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Jun 13, 2012 10:20 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuckahoe Supermarket Proposal Will Be Considered By Town

Jun 19, 2012 1:18 PM

The Southampton Town Board has agreed to consider a proposal to build a King Kullen supermarket and several smaller stores on County Road 39 in Tuckahoe.

The board voted 4-1 on Tuesday to allow the proposal, which seeks relief from the region’s zoning restrictions to make way for the 30,000-square-foot supermarket and related construction, to move forward beyond the preliminary discussion stage.

Board member Bridget Fleming was the lone vote against beginning the official review, citing the fact that numerous studies of the County Road 39 corridor—including one, nearing completion, that looked at the potential for new development along the blighted main roadway—recommend against allowing such large, high-traffic businesses along the busy highway.

“I think this is a difficult decision, partly because the community is very divided, and partly because the applicant has made some adjustments,” Ms. Fleming said of the proposal, dubbed Tuckahoe Center, which is a vastly downscaled version of developer Robert Morrow’s earlier plan for what was then called Tuckahoe Main Street, which included nearly 100,000 square feet of retail stores and residential apartments in addition to the supermarket. “But I’m still not convinced that what we’re being asked to consider is consistent with the type of plans that are in the studies. The building is two and a half times the size of the standard.”

As has been the case since the first King Kullen proposal was brought to the town more than two years ago by Mr. Morrow and his partners, Ms. Fleming was echoing the sentiments of a very vocal group of residents from the Tuckahoe area, who have blasted the project as a potential traffic and safety nightmare on the busy commuter roadway. For the first time, though, the board also heard a modicum of support for the project from some neighborhood residents, most saying that having a grocery store that does not require them traveling to Hampton Bays or into the congestion of Southampton Village would be a much needed convenience.

“It’s time we got a modern supermarket,” said Tuckahoe resident Jay Durante. “It doesn’t belong on a small street in the village. A supermarket should be on the highway, and I think it is a necessity.”

Mr. Durante said that claims that the supermarket would spike traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods are misguided, because the residents of those neighborhoods are already on the roads on the way to the King Kullens in Hampton Bays and Bridgehampton, and the Waldbaum’s in Southampton Village. There is also a Stop & Shop in Hampton Bays. Having a store in Tuckahoe, he said, would actually reduce the pollution and congestion on other roadways—an argument formerly made by Mr. Morrow.

Mr. Durante’s support for the project was echoed by a handful of other residents, most touting the convenience of having the store in the midst of the large, and growing, residential neighborhoods of Tuckahoe and eastern Southampton Village.

But as has been the case in most discussions of the project, the public supporters were in the minority on Tuesday.

Several speakers nodded to the pending County Road 39 corridor study, an adjunct to the town’s Master Plan that is being drafted after years of study by a committee of town planners and community representatives, as supporting their belief that the King Kullen project is outside the scope of what should be constructed along the highway. The study’s initial draft is being finalized by the town’s land planning department and is expected to be made public this summer.

Some also chided the board, claiming that granting Mr. Morrow a zone change over the recommendations of various panels of experts who studied the area would simply be coddling developers at the expense of the community.

“Today, you have a project on a major highway, in a congested area … that doesn’t meet the permitted uses, that doesn’t meet the recommendations of the [Comprehensive] Plan … and yet there is the potential that this project is going to move on before the recommendations of the current Tuckahoe plan are adopted,” said Group for the East End President Bob DeLuca. “If you do it before [the study is released], everybody is going to wonder whether you winged it, everybody is going to wonder what the study was about, and everybody is going to wonder what good it does to invest the money we invest in these studies if a major project like this that could have significant impacts on the entire County Road 39 corridor gets moved along out of sequence.

“This is not an as-of-right project—it’s a change of zone,” Mr. DeLuca continued. “Let the Comprehensive Plan decide what should be happening in this corridor. Don’t put it in your own lap when there is a document that is 90 percent of the way there.”

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