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May 27, 2015 9:34 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

King Kullen May Be Out Of Tuckahoe Project; Vote Still Weeks Away

An artist rendering of the Tuckahoe Center.
May 27, 2015 10:21 AM

The lead developer proposing to build a 40,000-square-foot supermarket development on County Road 39 in Tuckahoe says that his agreement with King Kullen to occupy the space has expired, and he is actively seeking out other potential tenants for the store—if it is approved by the Southampton Town Board.

The developer, Robert Morrow, said last week that the lease King Kullen had signed for the property five years ago expired earlier this year. He said the proposed building, the focus of a change of zone application to the Town Board, could not be used for anything other than a supermarket—and that is his focus as he searches for a new tenant.

“Nobody anticipated the process taking this long,” said Mr. Morrow, who also built the King Kullen shopping center in downtown Hampton Bays, known as the Hampton Bays Center. “There was a lease with King Kullen, but it had an expiration date. We are still talking to them, but at this point I’m free to negotiate with somebody else, and that’s what we’re doing at this point.”

Mr. Morrow is a partner with three local businessmen, Lance Nil, Lyle Pike and Mark Zucchero, who also own portions of the 7 acres of land that are targeted for a shopping plaza.

In addition to the 40,000-square-foot supermarket, the application calls for 15,000 square feet worth of connected retail and restaurant spaces, and a 3,000-square-foot stand-alone bank building.

It is the second incarnation of the project since Mr. Morrow undertook the proposal and signed on King Kullen to be the anchor of the development. The original plans, brought to the town in 2010, called for more than 100,000 square feet of retail stores and restaurants and a dozen second-floor residential apartments as adjuncts to the supermarket—a design the developers called “Tuckahoe Main Street.” Much like an earlier, even larger proposal by King Kullen executives themselves, that project withered under criticism from citizen groups and Southampton Village business owners, and was withdrawn.

The revised plan now under consideration was brought to the town in 2012. For the new designs to move forward, the Southampton Town Board would have to approve a change of zone for 7.2 acres of land along the southern side of County Road 39.

The highway corridor is largely zoned for relatively low-traffic businesses like car dealerships, appliance and furniture retailers, and restaurants. The high-traffic shopping center zoning exists in the town code as a special designation that can be created where and when the Town Board sees a necessity.

Consultants for the town have issued dire warnings against increasing traffic on already congested County Road 39, but the developers have claimed that the supermarket’s impact will be dampened by reducing the number of trips residents make to supermarkets in Bridgehampton and Hampton Bays and to grocers in downtown Southampton Village.

The project has drawn opposition from some residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the would-be shopping center and from Southampton Village officials. Opponents have mostly focused on the warnings from planning experts, most notably in a recently completed comprehensive analysis of the County Road 39 corridor, against increasing the number of cars entering and exiting the highway from businesses, which cause slow-downs in vehicle flow.

But other residents have said that the Tuckahoe-North Sea area, which has experienced an explosion of residential growth in the last 30 years, needs a larger supermarket as an alternative to the single Waldbaum’s in downtown Southampton Village or supermarkets in Hampton Bays and Bridgehampton.

Town Board members have seemed vexed, at times, by conflicting variables and needs in the area. Councilwoman Bridget Fleming has made her skepticism about the store clear, while Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilman Brad Bender have both offered defenses of some of the factors pointed to by the developers and supporters as beneficial.

Councilwoman Christine Scalera and Councilman Stan Glinka have said little that would tip their hands on their attitudes toward the proposal. Both said after the final public hearing that they are still on the fence and weighing the pros and cons. If Ms. Throne-Holst and Mr. Bender support the project, only a single additional vote is needed to approve the zone change.

“I have many of the same concerns relative to the traffic and distinguishing between need and convenience,” Ms. Scalera said. “But I’m still meeting with residents … and I’m looking forward to the FEIS,” she said, referring to the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

With the public hearing closed, consultants for the developers are now incorporating the concerns raised in the four hearing sessions into the Generic Environmental Impact Statement, a document that lays out all the details and potential impacts of the project for the Town Board. The developers must try to reduce, eliminate or justify those impacts identified as potential negatives of the project, and then present a final version of the document, the FEIS, to town planners.

Mr. Morrow has said it could be two to three weeks before that document is ready to be presented, and town officials say it will likely be weeks—possibly months—before the full work-up of the project is ready for the Town Board to pass judgment on it.

“Ninety percent of the time, [an FEIS] is not adequate the first time they come in,” Town Planning and Development Administrator Kyle Collins said. “We can approach it one of two ways: We can put it back to them and tell them what we think still needs to be addressed, or we can take it in-house and amend the responses ourselves, which they would have to follow. Ultimately, [the FEIS] is the Town Board’s document.”

Mr. Morrow said that the expired lease with King Kullen would not change the project in any way and that whoever the ultimate tenant is, the supermarket anchor of the project is locked in by the application.

“The application is for 58,000 square feet of shopping center district, which consists of a supermarket, 15,000 square feet of retail and a bank,” Mr. Morrow said. “That’s what we’d have to build—and we can’t do anything else but that.”

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Whole Foods. Do it.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on May 27, 15 11:44 AM
The issue is not about a market. It's about allowing another extreme zoning change by developer friendly Supervisor Holst and her followers. This one would pull thousands of vehicles a day to a spot near Sandy Hollow Rd on already overcrowded Rt 39. Mr Morrow and his associates stand to make a fortune with their Nassau County style shopping center, while Southampton's main east/west through road will be at absolute gridlock.
By Crabby (63), Southampton on May 27, 15 12:33 PM
2 members liked this comment
Given that the current lame duck Supervisor will be relying upon her real estate salesperson's license for her income as of January 1, it seems to me that to avoid the appearance of conflict and impropriety she needs to recuse herself from voting on any issues that impact real estate transactions in the Town.

I would imagine that the Zeldin folks as well as the documented Democrats who are also contemplating a First CD challenge will find the lame duck's actions between now and December ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on May 27, 15 12:48 PM
Trader Joe's!!
By aschor06 (9), Sag Harbor on May 27, 15 8:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
The developer does not have a RIGHT to a change of zone and in this case should not receive one. Our Town Board members should do the right thing and deny this application . it is an election year boys and girls.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on May 28, 15 6:18 AM
Stop and Shop. Since your stopped on the road, you might as well shop!
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on May 28, 15 6:57 AM
Trader joes!!!
By Elliver (20), southampton on May 28, 15 7:34 AM
Do not change the zoning on this property. Mr. Morrow knew the zoning when he purchased the property! Did he think contributing to the Supervisors campaign would sway her vote?? The traffic is horrendous now! I can't
imagine what it would be like with the shopping center there. Say No to the shopping center!!! No matter what store is there!
By bayview (160), Southampton on May 28, 15 3:15 PM
It's not a shopping center. It's a grocery store and a couple other small retail or bank buildings. Furthermore, of course he knew the zoning and isn't entitled to anything else - but he certainly can ask. And grocery stores are almost never permitted "as-of-right" which means anywhere you see a grocery store, the developer had to ask for a change of zone.
By Nature (2966), Southampton on May 28, 15 3:21 PM
I much prefer to shop in the village where I can get a few errands accomplished in a few blocks, in a small amount of time. The merchants help you get what you need in a few minutes. Schmidt's has beautiful fresh foods, and so does Citarella's. I do not need another supermarket. King Kullen is 15 minutes to the east and to the west, plus two more supermarkets. Goodale's farm delivers fresh, local food to your home once a week, too, if you wish. If you need more, go to the farmer's market in the ...more
By QuietLife (61), Southampton on May 28, 15 4:31 PM
Well, that's good for the clams; the people need a real supermarket with at least semi-affordable prices. Shop wherever you like but don't believe that what suits you should be acceptable to everyone else, not everyone in the area is playing in the Schmidt's/Citerella/Goodale league.

"Let them eat cake!"
By VOS (1241), WHB on May 28, 15 5:28 PM
2 members liked this comment
I just order my servants to do all the shopping so I don't care
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on May 30, 15 6:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
If the shopping center is approved, what makes anyone think the prices there will be cheaper than the existing supermarkets in the area?! The location is wrong for a project of this scale. Morrow et al have speculated they can get the zoning changed , I pray they have speculated incorrectly. It's an election year boys and girls and the whole Town is watching!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on May 31, 15 7:39 AM
1 member liked this comment
How's this for an idea: The voters should go to the next round of meet the candidates meetings and ask all town board / supervisor candidates if they will sign a commitment to propose and vote for a new law requiring that any PDD passed by the board must then be approved by the voters during the next general or school budget vote before it can take effect. Anyone who won't sign that commitment should not be elected. I cannot take credit for this idea but I do strongly endorse it. Any thoughts?
By bird (829), Southampton on May 31, 15 3:11 PM
1 member liked this comment