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Aug 22, 2019 11:07 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Town Does Not Commit To Filing Application For Hatchery With Planning Board

The planned layout of the new hatchery facility on Gann Road.
Aug 27, 2019 3:14 PM

The East Hampton Town Board has not pledged to submit to the town’s Planning Board an application for the new shellfish hatchery facilities it has proposed on Gann Road in Springs, though board members have said they are committed to an in-depth review.

At a Town Board work session on Tuesday, August 20, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc refused to commit to having the plans for the more than 5,000-square-foot hatchery building and 2,500-square-foot marine education and science center go through a typical site plan review by the Planning Board, as has been the town’s usual practice with its development proposals.

The supervisor said that the Town Board is still considering whether it will bring the project to the Planning Board and that the actual design plans are still not far enough along to be submitted anyway.

“Because we don’t have a final plan, any application to the Planning Board … at the stage we’re at now would be deemed incomplete,” he said at last week’s meeting, at which residents continued to challenge the town’s handling of the early phases of the project planning.

“Technically, the town does not have to have any approvals from the Planning Board,” he added. “Whether or not we will choose to do that, I think the board supports the idea of having it reviewed by the Planning Department and Planning Board … to create … a hatchery that meets the requirements that any other town resident would have to meet in terms of setbacks, septic flow, pyramid [law], parking requirements, you name it. We want this project to be consistent with community standards.”

A Springs resident, David Buda, nodded to the grant application the town filed to New York State, from which it is hoping to recoup most of the estimated $2.7 million cost of constructing the new hatchery building. The application form asks for a list of all other local permitting that will be necessary for the project to move forward. Only a building permit and fire marshal approval were listed in the town’s response, although it said in another section that the Planning Board would be involved.

Mr. Buda said that the town code says an aquaculture building built in a residential zone requires a “special permit” from the Planning Board.

Councilman David Lys, who has shepherded the planning of the new hatchery facility, said that he still intends to bring the project to the Planning Board for review, as he had said would be done at earlier discussions of the project.

“We have engaged national award-winning architects and engineers … to design a project that will be conforming and fit within the character of the neighborhood,” Mr. Lys said.

The Town Board purchased the 1.2-acre parcel at the corner of Gann Road and Babes Lane last year for $2.1 million and said that it planned to move the town’s hatchery operations from the current location, in a former Navy torpedo factory building in Montauk, to the Gann Road property.

The lot is adjacent to a 2-acre town-owned parking lot and commercial docks, which are also home to the Marine Patrol headquarters and docks and where the Aquaculture Department already bases its in-water shellfish grow-out nursery.

Across Gann Road is a marina and restaurant, and town officials have said the already commercial area is a uniquely suited spot to place the new marine science complex, with care taken to tie the new facilities into the landscape of the bordering residential areas.

The project also incorporates a collection of stormwater runoff-capturing features intended to reduce polluted runoff that currently cascades down Gann Road and into the waters of Three Mile Harbor.

Hatchery staff have said that having the operations consolidated in one spot would cut down on wasted travel time and losses of shellfish that don’t survive the jostling of being transferred between the hatchery and the nursery. The hatchery produces about 30 million clams, 6 million oysters and several hundred thousand bay scallops each year.

“Twenty percent of our day is wasted driving back and forth,” hatchery manager Barley Dunne told members of the East Hampton Town Trustees on Monday. “We lose half of our scallops each year in the transport.”

He said the new facility would also have other efficiency benefits in terms of energy use and space from the sprawling but aging setup in Montauk.

Plans unveiled earlier this year call for an approximately 5,000-to-6,000-square-foot building to be constructed adjacent to an existing house on the property. The house would be repurposed as offices for the Aquaculture Department and as an environmental education center.

The town applied for and was awarded a $400,000 grant from the state for improving hatchery productivity, which it is directing to the design of the facility. Renowned architects Bates+Masi have been contracted to design the new hatchery building. A preliminary model shows a low-slung structure just 18 feet high and nestled into the property’s slope to minimize its visibility. The town has filed a new application for grant funding from the state to cover the cost of construction.

At Monday’s meeting of the Trustees, Mr. Dunne acknowledged that the construction could be cheaper if a simple metal warehouse-type building were employed but said that the idea for a sleeker design was seen as more “neighbor friendly.”

Opposition to the project from neighbors has swelled in recent weeks among residents of Gann Road and Babes Lane who say that the project appears to be being rushed forward by the Town Board even though it has only been cursorily explained to the public. They have voiced concerns about additional traffic and parking shortages in the sprawling town lot.

Councilman Jeff Bragman said on Tuesday that he felt the hurried treatment of the preliminary plans was an attempt by the town to present the project as “shovel ready” to state grant reviewers, and that the entire project should be planned more carefully and with the strict oversight of the usual review process.

“We haven’t done a good job of telling the public what is going on,” Mr. Bragman said. “And the reason the public is alarmed is that we haven’t followed an orderly process. We should be getting this to the Planning Board and plan it right.”

Mr. Van Scoyoc said that beyond the need to have certain plans in place to file the applications for grants, which will be awarded in December, the project is proceeding as any other would, and that all the details of the project would be thoroughly reviewed and discussed with residents. He said on Monday that he is confident the concerns raised thus far will be addressed as the designs are developed more fully.

“I think the concerns of the neighborhood are legitimate and can be worked through,” the supervisor said. “You can’t have a successful project without support, and I think we will win support through good dialogue. There is much more discussion to be had with neighbors, and we have plenty of time to do that.”

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