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Nov 4, 2016 1:09 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Presses County On Tuckahoe Center

Members of the Suffolk County Planning Commission at their October meeting.
Nov 8, 2016 4:37 PM

Southampton Town officials have sent a letter to the Suffolk County Planning Commission, asking its members to take action on the revised Tuckahoe Center application beyond simply labeling it as “incomplete.”

A letter dated November 3 from James Burke, the town attorney, was sent to the commission in response to concerns its members raised last month on a proposed change of zone that would allow for a retail shopping plaza, with a supermarket at its center, along County Road 39 in Tuckahoe. The Town Board, which would be charged with granting zoning change, had referred the application to the commission for an opinion first.

In the letter, Mr. Burke notes that the commission’s authority permits three actions: approval, modification or disapproval. But at their October 11 meeting, commission members deemed the application “incomplete,” concluding that it lacked essential information to allow for a final ruling.

Members said they wanted more information on three points: traffic concerns raised by Southampton Village officials; confusion over the latest application by Southampton Venture LLC and whether it amounts to a revised version of an earlier application, which was rejected by the commission, or a new application; and concerns about litigation filed against the commission by developer Robert Morrow of Southampton Venture, and whether the recent dismissal of that lawsuit would be appealed.

But Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said that Mr. Burke’s recent letter to the commission explains that all three concerns have already been addressed—meaning that there is no reason for the application to be deemed incomplete.

“They said they needed certain things—the town attorney’s office responded,” the supervisor said. “We’re asking [the commission] to do their job, and we’ll deal with it after they do.”

When reached on Monday afternoon, Planning Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Casey declined comment, explaining that she has not yet read the letter from Mr. Burke. She also said she expects her commission to revisit the application at its December meeting.

Mr. Burke’s letter attempted to clarify the three issues red-flagged by the commission. Southampton Village officials spoke at the commission’s October 11 meeting articulating their concerns regarding zoning and traffic, stating that the application would exacerbate already heavy traffic along County Road 39. In his response, Mr. Burke stated that village’s comments should never have been considered because the application falls “more than 500 feet from the municipal boundary,” meaning that it should be in the town’s purview, not the village’s.

Additionally, according to the Suffolk County Planning Commission Guidebook, only materials received directly from the referring municipality—in this case, the town—are permitted as part of a referral, Mr. Burke argues in his letter. He also said that all village concerns should have been conveyed through town officials. “Thus, without the requisite standing, the village’s communication should not have been considered by the commission since it was not forwarded by the town in its capacity as the referring municipality,” Mr. Burke wrote.

He also rejected the idea that there are two active zoning change applications for the property, a 7.26-acre lot on the southeastern side of County Road 39, near the Magee Street intersection, that is actually made up of four adjoining properties. For the application to move forward, the town would have to alter the zoning on three of the lots from highway business to shopping center business zoning, while the fourth lot—a 50 foot buffer zone that adjoins the northeastern side of Magee Street—would have to be changed from residential to shopping center business zoning.

The changes would clear the way for a supermarket and additional commercial space in three buildings. Under his revised plan submitted to the town this summer, Mr. Morrow has agreed to reduce the overall size of his development by about 10 percent and is now looking to build a 38,000-square-foot grocery store and three buildings offering 14,500 square feet of commercial space. The revision also eliminates a proposed drive-through for one of the smaller buildings, increases the landscaped area by 13,000 square feet, and it increases the number of parking spots from 249 to 257.

“There is one change of zone application pending, and no evidence in the record to suggest the contrary,” Mr. Burke wrote.

In December 2015, the Planning Commission rejected an earlier version of the proposal. A revised site plan was submitted in August by Mr. Morrow and that is the one that calls for a 10 percent reduction in total building space, to 52,500 square feet.

Regarding recently dismissed litigation filed by Mr. Morrow, alleging that two of the commission members who rejected his application should have recused themselves due to personal bias, Mr. Burke wrote that the status of that case should have no bearing on the commission’s actions. “Litigation against your body has no impact or consequence on the referral before you,” he wrote. Mr. Morrow has until the middle of November to appeal that ruling if he so chooses.

Mr. Morrow said he agrees with the letter sent by the town, adding that he also does not understand why commission members are reluctant to make a ruling. “We don’t know why the commission took the stance they did on the issues,” he added.

The town has asked the commission to take action within 45 days of receipt of Mr. Burke’s letter dated November 3.

The Town Board, which is tasked with considering the change of zone, would need a supermajority vote—meaning four of five members must sign off on the application—if the commission rejects the application. If the commission signs off, a simple board majority would be needed to alter the zoning, allowing Mr. Morrow to move forward with his plans.

“It comes back to the Town Board one way or another,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “Their decision will impact how high the bar is that has to be jumped over by the applicant. It sounds like they’re kind of at a deadlock over there.”

The supervisor said he is still unsure how he will vote when the application comes before his board, noting he was not a member when the original application was up for consideration. “I’ve never had a single public hearing on it,” he said. “I’m not sure how I would vote. I will reserve judgment until I hear what the public has to say.”

An online petition opposed to the project now being circulated by Group for the East End, an environmental advocacy group, had garnered nearly 130 signatures as of earlier this week.

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How much is that zoiing change worth to the developer? More than $10 million but less than $20 million? I'm sure the developer has a financial projection presented to bankers and investors that shows several profitability scenarios. Maybe the Supervisor can request this document and put it before the people of the Town of Southampton so that we're dealing with all relevant information.
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Nov 4, 16 2:34 PM
What possible difference does that make in any case? It's commercial property. Any developer for any reason would be looking to make a profit at some level. That's the whole point of "commercial."

The article is also partially incorrect on this point. The 7+ acre parcel that was the IGHL property is zoned R20 and HB, and a fact that has been in the application from the start is that the only part of that parcel that is actually part of the commercial development is a thin strip to accommodate ...more
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Nov 4, 16 4:11 PM
C'mon rickenbacker .. you love this sofa king much more than just a 'nonpartisan nonstakeholder local fella wants a closer place to buy chicken at the last minute'
No one has to agree that increased commercial zoning betters a residential area
By dave h (193), calverton on Nov 4, 16 7:13 PM
I will agree with Rickenbacker...

I'm going to guess that most people opposed to this haven't actually been in this neighborhood for a while. Bishop's Pond. Paramount Development. The Corrigan property. That new, hideously ugly, condo accross from The Blue Collar Bar. Close to 135 new homes within a half mile of this project. And, yet, Southampton has 3 less grocery stores than they did in 1968. This is sofa king backwards. We're letting speculative home builders run amok, but not increasing ...more
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Nov 4, 16 7:50 PM
You are repeating your false assertion that the Corrigan property will be developed with housing. WRONG. It will be preserved as a public park.
By June Bug (2680), SOUTHAMPTON on Nov 4, 16 8:14 PM
And nobody at all with their head firmly attached to their shoulders could argue that anything within hundreds of yards of Route 39 is a "residential area."
By VOS (1241), WHB on Nov 4, 16 11:26 PM
That's great. More lost tax base in Tuckahoe.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Nov 5, 16 6:25 AM
If you want to live near the ocean and have no open space, may I suggest Seaside N.J. No CPF found their.
By JM11968 (71), southampton on Nov 5, 16 9:11 AM
Don't try to discredit my local opinion. I have no stake at all in this, my opinion is my own. No one is asking for residential property to be converted to commercial use here. The commercial part of the property is 7 acres or so. The residential parcel, which is the abandoned IGHL property (an additional 7 acres) is remaining residential. The only adjustment is the strip of roadway to create cross-access from Magee St into the commercial 7 acres, something that has been sought by town and county ...more
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Nov 5, 16 10:52 AM
Carbon footprint ? Seriously?
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Nov 4, 16 11:12 PM
"Abandoned property" .. abandoned really..
Rickenbacker you are all over every article abd every aspect of this and comparatively absent on all the other development stories..
..you have said your arent a stakeholder but really hard to believe you're just a local shopper in need of shorter drive
By dave h (193), calverton on Nov 5, 16 4:43 PM
It's true I don't comment on every issue on this website, but I've been just as passionate about school mergers and the byzantine school district structure overall. See my comments on not only the Tuckahoe-Southampton merger, but the idiotic ideas of BH school district to vote in a $25 million expansion plan (this election season), when they have around 200 total students. Or my comments on Sag Harbor purchasing the Stella Maris property.

You can also look at my comments related to the ...more
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Nov 5, 16 5:01 PM
The profitability matters because giving a zoning change to a big developer and not small zoning variances to local residential property owners begs the question: Who benefits? If a developer wants a variance they used to hand over cash in paper bags to members of the Town government. Is this still going on? Just better hidden? What's the zoning change worth to the developers -- they have presented this to their investors and bankers, let the people of the Town know too.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Nov 7, 16 2:11 PM
TY Rckenbacker .. im with you on the school development & Tuckahoe road issues (i cant understand how from my albeit distant viewpoint, the SH Golf Club would be quiet on road to be developed on their quietest parcel of their course...)
.. i am agsinst condos & mega mini malls. They suffocate bucolic country areas with congestion and lead to tax increases (the stress on infrastructure is never ever offset by increased tax rev).
I believe that Development only begets development. Build condos ...more
By dave h (193), calverton on Nov 9, 16 9:13 PM
'Develop our way out of this congestion' is quintessential logical fallacy.
By dave h (193), calverton on Nov 12, 16 7:35 PM