September 20, 2006

Barbecue Debate Smolders

The Southampton Town Planning Board met last week to discuss the staff report for a site plan modification that has some area residents seeing red.

The application for Town Line Barbecue, a new establishment that would occupy the site of the former Alison by The Beach on the corner of Town Line Road and Route 27 on the border of East Hampton and Southampton towns, had many residents concerned about the impacts of takeout traffic, smoke and parking.

But after a discussion with owner Mark Smith, who agreed to mitigate certain concerns by removing the takeout area from the new restaurant's floor plans, keeping the seating at 90 indoor and 20 outdoor spots, and removing the proposed addition to the deck, planning board chairman Dennis Finnerty said that "all major issues had been addressed."

In East Hampton, traffic generated by a takeout use was the main concern of town planners when they reviewed the plan during a recent work session. By law Southampton Town is required to make a referral to the neighboring town when a property within 500 feet of the line undergoes site plan review.

When plans for the new restaurant were first unveiled, residents such as Jean Sinenberg, who owns Georgica Creek Antiques in Wainscott, and a number of her neighbors were concerned about the effects the new barbecue restaurant could have on their quality of life.

Residents turned out for a public hearing on July 27 to voice their concerns regarding a pricey outdoor smoker they say will destroy the scenic ambiance of the area and possibly endanger their health.

Neighbors, said Sinenberg, are "horrified by this happenstance."

Last week, however, Smith said the door of the smoker enters into the kitchen. In addition, he would "never put his employees at risk."

The smoker, said Smith and his attorney, Mary Jane Asato, has been approved; the health department would not allow him to operate the smoker, if, upon inspection, it proved to be unsafe.

Planning board members suggested putting the smoker in the basement; Smith said that could be dangerous. "That opens up a whole other can of worms," he said, including additional ventilation. The smoker, he added, is not running 24 hours a day; similar units are used all the time in New York City with no problems. "This is not something I'm creating," he said. "It's not an oil drum I'm cutting in half and sticking on Montauk Highway."

Planner Jacqui Lofaro said she could not dismiss concerns of residents and suggested the restaurant be reviewed on an annual basis as a condition of operation.

"That's kind of like signing a blank check," Smith said.

He agreed to remove the takeout area from the designs and eliminate an expanded deck and seating.

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