, under construction building.”

The suit says it is a simple “quirk” in the town code that requires retail uses of between 5,000 to 15,000 square feet to obtain a special exception permit in the Village Business district.

Furthermore, the suit contends that the town referred the application to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services in a bid to stall it from proceeding.

Although the town board is not named, the suit charges that its decision to hold a public hearing on proposal that would tighten the requirements for a special exception permit “demonstrates the clear illegal and purely political agenda of the respondent board and of the town officials.”

The code amendment, which among other things, would have required that an applicant demonstrate a need for the proposed development before a special exception permit could be issued, has been tabled by the town board.

The appearance of Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst at a recent Bridgehampton CAC meeting also caught the attention of the suit. At that meeting, Ms. Throne-Holst discussed the rebirth of the Bridgehampton Gateway project, the long stalled development of commercial properties on the south side of Montauk Highway across from the Bridgehampton Commons. She asked members what type of community benefit they would like to see if the town were to designate it a Planned Development District.  Several in the group immediately responded that it would make a better location for a proposed CVS.

“Further, and remarkably, the Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst appeared at a public meeting and discussed an alternative site for the CVS proposal, thus, creating a significant potential injury to petitioner established real property right,” the suit said.

On Wednesday, Dennis Finnerty, chairman of the planning board, said he was unable to comment on pending litigation. Carl Benincasa, attorney for the planning board, also declined to comment on the suit.

Environmental Impact Study Ordered for Potential CVS in Bridgehampton

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The Southampton Town Planning Board ruled last Thurday it will require an environmental impact study for CVS at the corner of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton Turnpike. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Mara Certic

At the end of a three-hour meeting on Thursday afternoon, the Southampton Town Planning Board ruled that it would require an environmental impact study for CVS pharmacy that has been proposed for a busy intersection in Bridgehampton.

Southampton Town Planner Claire Vail presented her recommendation to the board on Thursday after she discussed the standards of the State Environmental Quality Review Act. The application is considered “unlisted,” which means the planning board has the final say in whether or not an EIS is required.

CVS Caremark filed for a special exception permit in July to allow the pharmacy giant to occupy a 9,030-square-foot-building at the intersection of Montauk Highway, the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike and Lumber Lane.

Ms. Vail said on Thursday the proposed pharmacy could have significant potential adverse effects on both traffic and the community character, which lead the board to adopt what is called a “positive declaration,” requiring the environmental study.

In 2011, the planning board approved plans by BNB Ventures IV—the company that owns the land—to demolish the Bridgehampton Beverage store in order to put in its place a two-story Greek revival building. When approved in 2011, the planning board had determined the building would not have any adverse impact on its surroundings.

It was initially proposed the building would have a couple of retail spaces with offices or apartments upstairs, but the entire building was zoned for retail uses, which allows CVS to seek to merge the different retail spaces together to make one large store. But the town code requires developers seeking to build retail spaces larger than 5,000 square feet in the village business district to apply for a special exception permit, although the use is not prohibited outright.

News of CVS potentially taking over the busy corner caused outcry from members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, who in turn created the offshoot organization Save Bridgehampton Main Street in an effort to raise money to fund a potential legal battle.

A few dozen people showed up to Thursday afternoon’s planning board meeting, many of them sporting anti-CVS pins in their lapels, to listen to Ms. Vail discuss the board’s determination. Although members of the CAC had tried to make arguments that there might be impacts on the historic district or nature of the lot, which is the site of a historic tavern, Ms. Vail determined it unlikely the CVS would affect the historical character of the area.

“That triangle has some historic importance, but you already approved a building there,” said John Bennett, who is representing CVS Caremark.

Ms. Vail did, however, say that an almost 10,000-square-foot pharmacy on the busy corner would have a significant negative effect on the community character of Bridgehampton’s Main Street. Ms. Vail used copies of the Bridgehampton Hamlet Study and plans for the hamlet center as criteria, all of which named maintaining the community character as the village’s primary goal.

Ms. Vail also found there to be a significant potential negative impact on traffic in the area, thus requiring a traffic study.

Questions remain about how many parking spots there should be, as well as the scope of any traffic study. Mr. Bennett appeared to be frustrated following Ms. Vail’s presentation to the planning board.

He told the board the developers had already hired BHB Engineering to do a traffic study. “The first thing I insisted upon was a traffic impact statement,” he said. “You cannot under any guise use the traffic concerns here because that ship has sailed.”

Members of Save Bridgehampton Main Street also hired an engineer for their own traffic study, which will be read into the record at one of the upcoming public hearings on the application. Following the adoption of the positive declaration, a third traffic study will likely be conducted on the busy corner.

Mr. Bennett told the board this move was “textbook arbitrary action,” and warned the planning board to use only substantiated facts and expert testimony when making its decisions.  Mr. Bennett several times made reference to appealing the board’s decision. At one point, he said, “I guess a court will have to decide that.”

Wayne Bruyn, who is representing BNB Ventures IV, accused the board of standing alone with its staff on “a twisted interpretation of the code.”

The two attorneys spent approximately 45 minutes responding to Ms. Vail’s presentation and accused the board of acting illegally.

“I know you’re under a lot of political pressure, I ask you to consider what you said, I don’t see how you have the authority to do anything you’re doing today,” Mr. Bennett said.

When the board asked the lawyers for an adjournment in order to consider its reply, Mr. Bennett flatly refused and said “You’re going to do what you’re going to do.”

“You’ve had more than enough time” to prepare, Mr. Bennett added.  “You should have anticipated what I was going to say, you should have known it all along.”

The six members of the board present voted unanimously to accept the positive declaration. Public hearings and further environmental review will take place in the coming weeks.

 

Fight to Stop CVS Rages on in Bridgehampton

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By Mara Certic

Although contractors began clearing the proposed site for a CVS Pharmacy in Bridgehampton last week, Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee members donning anti-CVS pins on Monday seemed encouraged by the possibility an alternate site could be found for the store.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst asked to attend the CAC’s monthly meeting on Monday, September 22, in order to discuss some ideas around with residents of the hamlet, she said.

“There are a couple of facts I wanted to make sure to clarify,” Ms. Throne-Holst began on Monday. “We have gotten all of your emails, petitioning us to hold a public hearing,” she said. “We’ve done our best to explain, there is no legal vehicle for us to do that.”

Members of the CAC and the offshoot organization Save Bridgehampton Main Street have been writing to local officials asking them to hold public hearings about a proposed CVS on Bridgehampton’s busiest intersection.

Ms. Throne-Holst explained there is a “separation between church and state” when it comes to the town and its various appointed boards. “That doesn’t mean we don’t take this very seriously,” she added.

The decision to allow or deny CVS to open a store on a busy intersection in Bridgehampton, she repeated, lies solely in the hands of the planning board. “They have to be able to show by the letter of the law why they made the decision,” she said on Monday.

Former town planning director Jeff Murphree reiterated this and reminded the CAC members “the planning board has to focus its decision on facts.” Ms. Throne-Holst explained the appointed boards operate within certain classifications and parameters set by the state.

But what the town can do, she added, is tighten, add and subtract the parameters within that code. The town board held a hearing on Tuesday, September 23, about adding specific special exception permit standards for uses in excess of 5,000 square feet and less than 15,000 square feet.

Quite conveniently, at 9,030 square feet, the proposed CVS would be subject to the additional standards. “This is one that has been in the works for some time,” she said of the legislation.

Lawyers representing BNB Ventures IV and CVS Caremark spoke at the Tuesday’s public hearing opposing the legislation as written. John Bennett, who represents CVS, said this was “an illegal exercise of your powers as town board.”

He mentioned a court ruling from another, similar case, and said, “this administrative procrastination calculated to deny a property owner his right to use his land is supportable neither by law or by ethical practice.”

“I’ll ask you to have more character, more backbone and obey the law,” he told the board on Tuesday.

Wayne Bruyn, who represents BNB Ventures IV said, ““When I looked at this law I was in shock.”

Ms. Throne-Holst reiterated the amendment is a “part of that string of looking and relooking and improving on some of our land use codes.” The supervisor said the town was going to make amendments to the law and would keep the hearing open until the October 14 meeting.

On Monday Ms. Throne-Holst also discussed another planning opportunity she wanted to float by the most concerned Bridgehamptonites. The Konner Development, a 13-acre piece of land across the street from the Bridgehampton Commons, is currently zoned as a highway business, she explained, which restricts possible land uses.

There has, she said, been a lot of work already to have the property designated a Planned Development District or PDD. Ms. Throne-Holst explained the town board oversees PDDs, unlike other matters of planning. The PDD designation would allow the town to require the lots have certain buffering, vegetation, appropriate aesthetics and so on and added there is “A lot of community input to this process.”

“I’d like to think a little out of the box here,” she said. “What could we do that may serve this community in light of some of the activity that’s going on here at the moment?” she asked the group.

Within moments, one member of the group suggested it could be the new home for CVS. Ms. Throne-Holst, who wanted it to be known that the public had brought up this suggestion, told the CAC members she had spoken to Ms. Konner and referred to her as “a willing developer.”

“Because the decision lies with the town board it gives us opportunity for a lot of give and take,” she said.

If the site became a PDD, she said, it would have to have some sort of public benefit to the town. “We have an opportunity here to look at part of this town, part of this hamlet, that warrants a good hard look,” she said.

Leonard Davenport, member of the CAC, said he would draft a resolution that would throw the CAC’s “qualified support” behind the effort to create a PDD at the site. “This is good planning, this is what planning’s really about,” Peter Wilson told Ms. Throne-Holst.

“The PDD is a big potential development,” Mr. Davenport said after the meeting.

The CVS application will be discussed at the planning board meeting on Thursday, October 9.

 

Southampton Town Board To Add New Conditions to Special Exception Permits

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By Mara Certic

The Southampton Town Board is expected to add new standards, safeguards and conditions for retail businesses over 5,000 square feet that apply for special exception permits from the town Planning Board.

The news comes following highly controversial plans to build a 9,030-square-foot CVS pharmacy on the busy corner of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton. On July 28 of this year, BNB Ventures IV and CVS Caremark applied for a special exception permit from the planning board to open the two-story pharmacy on the lot previously occupied by a small beer distributor.

The proposal has caused distress for members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee and other residents, who have created an offshoot organization Save Bridgehampton Main Street, hired lawyers, done a traffic study and even held three protests and counting.

Those opposed not only fear that a CVS would negatively affect traffic on an already dangerous intersection, but worry that the pharmacy giant would detract from the rural charm of Bridgehampton’s village business district.

“We all know that one of our key assets is the character of our downtowns,” said Town Planning and Development Administrator Kyle Collins at a town board work session on Thursday, September 4.

He explained the prior town board adopted a special permit exception for uses in the village business district between 5,000 and 15,000 square feet but added, “the code does not provide for safeguards or conditions with that kind of special exception law.”

He explained special permit exceptions exist in the town code for certain land uses such as horse farms and marinas. “A lot of them are things that would be looked at through SEQRA,” or the State Environmental Quality Review Act, he said.

Although the general standards refer to things like traffic impacts, he said, the proposed new standards would require a traffic impact analysis as well. “Traffic is a key issue within all our business districts,” he said. Certain parking characteristics will be taken into account too, he added. The proposed 9,030-square-foot building, complete with basement and elevator, will have 10 parking spots for employees and clients, according to plans.

Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera said the special standards also include taking a deeper look at the surrounding local retail community and also will require a local market analysis. These safeguards would be put in place in order to protect existing businesses in the village business districts.

The town board scheduled a public hearing about the proposed new standards for Tuesday, September 23, at 6:30 p.m. Ms. Scalera said on Tuesday if the public hearing does not attract a huge crowd, “we’d put it on for the next meeting for adoption.”  After that point she said it typically would take two or three weeks for the law to be formally adopted and put on the books.

CVS opponents have said the pharmacy’s attorneys seem to be looking for a swift and speedy approval process, but if adopted by the board soon, the new standards could realistically slow them down.

Planners Take a First Look at Bridgehampton CVS Proposal

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A plan to build a CVS pharmacy at this site in Bridgehampton, now before the Southampton Town Planning Board, has drawn opposition from residents because of traffic concerns. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Stephen J. Kotz

The Southampton Town Planning Board last Thursday, August 14, took its first look at a proposed plan to build a CVS pharmacy on a vacant parcel on Montauk Highway and the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike.

The applicant, BNB Ventures IV and CVS Caremark, is seeking a special exception permit to allow it to use an already approved two-story, 9,030-square-foot building for a pharmacy. A special exception permit is required because the nearly quarter-acre corner lot is in a Village Business zone, where individual retail uses are limited to 5,000 square feet.

Since it was revealed late year that CVS was considering building a store at the site—at the busiest intersection in Bridgehampton—residents have rallied against the plan, arguing that a store there would create a traffic and parking nightmare.

At last week’s meeting, the planning board simply started the process by which it will be determined whether it or the Suffolk County Department of Health Services will be the “lead agency” during the processing of the application under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

According to Kyle Collins, Southampton Town’s planning and development administrator, the county health department has until September 14, to weigh in on the application, although it could respond sooner. Typically, the county cedes that authority to the town government.

Under SEQRA, applications are considered Type I, which presumes an environmental impact statement must be completed; Type II, for which an EIS cannot be required; and “unlisted,” which means the planning board will have the final say in determining whether an EIS should be required.

Mr. Collins, responding to questions by email, said the earliest a public hearing could be held on the application is October 10. However, if the board were to require an environmental impact statement, that time could be extended for several months.

Members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee and other residents have been up in arms over the thought of a CVS being built at the corner since last winter.

A spin-off organization, Save Bridgehampton Main Street, was created largely to oppose the plan. It has hired an attorney commissioned a traffic study of the kind of impact a CVS would have.

In May, Bridgehampton residents converged on a town board meeting to demand that the board intervene to prevent the project from moving forward, but Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst told the crowd that the town board had no power to interfere with the planning board’s process.

Since that time, Bridgehampton residents have called on the town to negotiate with the property’s owner, BNB Ventures IV, to buy the parcel as a possible corner park.

And earlier this summer, residents holding signs and shouting slogans, gathered at the site for a pair of protests.

Pharmacy Giant Files for Special Exemption Permit on Busy Bridgehampton Corner

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This week, CVS filed for a special exemption permit for a 9,500 square-foot store at a busy intersection on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Mara Certic

After months of grumbling, hand-wringing and even a pair of protest marches, Bridgehampton residents’ fears that CVS Pharmacy would try to shoehorn a store into the busiest corner in the hamlet took a step closer to being realized this week.

According to Kyle Collins, Southampton Town’s planning and development administrator, Bridgehampton BNB IV Ventures, the company that owns the property at the northwest corner of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, has applied for a special exception permit from the Southampton Town Planning Board to open a 9,500-square-foot store at the site.

“At 3:30 this afternoon I got an e-mail from Kyle Collins telling me that BNB IV Ventures has applied for the special exception before the planning board,” Nancy Walter Yvertes solemnly announced to members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday, July 28. Mr. Collins is the town’s planning and development administrator.

For months, the CAC, and a spin off group, Save Bridgehampton Main Street, has been fighting the proposed CVS through letter-writing campaigns, distributing petitions and even protesting.

Site plan approval has already been granted for a two-story building with 9,500 square feet of space at the site, but in the Village Business zoning district, businesses are limited to 5,000 square feet. Larger businesses are allowed only if a special exception permit is granted.

Members of the CAC and Save Bridgehampton Main Street have been writing letters to CVS executives for months but have not received any satisfactory response, they said.

“Now that the planning board has the file, we have the right to correspond with Dennis Finnerty and all of the people on the planning board,” Ms. Walter Yvertes told the other members of the CAC.  Mr. Finnerty is the board’s chairman.

Ms. Walter Yvertes also announced that Steven Schneider, an engineer conducting a traffic study for Save Bridgehampton Main Street, had agreed to analyze the turning movements at both driveways to the site. There is a driveway on Montauk Highway and one at the end of Lumber Lane at the turnpike. The analysis would add $1,800 to the cost of the traffic study, she said.

“Originally, I did not think it was necessary, but rethinking it, it very well could be. It may lead us, for example, to recommending restrictions on vehicles entering and exiting the driveways because of the traffic flow and the geometrics of the closeness of those driveways to the major intersection,” Mr. Schneider wrote in an e-mail to Ms. Walter Yvertes on Friday, July 25.

Ms. Walter Yvertes commented that it should really be the town conducting the study and that town officials should be “encouraged to do their jobs.”

CAC member Julie Burmeister also announced that a videographer had been chosen to film the busy intersection as part of the study. She explained that for some reason, the traffic is at its heaviest at that spot at around 10:30 a.m., and so they will be filming the flow of cars, trucks and bicycles at that hectic time of day in an effort to prove that the already dangerous corner will likely become unbearable if the CVS plan is approved.

Many of the members of the CAC also sit on Save Bridgehampton Main Street, which has hired attorney Vince Messina to fight the CVS application. The Islip-based lawyer was recommended to the organization by Southampton Town Justice Deborah Kooperstein, a resident of Bridgehampton.

When members asked why a local lawyer had not been chosen, CAC-member Peter Wilson responded, “I think she picked him because she’s had experience with him and feels that he’s a top performing litigator and he also has a pretty formidable reputation in Suffolk County.”

Ms. Water Yvertes added that when she told Jeff Murphree, the town’s former planning and development administrator, who has been helping his in-laws fight the CVS application, of their choice of lawyer “his eyes started twinkling and he said ‘Oh, he’s very strong.’”

CAC members s found several parts of the special exception use standards that they believe the proposed CVS would not be able to comply with. One provision states that there must be sufficient off-street parking and truck loading spaces for the anticipated number of employees, patrons and visitors and that “the layout of the spaces and driveways is convenient and conducive to safe operation.”

Jim Olson asked the assembled members of the CAC if they thought that their efforts would prevail; they replied that it would probably come down to the other lawyer, Wayne Bruyn.

They anticipated that he would try to time the hearing for the wintertime, when fewer Bridgehampton homeowners are in town to voice their opinions.

According to an email from Mr. Collins, of the town’s Department of Land Management, the absolute earliest date that a public hearing would take place would be on November 13.

Ms. Walter Yvertes said that she thought it was unlikely that it would qualify for a special exception permit “unless Wayne Bruyn’s a magician.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Bruyn said that he was not involved with the application. He said it was not BNB IV Ventures, but CVS itself, which had filed the permit application. He said he does not represent the pharmacy company and has not prepared an application for it nor reviewed it at this time.

Mr. Messina was not available for comment by the time of this paper’s publication.

 

 

Raising Spirits: Farm Distillery Proposed for Sagaponack

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The Foster Farm in Sagaponack, which is already known for its potatoes, might someday also be known for its vodka, if Dean Foster’s vision comes to fruition.

Mr. Foster, 45, who has been running many of the day-to-day operations of the family’s farm for more than a decade, said he wants to create “an estate style, small farm distillery” that would produce “world class, small batch spirits,” that could grow to include whiskies and brandies, on a farm with a wholesale firewood operation in Sagaponack that his family bought in 2012 to protect it from development.

“I will be growing everything that is used in the making of the spirits,” Mr. Foster said this week. “Grow local. Drink local.”

He said he was drawn to the idea of starting a distillery as a way to diversify his business as well as provide a new market for his and other local farmers’ produce.

Last Thursday, Mr. Foster, accompanied by his attorney, Kieran Murphree of Bridgehampton, appeared before the Southampton Town Planning Board to outline his plans. The planning board declared the site-plan application complete and scheduled an April 10 public hearing on it.

As a start-up operation, Sagg Distillery will be equipped with a small still, capable of producing no more than 400 gallons a year, that will be housed in a garage on the site. Ms. Murphree said the small still would be used for “research and development” operations. “They need to develop recipes,” she said.

Mr. Foster told the planning board the idea of the distillery was made feasible when Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2012 signed legislation that allows farms to distill up to 36,000 gallons of spirits a year. By comparison, Absolut Vodka produces about 158,000 gallons a day.

This week, Mr. Foster said he is already in discussions with a master distiller and if all goes according to plan, he will put in a larger still in an addition to a barn on the property. The barn itself, he said, would be converted into a tasting room. Those steps would require another site-plan review.

Although the operation would be largely wholesale, Mr. Foster told the board the farm distillery law allows some on-site sales from a tasting room.

The property that will be used for the distillery is on the east side of Sagg Road, just north of the Long Island Rail Road tracks. The 13-acre site is now home to Dick Leland’s firewood operation, which, Mr. Foster said, will move from the property in 2015. Large piles of firewood that are being seasoned still cover much of the property.

Mr. Foster told the planning board that neighbors he has spoken to were happy to learn that the firewood business would be leaving. “We can’t wait for the chain saws to stop,” he said they told him. But he added that he wanted to give Mr. Leland enough time to wind down his operations.

“We have firewood and firewood,” quipped planning board member Phil Keith.

Mr. Foster said his family bought the property, which was slated for a seven-lot subdivision, as well as a neighboring 12-acre piece of agricultural land after selling the development rights to other property it owned.

As the firewood operation winds down, Mr. Foster said he would begin to reclaim the soil, which, he said, could be used to grow ingredients for the distillery. Plus, he said, grain used in the distilling process could be used as livestock feed or fertilizer. “I can’t wait to get that farmland back in action,” he told the planning board.

“Terrific. This is our first distillery,” said the planning board’s chairman, Dennis Finnerty. “Once again the Fosters are pioneering.”

Lauer’s Plans For Horse Farm Move Ahead

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By Claire Walla

Sag Harbor resident and “Today Show” host Matt Lauer is one step closer to building a horse farm on a 40-acre piece of land off Deerfield Road in Water Mill.

At a meeting last Thursday, May 24, the Southampton Town Planning Board officially closed the public hearing regarding the proposed Edge of Woods Horse Farm, near the intersection of Deerfield and Edge of Woods roads. The board voted to leave a 14-day window for written comments before town planner Claire Vail drafts her final report on the application.

The board is not expected to make its final determination on the application until next month at the earliest.

However, while the process seems to be moving forward, residents who had been vocal in their opposition to the building project had their last say.

“My concern is with the use of an [agricultural] reserve — [for which] the town purchased the development rights — for building a project of this size,” said Water Mill resident Kim Covell, whose home is adjacent to the proposed horse farm. “This is something we should think long and hard about.”

According to the application, Edge of Woods Horse Farm would include two 34,000 square foot outdoor riding rings, a 23,940 square foot indoor riding ring, as well as a 17,455 square foot barn with space for up to 36 horses. The proposed “grooms quarters” and utility building would exist within two structures currently on the property.

Currently, only 6,010 square feet are dedicated to buildings. The proposed horse farm would increase that to about 49,742 square feet.

Southampton Town purchased the development rights to the 30.3-acre property on Deerfield Road, then known as Frankenbach’s Deerfield Nursery, for $3.6 million in 2005. That action effectively preserved the land for open space.

However, according to planning board member Jacqi Lofaro, the proposed Edge of Woods Horse Farm does not, in fact, violate the town’s rules and regulations when it comes to preservation.

“As odd as it seems, New York State considers horse farms farming,” she explained. “Many people don’t realize that.”

In fact, “equestrian rights” is listed as one of the exemptions when it comes to limiting the development of open spaces. The property owner therefore has “the right to use and erect structures for the purpose of boarding, breeding, raising and training of horses or other equines,” according to official Grant of Development Rights signed in 2005.

The exemption does not include “riding academies” or “equine events.” But Tim McCulley, a lawyer for the proposed Edge of Woods Horse Farm, insisted the stables would be for private use only, and no classes or camps would be administered from the farm.

“We’re not trying to draw people from all over,” he told the board. “It can’t be a riding academy.”

Water Mill resident J. Andreassi, who has lived in the area for about 11 years, said overall, in his opinion the horse farm is a much better use of the land than what it’s been used for in the past. As a former commercial space, he explained that it brought a lot of tractor-trailers to the area, including trucks making deliveries early in the morning.

“My wife and I think this application is going to be much better for the future of that particular area,” he added. “From our point of view, there will be less traffic.”

However, some neighbors also cited concerns with a row of cypress trees proposed for the edge of the property.

Neighbor Peter Barylskie noted that some homeowners would be affected by the new row of foliage, in that they would lose sun earlier in the day, therefore shortening their days “by two or three hours.”

Harriet Wittenberg agreed with Barylskie.

“I don’t see any problem with this project, except that it might block our view,” she said.

McCulley said the landscaping plans are still “in the works.”

“We can accommodate the neighbors,” he added. “If the people want to see the horse farm, then we’re going to try to accommodate them as best as possible.”

Methodist Church Hopes to House Pre-K

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By Claire Walla

When The Sag Harbor United Methodist Church made plans to construct a new church on the Sag Harbor Turnpike, the congregation always intended to include space on its ground floor that could be used by another organization, like a pre-school.

Now, after a full year of Sunday services in its brand-new spot, the church is finally hoping to bring a pre-school on-site.

According to Amber Cariglio, a parent at Our Sons and Daughters pre-school in Bridgehampton, the 12-student school hopes to relocate to the United Methodist Church as early as next September. Currently housed at the Hayground School on Butter Lane, she said the school is looking to obtain a bigger space so it can have the room it will need to grow.

The Waldorf-based curriculum is run by teachers Maggie Touchette and Andi Pascaio, who offer programs for children ages 3 to 6. With a bigger space, Cariglio said the program will hopefully be able to expand to include a kindergarten program for 6- and 7-years-olds.

Last week, the Southampton Town Planning Board held a pre-submission hearing on the property to consider changing the churches zoning district from residential to commercial, in order to accommodate another business.

The only voice of dissent came from the church’s Caroll Street neighbor, Pam Wright, who objected to the noise and traffic that might incur from daytime operations.

However, the church’s pastor, Tom MacCleod, said when he knocked on neighbors’ doors to explain what the church was hoping to do, he didn’t seem to face any opposition. He further explained that the biggest impact would occur during pick-up and drop-off hours (8:30 a.m., noon and 2:30 p.m.). He also emphasized that, because of the way the church has been built, the pre-school is virtually shielded from view from Caroll Street.

The potential for noise and traffic “is not something we won’t be able to work around,” MacCleod continued. He added that he’s open to hearing any other concerns that might exist within the community.

“We want to be a good neighbor and we want to be able to provide assistance and have knowledge of anything that’s not right,” he added. “Because we know — we live in the neighborhood, too.”

MacCleod emphasized that the church is not physically expanding, or adding any structural additions onto the church building itself. It’s merely seeking to obtain a variance from the town that would allow it to rent out its 6,776 square-foot basement floor.

The idea of partnering with a pre-school program is not new for the Methodist church. When it was located in its old building on Madison Street in Sag Harbor, the church rented space to the Rainbow Preschool. The school relocated to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation’s meetinghouse on the Sag Harbor Turnpike when the old Methodist Church building was sold to a private owner.

According to MacCleod, the church is hoping to get the variance as soon as possible. The application is now open for a 30-day public comment period, after which Southampton Town Planner Claire Vail will draft a pre-submission report. Only then will the church be able to move forward with an actual site plan and, if all goes according to plan, obtain a variance.

Because roughly 80 percent of the building is currently unoccupied, MacCleod said this would make better use of the new facility. He also said that, in addition to covering the increase in utility costs, any income generated from the preschool program would go directly into the church’s outreach endeavors.

“It would go straight back into the community,” he said.

In the end, MacCleod explained that the church’s efforts to bring Our Sons and Daughters on-site has mostly to do with helping others.

“We know that one of the greatest issues in the Hamptons now is finding affordable space,” he said. “It’s becoming more and more apparent. It’s our reality. So, how do we impact our community?

“We see that this is a need,” he continued. “[Our Sons and Daughters] believes that there’s an opportunity for them to grow. And what we’re trying to do is be of help to the community.”

East End Digest: February 26, 2009

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Bridgehampton
Citarella to Open

The former location of the IGA in Bridgehampton will be opening under the name Citarella come April 2009. Citarella considers itself the “ultimate gourmet market.”
Clare Vail, a Southampton Town Planner said that applicant and property owner, Joe Gurrera, submitted an application of expedited review, “a speedy request,” on February 5, 2009.
The planning department held a favorable view and asked the applicant to submit the application on expedited review because there were only going to be minor changes to the building. The application was approved on February 12.
“The applicant wants to spruce up the building, and move the entrance way,” Vail said.
The entrance to the building will be moved to the north east side, from its original location on the west side facing the parking lot, according to the application.
Vail said the applicant wanted to add outdoor seating and improve the parking area – but that would need to undergo a full site plan review at a later date.

Sag Harbor
Library Moves on Building Plans

The John Jermain Memorial Library Board of Trustees continue to work with Newman Architects to develop a library plan that will, in the words of the architects, “serve the Sag Harbor community’s library needs.” During the past weeks a number of firms working in conjunction with Newman have visited both John Jermain and the library’s property at 425 Main Street near Mashashimuet Park.
Philip Steiner, principal from Altieri Sebor and Weber structural engineers, spent January 27 at the library reviewing the mechanical systems, the exterior of the building, and the roof. On February 5, two preservationists, John Glavin and Michele Boyd, from Building Conservation Associates spent 10 hours with the director of the library, Catherine Creedon, touring the building and reviewing the history of John Jermain including photographs, newspapers clippings, blueprints and board reports. It was the third site visit from this firm, headed by Ray Pepi.
On February 13, Deborah McGuinness and Ed Meade, structural engineers for Robert Silman Associates spent the day in Sag Harbor, evaluating both sites with an emphasis on examining the roof, the exterior envelope, the brick wall, existing blueprints, and documentary evidence related to repairs, additions and renovations.
New York State has also proposed an 18% cut in funding to libraries for 2009.

Southampton Town
Interviews for Board Candidates

Southampton Town board members have decided to open an interview process for vacant and holdover positions.
The appointees who serve on the three boards have salaried positions over a specific term of office consistent with state law. Their decision-making powers are exercised by a majority vote of the membership to approve certain types of land use applications.
The Planning Board processes applications for subdivisions, site plans, special exception use permits, lot line modifications, and also renders advisory reports to the Town Board on amendments to the zoning code or requests for changes to the zoning map. The Zoning Board deliberates on requests for variances from zoning strictures on dimensional requirements, changes of use, abandonment proceedings, and appeals of denials or approvals rendered by the Town’s Building Inspector. The Conservation Board processes applications for construction near regulated wetlands areas and prepares advisory reports to the Planning Board and Zoning Board.
Candidates seeking to be considered should send a letter of interest to Supervisor Linda Kabot and members of the Town Board at Southampton Town Hall, 116 Hampton Road, Southampton, NY 11968 prior to February 27.

New York State Assembly
No to Cap

Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr., the ranking republican on the Assembly Education Committee, blasted Governor Paterson’s proposal to cap state property tax payments to areas to school districts for state owned lands pursuant to existing state law. Under the Governor’s plan, payments to such areas would be permanently frozen.
The State of New York currently makes property tax payments to certain school districts for state lands. In Riverhead, including Southampton and Brookhaven, the payments are related to the Central Pine Barrens Preserve. Riverhead receives payments for all state alnds within the school district within the Town of Riverhead.
In 2007, Suffolk school district received around $20 million in such payments. A freeze in 2009 will cost these schools nearly $1 million. The freeze would be permanent and apply to all future years.
“There is no doubt that the costs diverted from communities hit by this tax freeze will be borne by local property taxpayers,” Thiele said. “This proposal assumes that school districts will decrease their spending. But the reality is that many districts are struggling in this tough economy.”
“It is the height of fiscal irresponsibility for state government to try and balance its budget on the backs of property owners. If the Governor truly wants to do the right thing for New Yorkers, he would support the swift passge of our ‘New York State Property Act.’ which would put the brakes on ever increasing property taxes and allow families and local eployers to stay in their communities,” Thiele continued.
Thiele said the legislation would prevent school district property tax levies from increasing by more than four percent each year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. It would also provide voters with the ability to override this limitation by a two-thirds majority vote. The initiative also provides significant unfunded mandate relief for school districts.
In other news, Thiele also introduced a comprehensive “home rule” plan to address the issue of school consolidation in the State of New York.
Thiele stated, “Exisitng state law inhibits the consideration of school consolidations. Many times school consolidation is derailed by special interests without even allowing the voters to be heard on the issue. In contrast, the Suozzi Commission has proposed a school consolidation procedure which would be imposed by the state with no local referendum. To be successful, we must first have an objective investigation of each potential consolidation in the state. Second, we must permit local voters the opportunity to evaluate these objectiv investigations and make the decision by referendum.”
Thieles bill includes several provisions. It would require the State Education Department (SED) to identify school districts that might benefit from consolidation. The study would include districts with 1,000 or fewer students and school districts that either share a common boundary with such a district, or school districts that have an existing contract with such a district to educate its students.

Suffolk County
Veterans

Last week, the Suffolk County United Veterans Project and other local veterans organizations held a press conference to highlight the impact of Governor Paterson’s proposed budget cuts on homeless veterans in Suffolk County.
County Legislator Kate Browning joined the veterans organizations and spoke out against deep cuts to many of New York’s homelessness prevention and assistance programs. She endorsed the Fair Share Tax Reform as an alternative budget solution that can ensure vulnerable veterans continue to get the care they need.
The press conference was part of an ongoing compaign by the Long Island Fair Share Tax Reform Coalition to advocate for a fair budget solution.