Supervisor Says Town Will Tweak Bridgehampton Gateway Plans

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By Stephen J. Kotz

In the face of growing opposition to the Bridgehampton Gateway development, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said this week he hoped to work with the property’s owner, Konner Development, in the coming weeks on ways to make the project more palatable to the community.

The supervisor said he would like to see reductions in both the amount of commercial and residential space proposed for the 13-acre site on Montauk Highway across from the Bridgehampton Commons shopping center. He said he would also like to see a public green that would be part of the development dedicated to the town “so it belongs to the community and people feel free to go there and it is not controlled by the developer.” Additionally, the supervisor said he would like to see a portion of the property bordering Kellis Pond preserved for public access as a new Kellis Pond Park, but he rejected the notion, raised by some, that the entire property should be preserved.

“I have to walk a thin line between what the community wants and what the developer would be willing to accept,” said Mr. Schneiderman, adding he thought in its initial form the benefits of rezoning the property were tilted in favor of the Konners.

At a pair of public hearings and a meeting of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee last month, neighbors turned out to oppose the town’s plan to change the zoning of the property to a Planned Development District that would allow it to be developed with 90,000 square feet of commercial space and 38 apartments, 30 of which would be classified as affordable, eight as market rate.

Most of the property is now zoned for highway business, which includes uses like furniture stores, car dealerships appliance stores, and gyms. Although the Konners would be allowed to develop about 90,000 square feet of commercial space on the site under current zoning, the types and sizes of the uses allowed would be more limited and the number of residential units would be greatly reduced than under a PDD.

But on Friday, Greg Konner, a vice president of Konner Development, said the company would tweak the plans but asking it to scale back the amount of commercial space would be a non-starter.

“We’re not going back to the drawing board,” he said, noting that the company would not be willing to surrender its rights to develop as much commercial space as is currently allowed. “We can do the PDD or we can do the highway business.”

He pointed out that the idea of rezoning the property was a town-sponsored idea, not his company’s. “We were terribly surprised by the meeting a week ago,” he said referring to a February 23 hearing at which the PDD proposal was criticized by speaker after speaker. We were told this was a town-enacted PDD and we weren’t there to defend ourselves and present our case.”

Opposition to the plans is coming largely from people who live around Kellis Pond, he added. “They know they live across from a commercial property,” he said. “And the community benefit housing isn’t Section 8 housing, it’s apartments for teachers, firemen, cops, ambulance volunteers and the young people who live here in our town.”

At a town board meeting on Thursday, March 3, Mr. Schneiderman told his fellow board members he had met with Carol Konner, the principal of the company and Mr. Konner’s mother, and she had offered to amend plans for the site and present them anew. Although the board had expected to take up the application again in late April, Mr. Schneiderman said he doubted the update would be ready by that time.

Rather than have the town hire consultants to revisit the plans, Mr. Schneiderman said Ms. Konner “heard what people were saying” and would be willing to “come in with some changes that respond to the community’s concerns.”

In an interview, Mr. Schneiderman said the Konners planned to have three-dimensional renderings done that would provide a better idea of what is proposed for the site. “It couldn’t be further from the Kmart across the street,” he said of the development.

The supervisor said he thought, given that some of the uses the Konners want at the site would not be allowed under highway zoning, and others, such as a proposed Equinox Gym would have to be reduced in size, that they would be willing to consider scaling back the commercial aspect of the plan.

“About a third of that is zoned at a higher value use [than would be allowed under highway business zoning], Mr. Schneiderman said, “so there has to be a reduction in square footage.” Along with that reduction in commercial space, he said he expected to see the number of affordable apartments reduced as well, to number closer to 20.

As to the preservation aspect of his plan, the supervisor said he would like to see a public access, separate from the developed portion of the property, leading down to a creek that enters Kellis Pond and its dedication as a park. Currently, the only public access to the pond is at the foot of Lake Road to the west of the property.

 

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