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Nov 2, 2016 10:51 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

County Planning Commission Punts Tuckahoe Center Application Back To Southampton Town

Nov 2, 2016 11:03 AM

The Southampton Town Board met privately last week to seek legal advice about a proposed change of zone for the Tuckahoe Center—an application to build a shopping center on County Road 39 that has been bouncing back and forth between the Town Board and the Suffolk County Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission issued a ruling on October 12, labeling the revised application as incomplete. The commission sent a letter to the Town Board saying it lacked the information it needed to make a final recommendation. That recommendation is key: If the commission rejects the proposal for a second time, the change of zone would need a supermajority of the Town Board to approve it—which it is unlikely to secure.

A previous version of the application had failed to win the support of the Planning Commission in December 2015, and, in April, the developer, Robert Morrow of Southampton Venture LLC, sued the commission, alleging that individual members who voted against the project were biased and should have recused themselves. The suit was dismissed in October, but Mr. Morrow has until the middle of November to appeal the decision

Planning Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Casey said she does not anticipate that the commission will act until the deadline to appeal has passed, which means the earliest the commission would be able to revisit the application would be at its December meeting.

“My main concern is the lawsuit with the pending application,” Ms. Casey said. “A developer shouldn’t use litigation as a tool to try to influence us. It’s unfair. We’re all volunteers on this commission. We’re not getting any gain from this—we’re all doing this to make Suffolk County a better place.”

Although Mr. Morrow said he has not decided on whether he will appeal the decision on the litigation, he said he intends to pursue “whatever our rights are with Suffolk County.”

According to Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, the Town Board held a closed-door executive session meeting with Town Attorney James Burke last week to discuss a written response to the commission’s concerns, which he said was permitted under the state’s Open Meetings Law because it involved getting legal advice.

“There were some legal issues involved,” Mr. Burke said. “We were looking for some clarity. It is somewhat of an unusual situation.”

“For the most part, we feel like the Planning Commission has the info they need,” Mr. Schneiderman said after the executive session. “There will be a formal response from the town to the commission soon.”

According to Mr. Burke, that response could come within a week. He said the Town Board does not intend to make a decision on the application without feedback from the commission. But he also allowed that it is possible that the change of zone would not need a supermajority vote—as the commission did not make a determination on the revised application. Without a formal rejection, a simple majority would be enough to approve the measure.

The proposal seeks to rezone three adjoining properties along the southeastern side of County Road 39 from highway business to shopping center business zoning. Additionally, it asks for a change of zone for a fourth parcel, which adjoins the northeastern side of Magee Street, from residential to shopping center business zoning.

The revised plan, which Mr. Morrow submitted to the town this summer, includes a 10-percent reduction of the building area, to 52,500 square feet. This would result in a 38,000-square-foot grocery store and an additional 14,500 square feet of other commercial space in three separate buildings, all on 7.26 acres. The revision also eliminates a proposed drive-through for one of the smaller commercial buildings, increases the landscaped area by 13,000 square feet, and increases the number of parking spots from 249 to 257.

Both times the application has gone before the commission, a staff report filed by the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning recommended approving the change of zone. A staff report amended for the commission’s October meeting noted that the commission’s reasons for its recommendation for disapproval in December appeared to have been “substantially responded to” in the revised application.

“The seasonally adjusted population of the eastern half of the Town of Southampton is approximately 39,000 people,” officials wrote in the staff analysis. “It would appear that situating a fourth grocery store to service year-round and seasonal populations in the area is reasonable.”

Mr. Morrow cited that analysis this week. “It’s hard for us to believe that certain members of the commission are still opposed to this project,” he said on Tuesday. “In more than 95 percent of staff reports, the commission votes with the staff. The second report answers all the issues of the first—and they still found it incomplete.”

However, Ms. Casey said although the revised plan makes the center 10 percent smaller, she did not believe that necessarily correlated with how many people would be shopping there or would reduce traffic on the highway.

“The big problem of that project is, it’s a major road and it affects a lot of people on the East End,” she said. “Traffic is a big problem. I think there’s an underlying issue that needs to be dealt with before you put in a big store like that.”

The commission also cited traffic concerns for ambulance services to Southampton Hospital along County Road 39—an argument that Mr. Morrow said he believed was invalid, in part due to a planned satellite emergency room in East Hampton.

“In terms of traffic from East Hampton, their comments were totally out of line,” Mr. Morrow said. “They’re not true. The traffic issue for the ambulance was not something raised by the town, traffic consultants, the public or the [final environmental impact statement]. None of them thought this was really an issue.”

Ms. Casey also said she felt that the town should have dealt with the revised application rather than send it back to the commission. “It’s frustrating that we sent it back to the town in December and they sent it back again,” she said. “I really don’t think there was any reason it should have came back. Just deal with it.

“It’s so convoluted, with the developer trying to manipulate the whole thing,” Ms. Casey said. “The developer is a very powerful guy. It’s not the way things should go—it puts us in a bad position. It’s a waste of resources.”

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a change of zone request is not a guarantee of having it granted. Our Town Board members and first term Supervisor should deny this application. Remember that you work for all of us not just the carpet bagger developers.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Nov 2, 16 12:29 PM
Pass it please. Hampton Bays will thank you.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Nov 2, 16 1:10 PM
Pass it. Do it. It is needed. The chairwoman of the commission knows very well the political subterfuge that was used on the first go-round, and they have no real, factual basis on which to deny it on the second. In fact, under the current leadership, they did punt, even after their own staff twice recommended approval. Let the town move forward with a vote then, and be done with letting this get any more convoluted.
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Nov 2, 16 2:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
Needed by whom? Do you live near there?
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Nov 3, 16 11:10 AM
How much will the developer make when the zoning is changed? More than $15 million? More than $20 million? Why hasn't the existing market at Nurels on Montauk Highway been allowed to open even though it has all the permits necessary?
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Nov 2, 16 2:39 PM
He didn't get BOH approval for a kitchen.

County level. Not town.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Nov 2, 16 9:01 PM
if any of the Board members vote for this it will end their political career in this Town, Jay is already toast.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Nov 2, 16 4:30 PM
1 member liked this comment
I doubt it.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Nov 2, 16 7:15 PM
A handful of people in this town have spoken out about this. Mostly NIMBY Interlopers. Average voters care not. But they would like a good grocery store.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Nov 2, 16 9:03 PM
Jay only needed another term to get his pension. Welcome to his twilight tour.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Nov 2, 16 9:11 PM
sic the Bridgehampton CAC on them. That CAC kills everything!!
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Nov 2, 16 6:26 PM
You gotta approve it. You cannot allow over development of first and second homes and now allow the options for food and other basics to grow. It's moronic.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Nov 3, 16 6:36 AM
Thank you evenflow!! My thoughts exactly!

For every action theres is an equal an opposite action. Build the damn grocery store please. We many not want it but we NEED it ! Thats what should matter here.
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Nov 3, 16 8:55 AM
What is wrong with the Stop and Shop in Southampton? There is entirely too much traffic on Rte 27 and it is only getting worse. I don't see what the big deal is to go to Southampton to buy groceries. It's only 5 minutes away from the planned site of Tuckahoe Center.
By JohnSmith (25), Johnson City, Tennessee on Nov 7, 16 4:30 PM
are you kidding. can you imagine the traffic and congestion. there have been numerous accidents on route 27 this year with the road being closed for hours. and who changes residential areas to commercials areas? The BH CAC is right.
By braguy (7), Southampton on Nov 3, 16 9:12 AM
2 members liked this comment
There are no residential areas being converted to commercial. The land in question is commercial highway business now, with an as-of-right build-out of 60,000 sq ft. The center will be 52,500 sq ft, less than the maximum allowed, with structures grouped together rather than one-off buildings each with its own curb cuts off CR 39. The new development also comes with large landscaped visual setbacks off CR 39, parking in the rear, cross-access and extra lanes for shoppers to get off CR 39. The BH ...more
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Nov 3, 16 11:33 AM
That Trader Joe's is 40 miles away is a non-issue in that it is a destination outlet for many area residents, and a terrific day-trip to combine with mall shopping along with great restaurant options. Same for the big box stores in Riverhead where folks go for cheaper gas, car washes, liquor stores, best kielbasa and baked goods, etc. in Polish Town, and Aldi's for best prices and value, along with greenhouse and nursery stock, fresh-baked pies, etc. Hey Ricky, (Florio?), your "drops in the bucket" ...more
By June Bug (2680), SOUTHAMPTON on Nov 3, 16 11:56 AM
"A terrific day trip"... Are you freaking nuts?

Last week I was making a recipe that called for Ground chicken off I went to Stop n Shop. Alas, they didn't have any. Sold out.. or not. They didn't have a butcher on duty. Off I went to Bridgehampton King Kullen. (I needed a few other items that i couldn't get at Stop N Shop or City-Rella. But, it was the weekend before Halloween... Hank & Lynns very successful Agro Entertainment business made Bridgehampton difficult. So, off I went to Hampton ...more
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Nov 3, 16 5:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
You prove my point about needing a 38,000 square foot store for one item. Couldn't that recipe have waited for after a more efficient, better planned shopping trip? Seems to me freaking nuts to drive all over for one item, and what's to say whatever store in Tuckahoe would have what you needed. Nice try, though.
By June Bug (2680), SOUTHAMPTON on Nov 3, 16 6:50 PM
Sorry, the point you make in your ludicrous idea that we all have the luxury for a Trader Joe's day trip to Smithtown whenever it pleases us (and you also grouped Riverhead in with this fantasy), proves the point that there are not near enough options right where we live. And really... Really? Don't you make an very specific anti-environmentalist stand as you increase your carbon footprint on your trips to and fro, adding to traffic on all highways (not just CR 39, but Rt 27, Rt 24, Interstate 495 ...more
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Nov 3, 16 9:00 PM
No. What I was making could not wait. And, Sunday being my only day off, should I have made it wait another week?

June, do you remember how many grocery choices we hade prior to CVS & Rite Aid? Or prior to the rents on Main Street going sky high? The farmlands are turning into developments with 39m homes that have bowling alleys in the basement. On Magee street there are 100 new luxury condos and, in construction now. 15 luxury homes. The Corrigan family is developing their property on ...more
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Nov 4, 16 5:17 AM
I forgot to mention the 40 new condos on the corner of Tuckahoe and 39.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Nov 4, 16 5:19 AM
Many East Enders travel to Trader Joe's (including many from Montauk) because of the unique products of excellent quality and value. You ignore the fact that the reason folks travel west is to save money there and in the other outlets mentioned. We have plenty of options where we live. WHAT WE DON'T HAVE ARE OPTIONS FOR ECONOMICAL SHOPPING, AND ANY STORE THAT WOULD GO IN OFF COUNTY ROAD 39 WOULD BE YET ANOTHER EXPENSIVE OPTION. Hamptons shopping is the highest there is in the region, so of course ...more
By June Bug (2680), SOUTHAMPTON on Nov 4, 16 12:01 PM
Totally insane. Not needed. Wrong location. Exacerbate an already disastrous traffic route? Are you crazy? Plenty of area shopping outlets --- supermarkets, BJ's, Costco, ethnic and other specialty stores--prime meats, fish markets-- farmstands, Pea Pod deliveries, trips to Trader Joe's, online sources. Proponents claim residents need a market that's close by. What? For the milk they ran out of? Hasn't it already been shown what's needed to support a 38,000 square foot market, and that ...more
By June Bug (2680), SOUTHAMPTON on Nov 3, 16 11:08 AM
1 member liked this comment
It is way past time to say good bye once and for all to Morrow and his ludicrous project. How much money has been wasted "Studying" this moronic idea to date? Most of the people demanding it is "needed" do not live anywhere near this proposed excess - yeah, Rickenbacker, I'm talking to you. Now that Morrow's biggest cheerleader has vacated her Supervisor position, time for the board to put the final nail in the coffin of this grotesque beast and focus on issues of real import like out of control ...more
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Nov 3, 16 11:15 AM
1 member liked this comment
This oversized , poorly sited project is not "needed" by any stretch of the imagination. If one is a UTI transplant then maybe having a shopping center every few miles is the norm,but not here.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Nov 3, 16 12:33 PM
3 members liked this comment
KK in Hampton Bays has better prices than KK in BH go figure
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Nov 3, 16 6:17 PM
Depends on the item. Sometimes the reverse is true.
By June Bug (2680), SOUTHAMPTON on Nov 3, 16 6:39 PM
We are strangled by traffic not dying of hunger. This, if approved, will pull the noose tighter and tighter. If the chance of worsening traffic is only 1 in a hundred the risk is too great.
Imagine how bad it could be now if the brilliant planners did not act when they did to restrict high traffic businesses?
This would be a forever and ever mistake, no turning back. Other developers would sue to get the same deal.
Once done we are helpless to stop the congestion. Must stop now at all ...more
By TheTurtle (143), Southampton on Nov 4, 16 10:48 AM
1 member liked this comment