Gurney's Inn
August 30, 2006

Serenity Estates Debated

The future of a Speonk property was the subject of debate at a Southampton Town Board work session last Friday, which focused on a public scoping session of Serenity Estates.

The board met to discuss the scope for the draft environmental impact statement for a proposed change of zone and establishment of a residential planned development district on a 15.217 acre parcel located on the west side of North Phillips Avenue, south of Old Country Road, and north of Montauk Highway in Speonk.

The proposed action includes a request from Barry Bernstein, owner of Serenity LLC, for a change of zone from CR-40 to RPPD to facilitate the construction of a 60-unit senior citizen condominium complex.

According the proposal, the development would include a recreational center with a fitness center, locker rooms, a lounge/entertainment center, a billiards and card room, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a hot tub, two tennis courts, a putting green, a playground and walking paths. In addition, a gatehouse would be constructed at the entrance of the property to ensure security.

Twelve of the 60 units would be designated as moderate and middle income units, with two market rate units in each building. To accommodate seniors, the design of the homes would feature ground floor master bedrooms and bathrooms.

According to the Eastport-Speonk-Remsenburg-Westhampton Area Study, which was adopted by the Southampton Town Board in 2004 as an update to the town's 1999 comprehensive plan, the parcel is suggested to be rezoned to either a light industrial park designation or a PDD.

The parcel, the site of a former feather factory, has been cited as allegedly contaminated by some area residents.

Deputy Supervisor Robert Ross, sitting in for Town Supervisor Skip Heaney, who was not in attendance, and board members, listened as Jeff Murphee, town planning and management administrator, outlined plans for the site.

Bernstein said the area would be suitable for seniors 55 and over, with hamlet centers and the LIRR station easily accessible to walkers.

Councilwoman Linda Kabot raised a number of concerns including the need for buffers, and said that a transfer of development rights should be considered to mitigate density issues; Pine Barrens credits could apply, she added.

Community benefits should be considered, said Kabot, with amenities such as safe, well-lit sidewalks being an integral component of the plan.

In addition, said Kabot, alternatives to the plan should be considered. Although currently 13 residences are permitted, alternatives to the plan including mixed use, office development, or an industrial park should be considered.

Wayne Bruyn, attorney for Bernstein, said if the town board had wanted to consider a mixed or industrial use for the site, it should have come out in the hamlet study.

"We're not trying to make it hard for the applicant," said Kabot, who added that some residents have expressed interest in those uses.

Members of the community expressed their concerns over the development of the site. Hank Beck of the Citizens' Advisory Committee agreed that mixed-use, industrial uses should be explored. "The developer should be willing and not resistant to alternatives," he said.

Resident Andrea Spilka expressed her concerns over an area that is rapidly burgeoning due to increased development. "We're being squeezed," she said.

In a similar vein, residents opposed to the Speonk Village Green project stepped up their efforts this week and sent out a mass mailing to encourage residents to speak out about similar fears at an upcoming public hearing on the matter.

Art Fechtmann, whose business is adjacent to the property, said he has serious concerns about what he considers a contaminated property being cultivated for residential use.

The scoping session is followed by a 30-day comment period so the public can offer further written input.

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