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Feb 11, 2015 11:58 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Members Seek More Traffic Info On King Kullen

Feb 11, 2015 11:58 AM

The realities of traffic flow along County Road 39, and how it might change if a King Kullen were built along the busy highway in Tuckahoe, will be the deciding factor in whether the project will move forward, Town Board members said this week, following a second public hearing on the project.

Public comment on the project so far has offered substantial support from some, based on a need for additional grocery shopping options in the Southampton area, and staunch opposition from other Southampton Village and Tuckahoe residents, who say they worry about nuisances that the shopping center would impose quiet residential neighborhoods. But Town Board members say the whole question of whether the project will go forward is going to be based on whether the shopping plaza and supermarket can be built without causing crippling traffic snarls on the South Fork’s key artery.

“Whether you are a proponent of this or not, traffic is the issue,” Councilwoman Christine Scalera said after the most recent public hearing on the King Kullen proposal. “We’ve heard from the public that there is a real need for a larger-scale supermarket—that’s pretty clear. But at the same time, there is an issue of where it’s being proposed. We’ve heard a lot of very real issues with the traffic, and there can’t be any ifs, ands or buts when it comes to making a decision on that.”

Thus far, board members have been presented with somewhat conflicting information about the potential traffic impact of the shopping center, from two sets of traffic experts.

Consultants for the applicants, a group of developers led by Robert Morrow, who built the King Kullen shopping center in Hampton Bays, have said that the traffic analysis they conducted shows that while the supermarket would generate more cars entering and exiting the 7-acre property than as-of-right uses might, the project could have a traffic-calming effect in the area as a whole, because fewer cars would have to travel to supermarkets in Hampton Bays and Bridgehampton, which could ease the slowdown effects at the store site.

But traffic engineers hired by the town have issued their own assessment of the applicant’s traffic study, saying there would be more delays at various points along the roadway than the study seems to acknowledge. The town consultants have not done their own analysis of potential traffic patterns yet. Board members have said that they will need to see more specifics to be able to asses what impacts might actually be.

“I see the studies and ... the traffic counts, and they’re pretty alarming,” Councilman Brad Bender said. “You see a 200-plus-percent uptick through that area, you have to ask, where will it go?”

But Mr. Bender said that the information the board has seen from the traffic experts is still too vague for board members to make any safe assumptions about what impact the shopping center would actually have on traffic along the highway and on back roads surrounding and leading to the property.

Early estimates showed that the supermarket could be expected to draw 2,500 car trips per day. But what direction those cars would come from, and what roads they would use to get there, has not been detailed by any of the expert analysis.

On Tuesday afternoon, neighbors of the proposed project raised concerns that, aside from the County Road 39 impact, the shopping center would send traffic to otherwise rarely traveled back roads that would be bypasses for stoplights and traffic backups.

Much of the support for the project also has come from the immediate surroundings, however. Several residents of Tuckahoe and Southampton Villlage spoke this week about a market on the highway saving them long trips in summertime traffic to supermarkets in other towns.

Ceal Havemeyer, who lives adjacent to the King Kullen in Bridgehampton, suggested that what the town needs to do is accommodate the siting of supermarkets in its planning. Ms. Scalera noted that while shopping centers are a specific zoning designation in the town code, there are no such zones laid out on town planning maps—leaving officials to weigh specific proposals, and changes of zone to accommodate them.

“I am in favor of another supermarket—even two,” Ms. Havemeyer said. “But what area is actually zoned for shopping centers? I think that should be your job: to find out where can shopping centers go.”

That sort of long-term planning approach would, presumably, only come following a decision on the current proposal, which board members said must be fleshed out before they can start thinking about whether one concern outweighs another.

“I want to know that no stone has been left unturned in looking at that, and the possibilities for impacts here, before we make any decisions,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said. “If we can arrive at a plan, be it this one or one with some tweaks that does satisfy us that the traffic will not be an undue issue, then we’ll take it from there. But we need a lot more information in that regard still. So it’s too soon to say at this point.”

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