Carwash Proposed for Old Disco Site

Busy stretch in Wainscott concerns planning board
A proposal to turn the former Star Room club into a car wash has been met with a mixed reception. Taylor K. Vecsey

A car wash on Montauk Highway in Wainscott was one of several proposals before the East Hampton Town Planning Board on April 27. It is the second time a car wash has been proposed for the site, slightly more than an acre at the intersection of the highway and East Gate Road, although an initial 2012 proposal never came to fruition.

The proposal met with a mixed reception from the board and from members of the public who spoke at the meeting. The facility would replace a dilapidated discotheque at the site, which had been known most recently as the Star Room and was once the East End’s longest-running nightclub, the Swamp.

The plan calls for a 4,435-square-foot steel and glass building with vacuum stations, a detailing area, an 18-space queuing line, and nine parking spaces. The facility would have solar panels. Access  would be via the highway, with a second access on East Gate Road. An application for site plan approval was before the board for the first time; it had already been vetted by Eric Schantz of the Planning Department. His memo to the board called for a traffic study and noted that proposed curb cuts would require New York State Department of Transportation approval. “The parcel is situated on the largest and most heavily traveled road in the town,” Mr. Schantz told the board.

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In another memo to the board, from Thomas D. Talmage, the town engineer, it was said the turning radius proposed for vehicles going through the car wash cycle was too tight. “This may prohibit some of the larger vehicles,” he said. Mr. Schantz pointed out that while the property is zoned for business use, the area to the north on East Gate Road is residential, raising concern.

Eric Bregman of Farrell Fritz, the applicant’s attorney, told the board that he was eager for a traffic study. More than anything else, he said, he was there to listen to the board for direction. The applicant is Jim Golden of JJG Management L.L.C.

A series of doubts about the proposal were raised by board members. “Is this a good place for a car wash?” Job Potter asked. He called the visual aesthetics of that part of the highway, which might be considered the gateway to East Hampton, a mess.

“I could not make a left turn” onto Montauk Highway from East Gate Road, Patti Leber told her fellow board members. “That was mid-week,” she added, expressing concern about the impact of the facility, which could handle up to 125 cars an hour during the summer, according to Mr. Schantz.

Seeming to loom over the discussion, as well as over the highway, is the HomeGoods store, a few properties to the east. The store’s site plan was approved by the planning board in 2012.

“It is very important that the building be set back” off the highway, Philip Young, a neighbor, said. “HomeGoods does not do that.” He asked that any traffic study be done during the summer season. “The worst thing you could do is to allow a car wash at this location.”

“We don’t want to make the same mistake as we did with HomeGoods,” said another neighbor, Jose Arandia, a member of the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee. He asked that no decision be made until the hamlet study now under way for Wainscott is completed.

In the end, the board asked the applicant for further details on operation, noise control, landscaping, and screening.

In other action, the board unanimously rejected a request from the Suffolk County Planning Commission to require a traffic study for the proposed East Hampton Indoor Tennis recreational complex on Daniel’s Hole Road at East Hampton Indoor Tennis, which is to include a bowling alley, miniature golf course, and bar. 

“I was surprised and I thought it was a bit unusual,” Ian Clader-Piedmonte said. The commission had said traffic on South Breeze Drive, one of the accesses to the site, was a concern. But board members said the Planning Department as well as the town engineer had already weighed in and found traffic acceptable.

The board also agreed, in a split decision, to require AT&T to do an environmental assessment under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, as recommended by Mr. Schantz, before considering approval of an antenna on the wind turbine tower at Iacono Farm on Long Lane.

Diana Weir disagreed with Mr. Schantz’s SEQRA determination. “When somebody told me there was a windmill there, I had to drive up and down Long Lane to see it,” she said. Mr. Schantz had given several reasons why such an assessment was needed. “The Planning Department finds that the proposed action presents a potential for a significant adverse impact on the existing community character,” he wrote. “This is a farm. I don’t understand. This is not a public resource, this is a private farm,” Ms. Weir said. Mr. Schantz said that the proposal would impact a “historically significant” rural area.

Mr. Potter disagreed with Ms. Weir, saying that if the applicant were allowed to proceed with adding the antenna to a tower approved for generating electricity for agricultural use, “I would be reluctant to approve any more wind turbines.” He was joined by Kathleen Cunningham and Ms. Leber in asking for the study, with Ms. Weir joined by Mr. Calder-Piedmonte and Nancy Keeshan.

Reed Jones, chairman, broke the deadlock. “This is absolutely an avoidance area, and it is precedent setting. We all know what is going on in the town. Cablevision is kicking off wireless providers” from their tower on Springs Fireplace Road, he said.

John Huber, representing AT&T, said the company would complete the assessment requested.