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Feb 2, 2011 11:16 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Brookhaven Town Board Rejects Eastport Hamlet Centre Plan

Feb 2, 2011 11:16 AM

Eastport resident Andrea Spilka’s jaw dropped when the Brookhaven Town Board denied a necessary zoning change last week that would have permitted a 75,000-square-foot commercial and office complex to be built in the hamlet, a plan that many local residents have spoken out against over the last four years.

“Oh my God!” she said at last week’s meeting on January 25, breathing a sigh of relief. “We did it! We did it!”

The Town Board’s decision marks the end of a long chapter in a battle that has raged for years between developers and members of the small community. Two developers, Vision Construction and CMWV LLC, sought to build the development, dubbed the Eastport Hamlet Centre, on 13 acres across from the King Kullen shopping center on Eastport Manor Road, just north of Montauk Highway.

This project was one of multiple new developments proposed for the area, including the Commons at Eastport, a three-building complex that could eventually be constructed on the western corner of Montauk Highway and Union Avenue. The project, which still has not been approved by the Town Board, calls for a pharmacy and a bank, both featuring drive-thru windows, a two-story office building and a parking lot to be built on almost 4.4 acres.

“The fact is that the developers came forward with an application that was thoughtfully designed and was very nice aesthetically, in regard to the architecture,” said 6th District Councilman Dan Panico, who introduced the resolution to reject the zoning change on the Eastport Hamlet Centre project. “However, it was simply a case of being too significant an impact to such a small hamlet like Eastport.

“If approved, that application would place the existing small businesses in Eastport in considerable peril,” he continued. “It was a nice plan for a different area.”

The resolution to deny the requested zone change passed by a 5-0-2 margin; Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko and 4th District Councilwoman Connie Kepert abstained.

Attorney Tim Shea, who represents the developers, pointed out last week that the new plan was a reduction from their original proposal, which called for 74 multifamily units and 12 residential lofts that would have been built over 65,000 square feet of commercial space. The majority of the land is zoned residential and, under current zoning, would permit the construction of 12 homes. The remaining land is zoned J-2 Business, which would let developers build 7,800 square feet of commercial space, as of right.

The earlier plan would have required the Town Board to change the zoning of the entire 13 acres to a planned development district, or PDD, a special kind of zoning that can be created for individual projects.

“An overwhelming concern seemed to be a continued growth within the community,” Mr. Shea said. “Based on that, we went back to the drawing board.”

The developers withdrew the PDD application and, in turn, asked the Town Board to rezone the entire property under the J-6 Business zoning district. That zoning permits the construction of restaurants and retail stores, both of which are greatly needed in the community, Mr. Shea said.

The rejected plan called for outdoor benches and tables, as well as the installation of two ponds and abundant landscaping that would have served as buffers for nearby homes, Mr. Shea said. He estimated that there would have been 100 temporary construction jobs, as well as 100 permanent jobs, created by his client’s project.

But nearly 20 local residents converged at Town Hall last week to deliver the same message: it is a beautiful development, but Eastport is just the wrong area for it.

“This project is in fact, from my point of view, a well-planned project,” said Jim Gleason, a member on the board of directors of the East Moriches Property Owners Association. “It has a lot of nice features. But looking at it from the point of view from people who live in Eastport, it doesn’t work well. You’re talking about a very significant increase in the commercial space in Eastport, and nothing is offered to the public in exchange for what [the developers] are asking for.”

Mr. Lesko agreed with Mr. Gleason’s last point, and for that reason asked board members to abstain from voting on the motion to reject the zoning change until the developers had a chance to pitch a public benefit package.

“Just once I’d like this town to say no to a developer for a change of zoning,” said MaryAnn Johnston, president of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization. “How many times do we have to come before you and beg you to do what is your job—to say no? We’ve been fighting this for four years.”

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Eastport is such a nice little town there is no need for any more retail space. If there is something one needs that they cannot get in the King Kullen shopping center then they can go to Riverhead. Thanks for rejecting the proposal. Lets keep some of Long Island the way it is. Eastport, East Moriches, and The Speonk-Remsenburg area is just fine. We don't need to look like Medford or be overcrowded in the summer like the east end.
By maxwell (169), speonk on Feb 3, 11 11:09 AM
BRAVO! Thankfully, the Town of Brookhaven has made a step in the right direction by not letting developers destroy our quaint little town. Please keep up this same attitude and know that the people who live here DONT WANT ANY MORE DEVELOPMENT HERE!
By Hillsnbells (43), Southampton on Feb 3, 11 11:16 AM
Enjoy the tumble weeds
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Feb 3, 11 1:29 PM
Maybe you folks could adopt Mr Z
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Feb 3, 11 1:30 PM
Kepert said on record that she believes the developers "deserve the right" to develop this under their desired zoning. What one has to do to "deserve the right" to build is probably best defined in the realm of financial incentive.

As for Mr. Lesko's statement that he wanted others to abstain until a "sweeter deal" could be submitted - that borders on legal. Glad the fearsome 5 had enough sense to say N-O
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 3, 11 3:02 PM
When an article leaves the front page of 27east.com it is nearly impossible to re-locate it on the website. I read this last night and wanted to re-read today and had to search the whole website to find it again. This web redesign is not working for me.
By mike9186 (17), Remsenburg on Feb 4, 11 3:46 PM