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Tuckahoe supermarket project put on hold

A revised proposed for a controversial supermarket project on the South Fork’s most congested road was put on indefinite hold Tuesday as the Suffolk Planning Commission deemed the developer’s application incomplete.

Their 8-4 vote freezes the application process in which the commission normally has 45 days to act.

The commission cited traffic concerns and uncertainty about whether the developer, Southampton Venture LLC, intends to appeal a State Supreme Court decision that upheld the panel’s earlier denial of larger version of the same project.

The commission also questioned whether the latest proposal, which reduces the size of the Tuckahoe project for a supermarket and other retail stores by 6,000 square feet, or about 10 percent, is substantially different enough that it should be considered again.

“These are bigger questions ... before us than we can answer Wednesday,” said Jennifer Casey, the commission chairwoman. The commission’s next meeting will be Nov. 2.

Developers have 30 days to appeal once the court ruling is filed, which County Attorney Dennis Brown says he expects to occur Wednesday.

Should the commission stand by its denial, the project will require the Southampton Town board to approve it with a supermajority vote.

The developer’s lawsuit sought to overturn the commission’s initial rejection of the original 58,500 square foot project. Commissioners’ objections centered on a town study of County Road 39 that called for limiting rezonings to those that promote “low trip generating uses.”

The suit also said commission member Barbara Roberts had a conflict of interest because she spoke out against the project and had connections to a competing business. Acting Supreme Court Justice Justice Andrew Tarantino deemed the allegations without merit.

Backers say the project will help local residents who have limited grocery shopping choices in Southampton Village, forcing many to go to Hampton Bays or Bridgehampton more than seven miles away. They say the project will not increase the number of local shoppers, but will reduce the length of trips they now make.

“The people are overwhelmingly in favor of it,” said Lance Nill, a partner in the project. ”It’s a good project and will reduce traffic.”

Samuel Kramer, a commission member from East Hampton, said traffic on County Road 39 is a county concern because ambulances coming from his town often take as much as an 1 ½ hours to reach Southampton Hospital.

But Michael Kelley, a commission member who favors the project, said “a lot of the commentary is based on speculation,” and that the store would create jobs and increase the tax base.


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