Gateway Is Not for Sale, Owner Says

Efforts are under way to convince the Southampton Town Board to use the community preservation fund to end the possibility of development on the 13.3-acre parcel off Montauk Highway known as the Bridgehampton Gateway despite the fact the principal owner has made it clear she does not want to sell it.

Pamela Harwood told the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee at a meeting Monday night that there might be an opportunity for Southampton Town to preserve the land. She has explored the idea with the Group for the East End and Bridgehampton Action, which had fought the most recent development proposal for the property. The owners, Ms. Harwood admitted, would have to be willing sellers. “This may all be pie in the sky,” she said.

Carol Konner, the principal owner of what are actually nine adjoining lots, was not at the meeting, but had an answer when she got word of the initiative on Tuesday. By email, Mrs. Konner simply said she had no intention of selling Bridgehampton Gateway to the town. At past meetings she has called the property her family’s legacy.

The Southampton Town Board had initiated  a mixed-use planned development district for the property, which had been recommended in the 1999 Comprehensive Plan Update and the 2004 Bridgehampton hamlet center plan. Mrs. Konner agreed with mixed development, but her plans met with contentious debate. Mrs. Konner had shaved off some of the commercial square footage proposed, offered to hook up neighboring houses to a sewage treatment plant she planned to build, and agreed to have affordable housing at the site, but still met with resistance. “I simply am done with extending any- more of anything,” she said in the email. The town board backed away from the idea in May after Mrs. Konner withdrew her support.

The Bridgehampton C.A.C. had voted against the proposal in the spring, citing traffic and environmental concerns. Others from the greater Southampton area voiced support for the project, however, particularly its affordable housing component.

This is not the first time C.P.F. acquisition of the property has been considered, nor is it the first time Mrs. Konner said she was not interested in selling. The acreage is vacant except for a small site where a Carvel shop operates, and it is for the most part zoned for highway business, with 2.7 acres along the southern boundary zoned for residential use. Mrs. Konner referred further questions to her attorney, Anthony Tohill,  who did not immediately return a call on Tuesday. Eric Friedlander, who is a minority owner of Gateway, could not be reached for comment.

A plan for mixed-use development had been shelved several times, but it was revived three years ago after Mrs. Konner began moving forward with plans to build an Equinox gym there. While a gym is an allowable use under the existing highway business zoning, the building would be limited to 15,000 square feet. However, Konner Freelander L.L.C. informally proposed two buildings, of 13,000 and 14,000 square feet, on 10 acres on the eastern side of the land, both for Equinox. One building was to be a gym, the other a spa.

Ms. Harwood told the Bridgehampton Citizens on Monday night that it is now up to the town attorney to determine whether C.P.F. acquisition is “going around the spirit of the law.” Officials, however, indicated such a determination would be made either by the zoning board of appeals or the planning board, depending on the application for development. None had been submitted as of Tuesday.

Bob DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, said by phone on Tuesday that the organization supports trying to preserve all or part of the property. A number of Bridgehampton residents had reached out to him after the planned development district was abandoned. “It’s best preserved,” he said, given all the complications associated with development, including the long-term health of Kellis Pond, an impaired water body the land abuts.

In 1985, Mr. DeLuca fought one of the first proposals for the site — a car wash. “Thirty years ago that project area was a problem because of the congestion created by the shopping center across the street, and it hasn’t abated,” he said. “We think the site is going to be problematic under virtually any development scenario.”

It is in the town’s interest to consider a C.P.F. purchase, Mr. DeLuca said, which would start with an appraisal. “All they can say is no,” Mr. DeLuca said, referring to the owners.