The Southold Town Planning Board agreed during a Nov. 21 work session to consider a draft Conditioned Negative Declaration for the proposed development of medical offices and affordable housing units in Greenport.
A type of State Environmental Quality Review determination, the declaration would be meant to mitigate impacts through a set of conditions rather than going through an entire Environmental Impact Statement process. The Planning Board would still hold a public hearing on the declaration, after which it can consider public input and impose more or different conditions to mitigate impacts. The board also may still decide to change the determination to a positive declaration.
The first step for the Planning Board is to review a draft of the negative declaration, which they plan to do at a Dec. 5 work session. The draft will be based on mitigations offered by applicant Paul Pawlowski, who, among other things, said he would eliminate an entire building from the site plan.
In September, the Planning Board classified the proposed development as an unlisted action under SEQRA, which would require review. Mr. Pawlowski requested time to propose mitigation for potential impacts identified by the planning department.
The original site plan, deemed complete in March, included four campus-style buildings with 12 offices, 40 affordable housing units and 120 parking spaces on a 4.7-acre parcel at the confluence of County Road 48 and state Route 25, which includes Main Street, in Greenport. A state roundabout is proposed for the intersection.
The inclusion of workforce housing requires the project to obtain a special exception use permit from the town Zoning Board of Appeals before it can move forward. The parcel is zoned Residential Office, which permits professional offices as of right and apartments above offices with ZBA approval.
Locals and environmental groups expressed concerns about potential impacts at a ZBA hearing ahead of the Planning Board classification and via letters to the town, urging that a Draft Environmental Impact Statement be required.
In a Nov. 1 response to the Planning Board’s September SEQRA assessment, Mr. Pawlowski said a “positive declaration is not and cannot be warranted here based on the perceived impacts to traffic, construction noise and community character that are common to most every commercial development in our town with mitigation tools available through the special exception and site plan approval processes.”
He presented a traffic impact study, prepared by consultant L.K. McLean Associates P.C. and dated Oct. 26. At last Monday’s meeting, a representative from the group said there would be minimal if any traffic impact, especially with the roundabout proposed by the state for the neighboring intersection. The DOT hopes to begin roundabout construction in early 2024 and finish it in 2025.
To mitigate concerns about traffic, noise and community character, Mr. Pawlowski offered to remove a building from the site plan, which would eliminate medical office space, 10 workforce apartments and 30 required parking spaces. He also noted he would avoid construction on weekends.
Mr. Pawlowski suggested extending sidewalk access to Main Street, offering bike racks adjacent to each building and adding more evergreen trees to the proposed green space buffers on the west and north sides of the property, to further mitigate local concerns. He reduced the planned size of the western access driveway off Main Street and proposed adding noise attenuating fencing along the southern and eastern property lines, along with additional vegetation.
“Based on the ZBA public hearing, feedback from the neighbors [and] review of the Planning Board, we decided to mitigate the concerns by reducing density by 25% from 40 workforce housing apartments to 30 and medical office space reduced by 6,000 [square feet],” Mr. Pawlowski said in an email to The Suffolk Times. “We increased landscaper buffers on all sides, added sidewalks for better accessibility, proposed a fence along the north and east property lines, etc. We also had a traffic study completed which the result shows minimal impacts if at all. Overall we feel the intent of this project with professional office space and workforce housing units is good for Southold Town and we look forward to continuing the process for approvals.”