A preliminary plan to tear down the old Star Room, before that the Swamp nightclub, at East Gate Road and Montauk Highway in Wainscott, and replace it with a 5,400-square foot car wash, came before the East Hampton Town Planning Board on Sep. 12.
The former discotheque, on a roughly 50,000 square-foot parcel, has been closed for over 10 years. “It’s an eyesore,” said Dianna Weir, the board’s vice chairwoman.
According to the plan, presented by Laurie Wiltshire of Land Planning Services, drivers would enter from the highway, go east to join a two-lane queue that narrows into one lane, exit the car and wait west of the building. There are four garage doors in front of the building where cars could be detailed, and a proposed second entrance from East Gate Road.
Jefffrey Schneider, a partner in the planned business, estimated that it would handle about 150 cars a day. It would be state-of-the-art, according to Daniel Bell, whom Ms. Wiltshire introduced to the board as an expert on the industry. Mr. Bell works for a company called Ziposhine, which is a car wash consulting firm.
“The car wash process will probably be one of the most automated on the island,” he told the board. According to Mr. Bell, the facility would be “self-sustaining,” with a minimal impact on the water table. “I have equipment here that will recycle 160 gallons a minute,” he said. “No car wash I have ever done actually uses that much water.”
“We treat the water as if we were a sewer company,” he continued. “We treat it down to five microbes. I wouldn’t drink it, but it does give us a quality wash for customers who are paying what they have to pay for a car wash today.” He said the plan used 1,500-gallon underground tanks, “no non-biodegradable chemicals,” and “centrifugal separators,” which stay in operation 24 hours a day to keep the water free of particles.
“The car wash itself would be normal business hours, not open at night,” said Mr. Schneider. “There is a need for a car wash. Everybody I talk to in the community, they have to go to Southampton or Amagansett. That is one of the reasons that Tom [Barton, his partner in the venture] and I decided. We’re trying to make a car wash that people in all these communities can use.”
Some elements of the plan might provide a bit of controversy. The building is set toward the rear of the lot, with the required parking spaces in the front. Parking is normally located to the side or rear of a business. Mr. Schneider pointed out, however, that the 30-plus spaces, while required for a business this size by town code, would seldom if ever be used, since most car washing is an in-and-out process.
Patrick Schutte expressed some concern about possible noise from the business, but Ms. Wiltshire said on Monday that the building was designed to address noise. All the machinery is inside, she said, including vacuums and blow-dryers.
“I don’t think there is a noise issue,” Ms. Weir said during the hearing. “As long as screening is good, I see this as a good use of the property.”
The Wainscott Retail project, where Whole Foods was this summer, is just east of the proposed car wash, and Reed Jones, the board chairman, reminded members that in May, when the board approved that project, the biggest concern was over traffic. He said an independent analysis would be needed to study the impact of the car wash proposal.
The future of the retail project is uncertain following the death of its owner, Gregg Saunders, in a traffic accident this summer.
Another bone of contention for the car wash could be the entrance proposed for East Gate Road, which is a residential street.
“Think of the alternative,” Mr. Jones said on Tuesday, pointing out that the site is approved for use as a nightclub or late-night bar.
Also at the meeting, the planning board gave preliminary approval to a subdivision off Further Lane in East Hampton. The proposed subdivision, submitted under the corporate name of Estates at Further Lane for land owned by Ron Baron, would divide a 37-acre parcel of beachfront land into three lots, ranging from about 129,000 square feet to 171,000 square feet. Because at least five houses are proposed, a special clause of the Long Island Workforce Housing Program was triggered, and the East Hampton Town Board decided recently to allow the developers to pay into the Nassau-Suffolk Affordable Housing Fund rather than provide affordable housing on Further Lane.
The board also had a preliminary discussion about a possible letter to be prepared for the town board concerning possible changes to the town code, based on feedback from planners, lawyers, and the public.