August 16, 2006

Residents Smokin' Over Smell

Jean Sinenberg is fuming. Sinenberg, who owns Georgica Creek Antiques in Wainscott, and a number of her neighbors are concerned about the effects of a proposed new barbecue restaurant that they believe will send their quality of life spiraling straight up in smoke.

Residents turned out for a public hearing on July 27 to voice their concerns regarding an application for Townline Barbecue, a new establishment that would occupy the site of the former Alison by The Beach on the corner of Townline Road and Route 27 on the border of East Hampton and Southampton towns.

An application by Nick and Toni's owner Mark Smith, a principal at the Honest Management restaurant company, is for a barbecue restaurant on the site, and it's a change that's got many residents seeing red — namely, because of 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." The smoker, she said, will turn into a "meat processing plant."

Another issue sparked by the site plan is the fear of increased traffic generated by the possibility of additional seating. "I'm not opposed to a restaurant. I'm opposed to turning it into Nathan's," said Sinenberg. The area is quiet, surrounded by farm fields. "It's very unneighborly to do this."

Sinenberg also has serious health concerns and wonders if the fumes could be carcinogenic. "If we're so concerned about smokeless places, and we don't let smoking in restaurants, what the hell are we doing letting the smoke permeate our homes? It's crazy."

According to Julie Moore, Southampton Town Senior Planner, the restaurant is a pre-existing, nonconforming property. While there is a possibility of outdoor seating, "there is no change of use" requested by the applicant, she said.

The hearing was closed, with a 14-day period for written comment; Sinenberg believes the time should have been extended. "Once it's done, it's even harder to turn around," she said.

According to Southampton Town Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty, there is nothing in the town code that regulates odors or smells from an eating establishment; those issues are monitored by the health department. "In extreme cases, the DEC would step in," he said.

And, reminded Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney, "There are a lot of old-timers in town who have smokers in their backyards." However, as Sinenberg pointed out, those are meant for use by a single family, not to feed hundreds of hungry visitors. She also questioned the existing parking situation, which is based on occupancy. Since the restaurant will also fill "to-go" orders, traffic may far exceed what was previously allowed, she said.

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