Moving a major step closer to a final decision after years of delays and review, the Southampton Town Planning Board last week concluded its public hearing on Kimco Realty’s proposed 17,000-square-foot expansion of the 33,000-square-foot T. J. Maxx store at Kimco’s Bridgehampton Commons shopping center to create room for an attached Marshalls store, a brand also owned by TJX Companies.
The board agreed on Thursday, December 13 to close the hearing but hold the record open for 30 days for written comments after only three speakers had appeared, including one critic of the plan, a somewhat flustered Pamela Harwood, chair of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee.
Having spoken against the plan when the board opened the hearing on November 8, when she argued it would clog Bridgehampton with traffic and threaten to pollute groundwater, she asked for a delay to allow the CAC to review what she called “a whole new site plan,” a “game changer,” of which she hadn’t been aware until Kimco’s local attorney, Timothy S. McCulley of Southampton, had presented it minutes earlier.
“This has blown my whole presentation,” she told the board.
The changes he described center on the elimination of a so-called “land bank” proposal, approved by the Planning Board when it conducted its environmental review of the site plan this fall, to allow Kimco to rent an easement from the adjacent Marder’s nursery to provide room for added parking if it is ever needed.
“Land banking” allows Kimco to hold property in reserve where it could provide the additional 85 spaces required for the expansion by the zoning code. The company has argued there is plenty of parking available at the Commons — 1,284 spaces — and that additional parking isn’t needed now.
Mr. McCulley said the need for an agreement with Marder’s had been eliminated because Kimco’s engineers had found they could remove an unneeded water tank at the rear of the T.J. Maxx store to create room for extra parking on site, with some reconfiguration of the existing parking layout including a side access roadway.
“The land banking now has been reoriented toward T. J. Maxx,” Mr. McCulley said, introducing Joe Deal of Bohler Engineering, who explained that “the head-in parking along the north side of the property … instead of going into Marder’s, we put it on our property,” which he said requires “shifting down” an access pathway to Snake Hollow Road “eight to 10 feet.”
Mr. McCulley vociferously opposed any delay in closing the hearing, noting the plan had been discussed publicly by the planners during the “pre-app” process; and was formally aired by the planners as they reached their State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) determination of no environmental impact this fall; and aired again when the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals heard the case and granted variances for a reduced front-yard setback, greater lot coverage, and expansion of a non-conforming building in October.
“I’ve heard Ms. Harwood say the same thing, many, many times,” Mr. McCulley went on. “She questions our engineer. She questions your consulting engineer. She’s looking at engineering plans that really belong in municipal works. These are expert opinions that go into this.” Except for the parking changes, he said, “This is not a new site plan.”
Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty countered that Ms. Harwood had made “a very valid point that there are significant changes in the site plan” and added that she had made “a reasonable request.”
Board member Glorian Berk disagreed. “The changes were made because of concern by residents about land banking. So I don’t think it’s a new plan. It just answered a problem the community expressed.”
The board members eventually agreed to a compromise suggested by board member Robin Long to close the hearing but accept written comments for 30 more days.