Letters to the Editor: 1/19/17

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Acknowledging a Faithful Presence

To the Editor,

We wish to acknowledge the faithful presence and charitable contributions that Richard Demato and his RJD Gallery have represented in our community until the recent terrible fire on Main Street.

For years now, besides heading the board of and raising funds for The Retreat, Richard and Eve Gianni, his director, made every effort to support charitable causes. From the aforementioned Retreat to Fountain House, which helps with depression and mental illness, to his very generous and immediate participation in last summer’s Big Tent: Party for the Park benefit, he always said YES, and it is clear that he loves helping others. A substantial portion of the funds raised from our Big Tent event were art sales and, true to form, there was absolutely no hesitation when he was asked to help us, taking no percentage and giving up the larger portion of his gallery space on a busy summer Saturday.

We are saddened by the idea that he would be moving his business to Bridgehampton, but we wish him well in all things, and salute his generosity.

April Gornik and Susan Mead

For Sag Harbor Partnership

 

Find Creative Solutions for Displaced Businesses

Dear Editor,

The irony of your story about BHS, is I had agreed to take the BHS space from Corcoran in 2009, and had a deal with the Corcoran manager, to assume their lease.  The Village refused to let us take it over as a Gallery due to parking restrictions. To this day, we do not understand or agree with the math, with only one employee there 90% of the time, as a gallery, and the many more occupying a realty office, most of the time. I then called Peter Turino, of BHS, and they got to take the space we are now talking about.

We appreciate the village has its laws, but logic and empathy would offer a more creative decision in this time of crisis. If the state can declare a “state of emergency”, to financially help the shopkeepers, we suggest the village has a fiduciary responsibility to make a similar decision, and has an excellent opportunity to do so, without any cost to the village or the taxpayers.

Assuming the facts of the article are correct; and if the 14 brokers are expelled from the community, all of the shops in the village will lose earnings, as the brokers will be forced to work, entertain clients and shop elsewhere. Lost revenue, lost opportunity, lost taxes; all a loss to the Sag Harbor community.

There are times to make healthy short term positive exceptions to protect the livelihood, of the whole, not only for the 14+ realtors, but the many homeowners they are proud and determined to serve, and in the future, could serve, if a warranted exception is provided to protect Sag Harbor, and the future of its diverse residents.

We faced the same obstacle after December 16, and the fire, that we had in 2009, and we knew the village would never grant an independent gallery such an exception. We looked elsewhere, and now most of our business — the many times we entertained artists and clients in the local restaurants; not to mention the many thousands of dollars we spent in the local Hardware Store and other shops in the village — will be spent elsewhere.

It was not our choosing, there were no viable options, under the current restrictions.

It is our hope, enough of you can speak out, and find a creative solution, and that you allow the law to work and serve its residents now, at least short-term, in this difficult and exceptionally painful time, and avoid further damage to a village in deep mourning.

Richard Demato

BHS agent/gallery owner

Sag Harbor

 

Deny Tuckahoe Center

Dear Kathryn:

After ten years of service, I resigned from the Suffolk County Planning Commission at the conclusion of the December 7 meeting owing to irregularities I witnessed involving the resubmission and subsequent approval of the Tuckahoe Center project. It is my strong opinion that the resubmission did not constitute a significant change and that the Commission’s December 5, 2015 decision disapproving the change of zone should have been upheld.

In December, 2015 the Commission originally ruled against the zoning change on the following grounds, none of which have changed:

–The additional cumulative traffic impact on a critical transportation artery

–The adverse impact on the businesses in the Village of Southampton, Noyac and Sag Harbor.

–The proposed shopping center is not consistent with the local community character.

–The proposed shopping center is not consistent in the Town’s CR39 Plan

The Southampton Town Board should quickly deny this zoning change.

Two recent developments make this even more important. If the Southampton Hospital is moving to the college campus, traffic flow is even more critical in this area and this site more logically becomes an excellent location for medical services. In addition, the tragic fire in Sag Harbor has made support for the small businesses in that village even more critical. This development is at the turn to Sag Harbor. The developer has stated that he would need to take business from all current grocery stores to make this new grocery store work. These two developments make denial even more critical.

A zoning change must benefit the community. The documents submitted by the developers do not show any benefit. How can anyone suggest that a brick and mortar shopping center is good and forward thinking planning for the 21st century? Hasn’t anyone heard of on line ordering of food and other items? Did anyone read that Macy’s and Sear’s closed hundreds of stores this week? The Institute of Transportation Engineers reports that 111.5 trips per day are needed for profitability of every 1000 square feet of grocery space. That means a 38,000 square foot grocery store needs 4,237 trips a day to be profitable. How does this not impact traffic?

In the recent presidential election, 34,116 people on the entire South Fork voted in the election. Looking at voters in eastern areas of the Town of Southampton, which logically could be the market for this store, only 10,571 people voted. Many people at the local hearings lamented that we once had three grocery stores near Southampton. We do not have those stores anymore because there are not enough people to support another store. Representatives of the developer have publically stated that the only way this store could survive is by taking business from the other grocery stores, the anchor stores for the villages of Southampton and Sag Harbor, on line grocery orders and our farm stands.

This project is proposed to be on the South side of CR39/27 between the traffic lights at the gas station/potato barn (Magee St.) and the light at PC Richards and the left turn for North Sea, Noyac, Sag Harbor, North Haven, Shelter Island and the back road to East Hampton. One entrance is proposed off of Magee. However, another entrance is proposed approximately half way between the lights on CR39. This entrance cannot have a traffic light as the existing lights are too close. The 38,000 square foot grocery store would be larger than any other business on the entire South Fork except for the Bridgehampton King Kullen, which is 42,000 square feet. This building would be twice the size of the 19,000 square foot Mercedes dealership across the street for this proposed location.

The current Highway Business District code on this site only allows low traffic businesses. Forty years ago, through the original CR-39 Highway Business District Zoning plan, town and county planners made the excellent decision to be sure that CR-39 zoning was in place with the top priority of keeping the traffic moving. Code was put in place to only allow businesses with low traffic. The current code for this site lists over 150 legal uses. In addition to businesses selling large ticket items like boats, cars, building supplies and appliances, the current code for this site also allows vocation schools, repair shops, health care, professional services, start up incubators, digital media and creative businesses and hundreds of other businesses which could offer the kind of 21st century jobs our young people crave. For 40 years hundreds of developers and business owners have abided by this CR-39 low traffic code and thrived.

Suffolk County tax payers have recently spent millions of dollars for lane extensions and reconfigurations of traffic, including this exact stretch of highway, to further help the speed and safety of traffic on CR-39. At last December’s County hearing on this site, the Commissioner of Public Works testified in person that he “had no ideas for how traffic could be mitigated at this site but had assurances from his staff that it could be done.” Do we believe him?

This is the only main artery for traffic going to and from the entire East End and the southern route to Shelter Island. CR-39 is the way that people year round come and go to work. Year round from 6:30-9:30 a.m. in the morning and 3:30-6:30 p.m. in the evening, the consultant’s report states that 6,300 cars an hour go through this site. The focus on the decision should not be the few of the 4,200 households near Tuckahoe requesting a new grocery store slightly nearer to their homes. The focus should be the needs of the 55,000 drivers a day that come through this corridor.

The traffic consultants have focused on future traffic mitigation and safety concerns primarily at the Magee Street turn and light. There has been little attention on the other end of this proposed site where there is the particularly congested and dangerous first major intersection heading to and from Sag Harbor, North Sea, North Haven, Noyac, Shelter Island and the back road to East Hampton and beyond.

This is a five lane highway which means you have two lanes of traffic moving very quickly in opposite directions head on without a divider and a center lane for both sides to move into for a left hand turn. There is no plan in any consultant’s report that shows how the traffic will be managed with this conflicting need for traffic to be in the center lane going east for a left turn to Sag Harbor and from the west for a left turn into this plaza.

Our town board must deny this zoning change. The developer has not shown a community benefit and need for a 38,000 square grocery store and 12 retail stores at this location. There are dozens of acceptable low traffic businesses suggested in the current code. This zoning change undermines 40 years of local and regional planning aimed at minimizing high volume traffic uses. This change would lead to increased traffic and idling, decreased safety and harm to our environment. This is against the goals of supporting the local farm, seafood industries, and long standing businesses in our villages and hamlets. For over 300 years, residents on the South Fork have gone to our villages and farm stands, local butchers and seafood markets to shop for food. Our villages are our shopping centers. A 38,000 square foot grocery store and shopping mall are not in keeping with the character of our community.

Sincerely,

Barbara B. Roberts

North Haven

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