The owner of a downtown Cutchogue building currently housing a pharmacy and an orthodontist’s office wants to tear it down and replace it with a similar sized building with space for five shops, according to an application before the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
Al Terp Jr., who owns the lot at 51020 Main Road next to the Karen’s Country Deli building, which he also owns, submitted plans for the new building in February. The building would be roughly 5,600 square feet in total and split among five retail spaces, said Pat Moore, an attorney representing Mr. Terp.
Ms. Moore said she was unsure of what tenants would fill up the new space, though she believes the current businesses there — the Cutchogue Drug Store, formerly operated by Mr. Terp, and the dental office of Dr. James Trentalange — want to keep a spot in the new complex.
“This is going to be an enhancement as far as the streetscape goes,” Ms. Moore said.
The building would match the space next door, with a connected awning that overhangs the sidewalk, the attorney said. The current structure is only 2 feet back from the property line, which was covered under the town code as a pre-existing use.
“The existing building is very far forward,” she said. “When the new building comes in, it’s going to be set back.”
But, the new building is going to need a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. Under the town code, the building’s foundation must be 15 feet back from the property line; under the current proposal the overhang will reach to about 5 feet from the property line. Ms. Moore said the application was a “fairly simple” request, since it matches the next door property.
However, neighbors are concerned the development may impact their visibility, their parking situation and the nature of the hamlet. Bob Kuhne, president of the non-profit Old Town Art and Crafts Guild, said his organization was surprised to learn the building next door would be torn down; the group was notified of the upcoming zoning board meeting because it neighbors the property.
“It was never advertised,” Mr. Kuhne said. “Nothing was said about this project. The community is basically not aware of this.”
The group’s main concern, he said, is that vibrations from construction and demolition work at the adjacent property could weaken their own older building. The guild is also worried the new building would affect their groundwater, Mr. Kuhne said, noting the nonprofit uses well water on its property.
Ginger Mahoney, another member of the guild, said she was concerned about parking in the area. The nearby municipal lots are often heavily used in the summer and more retail space could take away from those spaces, she said.
Ms. Moore said no parking stalls would be lost through the proposed new construction. The proposal also includes a new pedestrian walkway, she said, which would help direct foot traffic to the guild.
Still, Mr. Kuhne said he’s worried more development could change the fabric of Cutchogue. A nearby proposal to build the Heritage at Cuchogue, a 55-and-older housing community with 124 units, has drawn plenty of public opposition. Both he and Ms. Mahoney expressed concern that more development could rob Cutchogue of its rural feel.
“There’s always progress,” Mr. Kuhne said, “but the beauty of the North Fork has always been the quaintness of it.”
Mr. Kuhne said his organization had weighed the advantages and disadvantages of the proposal at a meeting Wednesday.
“There are very little ‘pros’ to this,” he said. “I don’t know if Main Road can support all the businesses.”
A ZBA hearing on the special exception will be held Thursday, April 7 at 1:45 p.m.
Photo credit: Paul Squire