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May 20, 2009 10:05 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Water Mill Station application approved

May 20, 2009 10:05 AM

An application for more than 23,000 square feet of office and retail space in Water Mill that came under recent public scrutiny was approved by the Southampton Town Planning Board this week.

The Water Mill Station application was approved by a 4-2 vote, with board members Jacqui Lofaro and E. Blair McCaslin voting no. Board member Alma Hyman was not present.

The application has come under scrutiny in recent months by members of the Water Mill Community Club and the Water Mill Citizens Advisory Committee, who have taken issue with the fact that the developers of the complex were allowed additional square footage because of a shared parking agreement with the owners of the Water Mill Shoppes. Under the agreement, the developers of Water Mill Station are required to provide only 54 parking spaces, because they will be sharing 76 spaces with the adjacent parking lot. That lot, which currently houses Citarella, has a total of 156 parking spaces.

The application proposes to construct six new buildings, which will contain offices and retail uses, on Station Road in Water Mill, and to redevelop the existing train station at the site. The development is expected to have a maximum of two retail uses and 14 offices. The plan also includes a teardrop-shaped turnaround that will prevent cars in the parking lot from accessing Nowedonah Avenue, an aspect of the plan that the developers are hoping will appease residents.

The developer of the proposal is a limited liability corporation called Bridgehampton Partners, of which former Town Councilman Dennis Suskind is a principal. On Monday, Mr. Suskind said he has no immediate plans to develop the site. Instead, he intends to begin designing the interior of the building and soliciting clients to rent the space.

He added that he has not yet finalized the number of units that will be constructed, though he said he is not planning to include any retail in the final design.

On Friday, Ms. Lofaro explained that she voted against the development because of the concerns she has with traffic flow and parking.

“They are claiming that that is a public access easement going to Nowedonah, but my point is that it’s essentially a road to nowhere,” she said. Ms. Lofaro explained that while the road will allow cars to go from Station Road to Nowedonah Avenue, they will not be able to access any road farther east at that point because the only road at that point is the Long Island Rail Road right of way.

Cars will also not be able to go south on Nowedonah Avenue, an aspect of the plan that was added after members of the Community Club complained that additional traffic would create a dangerous situation for all those who use the ballfields on their property. Traffic from Nowedonah Avenue will be able to go north onto the new road to access the traffic signal at Station Road.

A portion of the Water Mill Hamlet Center Strategy, adopted by the Town Board in 2003, recommends the construction of a road that would connect Station Road to Deerfield Road, going north of the Community Club’s property. While a portion of that is incorporated into Bridgehampton Partners’ project, Ms. Lofaro said that it is unlikely that the Long Island Rail Road would allow a future developer to use its right of way, a dirt road just north of the Community Club.

“They will say hamlet study calls for that, but you can cherry-pick the hamlet study to suit your argument,” she said.

Mr. Suskind refuted Ms. Lofaro’s argument on Monday, calling it “gibberish.”

“It doesn’t matter if it happens or not,” he said, referring to the connection to Deerfield Road from Nowedonah Avenue. “You can’t complain that you can’t go east if can’t go east [now] anyway. The reason there’s a circle is because the community was concerned about the project bringing traffic into Nowedonah. In order to ease their concerns, we suggested a circle that would not let anybody go onto Nowedonah.”

He added that the connection with Nowedonah will make it possible for people who are already on the road—such as those people who utilize the fields at the Community Club—to take the new road toward Station Road, instead of having to make a left turn at the more dangerous intersection of Nowedonah Avenue and Montauk Highway, where there is no traffic light.

Another problem Ms. Lofaro had with the application is that motorists will only be able to access the Water Mill Station parking lot through Station Road, and there will not be vehicular access between that lot and the Water Mill Shoppes parking lot. She said she was also concerned about the impact this development may have on the future of the hamlet, given that an application for 51 condominiums has been floated before the Town Board. That application has not yet been finalized.

“It’s an important project, and it impacts a small community,” she said.

On Monday, Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty said that the board’s approval was governed by the town code, and added that Mr. Suskind and his partners were able to demonstrate that they had enough parking for the development.

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Planning Board Chairman Finnerty, in granting a SPECIAL EXCEPTION to permit this project TO BE DOUBLE-SIZED, ignored the demand for a complete Environmental Impact Study (EIS) which was called for by all the community groups: the WMCAC, The Group for the East End, The Southampton Town Trustees, The Friends of Lake Nowedonah, and The Water Mill Community Club. These groups were all concerned about traffic, particularly, in the tightest bottleneck in the Hamptons.

The EIS would have clarified ...more
By WMCAC Member (5), Water Mill on May 19, 09 3:05 PM
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on May 19, 09 8:02 PM
what did anyone expect with the former councilman and the former chief planner behind the project. Look at every big project that has been approved by the planning board or the town board in the past year, there is a former attorney, planner or official behind it.
By Hampton (50), Westhampton on May 20, 09 8:03 AM
I guest people approve this behavior, otherwise they would do something about it; I don't see anybody doing anything to stop it....
By Bel (86), southampton on May 20, 09 9:26 AM