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Feb 24, 2011 4:20 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Rejects Pair Of Speonk Condo Applications

Feb 24, 2011 4:20 PM

After years of meetings and contentious public hearings, the Southampton Town Board on Tuesday rejected a pair of plans to develop 15 acres in Speonk, both of which would have required a change of zoning and included the construction of new condominiums.

The original plan pitched by Manhattan developer Barry M. Bernstein in 2005 called for the construction of 60 condominiums for senior citizens on the property, which is located on the west side of North Phillips Avenue. His revised plan, filed with the town in November and in response to community concerns about the density of his original application, called for the building of 36 condominiums with no age restrictions, a 10,000-square-foot medical office, a 2,000-square-foot restaurant and a small recreational center. The second application also included a $250,000 cash payment to the town, which was to be used for some sort of community project in the hamlet.

Both projects, which shared the same name of “Serenity Estates,” would have required the Town Board to rezone the property from residential to planned development district, or PDD, a designation that allows developers to bypass existing zoning requirements if their projects also provide a specific community benefit. Mr. Bernstein is allowed to build up to 13 single-family homes under the land’s current zoning.

On Tuesday evening, Town Board members rejected both proposals—without a single word of discussion among themselves—in a single vote that passed by a 4-0 margin. Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski was not present. No one from the public addressed the board before the vote was taken.

When reached on Monday, before his applications were rejected, Mr. Bernstein said he had no knowledge that board members would be voting on his proposals.

“They didn’t have the courtesy to tell me anything,” he said. “This has been going on for a long time, and I have had a lot of meetings with them, and they didn’t contact me at all.”

Mr. Bernstein added that he will continue to pursue his project, but declined to say if he would tweak his plans or file an entirely different application.

Before the board rejected the proposals, local residents had complained that both developments would have been too dense for the property, which is located near a plume of groundwater that has been contaminated by some sort of solvent. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials are still investigating the source of the pollution.

Reasons for rejecting the change of zone were included in the resolution approved by the Town Board. It states that they could not support the proposals because of their high densities and the lack of plans to preserve open space. It also states, among other things, that the applicant failed to address potential traffic impacts as part of his draft environmental impact statement.

In conclusion, the resolution states that the need for the project in the community was never substantiated.

“It was clear this was a problematic application—both in terms of the plume and finding a fit that worked for the community,” said Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst following Tuesday’s meeting. She also said that, to her knowledge, the vote marked the first time that the board has rejected a PDD application.

The supervisor’s sentiments were echoed by community members.

“We never saw the need for it in the community,” said Hank Beck, co-chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee—West, about either project being pushed by the developer. “And we never saw any substantial benefits.”

Mr. Beck added that no one from his group, who includes those living in Speonk and Remsenburg, supported either proposal, including the revised one.

“It was a complete surprise and the CAC simply said it still represents an unacceptable increase in density, without any substantial community benefit,” he said. “And the CAC rejected it months before he presented it to the board.”

Andrea Spilka, president of the Southampton Civic Association, which is an umbrella group for local civics and community advisory committees, echoed those concerns. On Monday, the Eastport resident said she was pleased that the Town Board was going forward with the rejection.

“I am thrilled and we appreciate the fact that the Town Board sort of looked at it with the same eyes that we did: that this was a PDD that wasn’t worthy of approval,” she said.

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I love how the developer acts as if this were unfair when it was HE who was looking to change the zoning to fit HIS needs

Cheers to the board! Abolish the PDD!

By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Feb 25, 11 8:55 AM
FINALLY, the Town Board has been forced to deny a PDD application. Senior citizens living atop a polluted plume. Everyone should attend the March 8th public hearing on the PDD law and ask that it be repealed. The 19 previous applications
for PDD changes to zoning slid right through to the benefit of the developers, not the public.
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Feb 25, 11 9:30 AM
Just wait. Once the PDD furor has died down - after they pass a toothless revamp - they'll give the developer a deal he can't refuse.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Feb 25, 11 6:45 PM
Let's hope this is the dawning of a new work ethic at Town Hall, with all community concerns prioritized, and not just a politically expedient nod to the "select" few. The true direction will be revealed when this Board tackles development proposals in the proverbial "dumping ground" of the Hamptons. On the other hand, professional courtesy also demanded that the developer be informed in advance about the upcoming vote. Transparency works both ways.
By Rainfall (22), Hampton Bays on Feb 26, 11 4:14 PM