The environmental and traffic impacts of a proposed 27,000-square-foot fitness center across from Bridgehampton Commons on Montauk Highway were discussed last Thursday at a Southampton Town Planning Board public hearing.
Carol Konner, the principal owner of an eight-acre parcel, is seeking to subdivide the land into three lots. One lot, adjacent to Kellis Pond, would be in a residential zoning district, the other two zoned for highway businesses.
The application concerns an approximately 4.4-acre lot along the highway, where she proposes constructing an Equinox gym with a 13,000-square-foot building connected by a breezeway to a 14,000-square-foot building, plus a parking lot with 150 spaces. Equinox operates a chain of luxury gyms in metropolitan areas across the United States, including 34 in New York City, as well as in London and Canada.
Southampton Town code limits buildings in the “shopping center business zone” to 15,000 square feet unless the applicant, among other conditions, demonstrates the design is in keeping with the character of the neighborhood, the parcel is large enough to accommodate the structure, and a traffic impact analysis determines that adjoining roads can handle extra traffic.
According to a memo to the planning board from John Bennett, Ms. Konner’s lawyer, the proposed buildings would be designed to be reminiscent of agricultural structures, with siding made of stone and wood, and with a metal roof.
The parcel, he said, is more than four times the size of the minimum requirement for a structure in the highway business district.
Appearing before the zoning board in January, Lorena Moschetta, a traffic engineer from KLD Engineering who is a consultant for the applicant, said her company had done a study in August 2018 and found the addition of the gym to the area would have “minimal impact on existing traffic.”
The planning board, which will conduct an assessment of the project’s environmental impact, including traffic, sought guidance from the public on the scope of its study. “All of the public comments will be incorporated,” said Jacqui Lofaro, the chairwoman.
Bonnie Verbitszky, a member of the Bridgehampton Action Now advocacy group, which opposes the development, asked the board to examine the impact it would have on Kellis Pond. Robert DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, said the project was problematic because of its proximity to wetlands, and to the “most congested” traffic artery in the town. The gym, which at other locations offers spa services, juice bars, clothing boutiques, and other amenities, would also have a negative impact on local businesses, he said.
Julie Burmeister, a member of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, likened the gym to a Walmart, calling it a potential “economic kill zone.”
“A 27,000-square-foot Equinox is a superstore,” said Pamela Harwood, the chairwoman of the Bridgehampton C.A.C. “There is no place for a superstore on the most congested part of Montauk Highway and in one of the most sensitive environmental areas.” Ms. Harwood said the applicant should supply information about the number of showers, toilets, and washing machines in the facility. A septic system that reduces nitrogen is proposed for the site, but those “systems do not remove bleach, detergents, and strong chemical cleaning products,” she said.
John Kriedler, a Bridgehampton resident, said it had taken him 40 minutes to drive 6.4 miles to the hearing that evening, and the addition of such a large gym would make matters worse. “Our town is becoming so congested it’s becoming very hard to live here,” he said.
Several other members of the public bemoaned the possible traffic impacts. Nancy Walter-Yvertes, a C.A.C. member, said an Equinox gym would cause “a traffic jam from Water Mill to Sagaponack Road,” and Shira Kalish asked the board to consider whether emergency vehicles would be able to navigate effectively through additional congestion.
The board will accept written public comments on the application until tomorrow. The scope of the environmental assessment, said Ms. Lofaro, will be determined at the board’s meeting on Aug. 8.