Bridgehampton CAC Prepares to Weigh in on Konner Development

The concept plan for Carol Konner’s acreage south side of Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton opposite the Bridgehampton Commons shopping center. The two connected larger buildings at left are the proposed Equinox Gym. Image courtesy of Araiys Design in Southampton.

Members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday planned their strategy for commenting on developer Carol Konner’s Equinox gym project, long planned for a site on Montauk Highway at the western gateway to downtown Bridgehampton, when the Southampton Town Planning Board on Thursday holds a “scoping” hearing on the project’s environmental impacts.

The planners will be seeking comment, at 6 p.m., on July 25 in Town Hall, on the issues that the public thinks should be addressed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that must be prepared for the project.

Expecting to face a three-minute limit on public speakers, CAC members at their monthly meeting on Monday, July 22, chose what chair Pamela Harwood called “a tag team” approach, with each member addressing a single area of concern.

“If a lot of us get up and start talking off tropic, it’s going to look very bad,” cautioned CAC member Tom Watson as the group began its discussion.

The topics the group agreed to address included traffic impacts, which Ms. Harwood and others have already predicted would be severe; open space and recreation; bass fishing in neighboring Kellis Pond; groundwater quality; economic impacts, especially on competing businesses; and the integrity of the town zoning code’s 15,000-square-foot-limit on buildings in highway business zones. The Konner plan requires a zoning variance allowing a building of 27,000 square feet.

The group’s goal, as member John Kriendler put it, was “to get as many people as possible objecting to as many categories as possible.”

Peter Feder argued that the CAC should not take a stand against Ms. Konner developing her property “as of right under zoning,” which he said would make the CAC appear obstructionist. But “why does she always seem to go away from” what the zoning code allows in “highway business?” he asked.

“Is this type of use appropriate for highway business?” asked Peter Wilson. “It’s a very high intensity use” that no one “ever dreamt when our forefathers developed the master plan.”
Shira Kalish said she closely followed the political and planning process years ago when the Town Board imposed a 15,000-square-foot limit on stores in the highway business zone to prevent “big box” retail outlets from opening in the town.

“I was here every step of the way,” she said, calling it “a long, thoughtful process that we’re now dismantling.”

The Konner proposal, known as Konner-Friedlander Gateway 1, is the first phase of an overall plan that dates back about six years. It was sidelined for years when the Town Board abandoned plans to create a “planned development district,” or PDD, that would have freed the project from existing zoning restrictions; the board backed off and instead struck the controversial PDD provision from the zoning code.

The proposal now pending before both the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals calls for subdividing a parcel containing 8.3 acres out of the 13 acres Ms. Konner has acquired on the south side of Montauk Highway east of the Carvel ice cream store. That parcel would be divided into three lots, with 4.4 acres for the Equinox gym, a 1.5-acre lot for a highway business use, and a 2.2-acre lot in an area that is zoned residential.

The gym would occupy two structures connected by a breezeway — one containing 13,000 square feet and the other 14,000 square feet for a total of 27,000, far in excess of the 15,000-square-foot limit — and associated parking spaces.

Future plans, not yet filed, will call for two 5,000-square-foot restaurants on an adjacent lot, and eventually an assisted living facility on another parcel, Ms. Konner has said. An “overall conceptual site plan sketch” on view at the CAC meeting Monday shows a total of seven buildings in addition to the two connected gym structures that would contain 50,695 additional square feet of space. There would be 432 parking spaces.

For the gym plan, Ms. Konner has applied to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeal for variances, including one from the 15,000-square-foot limit. That case is adjourned while the Planning Board, which must also conduct more public hearings on the site plan before approving it, sets out the parameters of the environmental impact statement it is requiring the developer to prepare under the terms of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).

The planners and the ZBA voted in March to declare the Planning Board the “lead agency” for the gym project’s SEQRA review. In April, the planners voted to classify the gym proposal and its associated subdivision a “Type 1” action that requires an environmental impact statement because it could have “significant adverse impacts.”