It's no secret that the amount of traffic on County Road 39 in Tuckahoe is a source of concern to both residents and Southampton Town officials. What is unclear is the effect a proposed development near the southeast corner of Magee Street and County Road 39 will have on traffic congestion and safety in that area.
If developer Robert Morrow's proposed project, which calls for a zone change, is approved by the Southampton Town Board, he says it will help expedite traffic through the area. Some residents don't feel the same way, and they were quick to express their views during a meeting of the on Monday.
Morrow was invited to speak to the public by members of the Tuckahoe School Board to explain his proposal for the parcel, which is expected to include a 40,000-square-foot supermarket, as well as two smaller buildings for additional businesses and a bank. The development will replace the .
Prior to the presentation, school board Chairman Robert Grisnik made it clear that while the board did invite Morrow to the meeting, it did not have an interest in the project.
“We do not endorse projects one way or the other,” Grisnik said. “We feel that the community should be able to get as much info as they can so they know what is being presented.”
Morrow, a resident of Bridgehampton, began his presentation by noting that he was behind another development in the town, which, he said, helped traffic flow in a once-congested area. That project was the shopping center, located at the corner of Ponquogue Avenue and Montauk Highway.
Morrow said he intends to ease traffic through the area using a similar approach to what he used in Hampton Bays. By including an easement from Magee Street to County Road 39, he said, traffic will be able to bypass the light at that intersection to head east or to go to the adjoining businesses that are close by.
He also noted that by including a supermarket at this site, it will prevent locals from having to drive either into Southampton Village, Hampton Bays or Bridgehampton to do their grocery shopping. Referring to several new residential properties recently approved in the area, Morrow said the new residents will be able to get their groceries close to home.
“They're going to be in their cars going somewhere,” he said. “They're either going to be traveling to , or they might be going to Riverhead ... By doing this we will consolidate some of the traffic. Is it going to solve every problem? No, but it's certainly logical that if you don't have to drive to Hampton Bays you'll be using less gas, and there will be less movement going on.”
Some attendees of the meeting remained unimpressed.
“My main concern is that you're asserting that you're going to reduce traffic,” said David D'Agostino, who said he lives off Bishops Lane. “You're comparing this to current use and highway business. The grocery store will generate more traffic than highway business.”
D'Agostino was referring to the change of zone Morrow is proposing, from “highway business” to “shopping center business.” Later in his comments, D'Agostino went on to note that the increased traffic will, in all likelihood, lead to increased dangers for both pedestrians and motorists on County Road 39.
“The traffic has only gotten worse and worse and worse,” he said. “This is going to make it horrendous.”
Rick Sobrevinas, a member of the Southampton-Tuckahoe-Shinnecock Citizens Advsiory Committee, echoed D'Agostino's concerns about traffic and safety. “There's a very strong reason why Southampton Town has zoned out a huge footprint grocery store: Because County Road 39 is considered a very dangerous highway,” he said. “The bottom line is we have to realize that County Road 39 today, even without the additional traffic of developments and this supermarket, is already considered a very dangerous high density highway.”
Responding to these concerns, Morrow said he will be speaking with his traffic engineers to provide some more concrete data on the effects the development will have.
“When I have the facts I will be happy to give them to you,” he said.
Although the questions and concerns would most likely have continued longer into the night, members of the school board stated that they needed to move on with the meeting and the session was halted after approximately a half hour.