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New and Improved Plans for Project Most

Thu, 06/22/2023 - 10:49
A rendering included in Project Most's application shows what the new facility would look like when seen from the northeast.
Val Florio Architect P.L.L.C.

Project Most, which hopes to turn a donated house into a brand-new facility on Three Mile Harbor Road, has filed an updated site plan with the East Hampton Town Building Department. The updated plan was the subject of a discussion last week before the town planning board.

The proposed building has been moved back another 35 feet from the road, which will also preserve multiple mature trees out front. The amended application shows a smaller parking lot, 19 spaces instead of 25, with 18 overflow spots situated on grass and the paved portion shifted to the side of the building, maximizing the space behind it for children’s activities.

Project Most is a nonprofit organization that provides after-school programs, weekend activities, and a summer camp for children of working families. In future, it plans to offer a day care program, serving infants and toddlers. Project Most is the beneficiary of the decision of another nonprofit, Neighborhood House, to wind down about a century of operations on Three Mile Harbor Road and donate its land, about 2.4 acres, for the new facility.

Project Most needs a new special-use permit for its plans because the town has designated it a semi-public facility in a residential zone that is set to undergo “substantial expansion.” It already complies with many of the special-use permit conditions. The matter of an 800-square-foot caretaker’s apartment on the second floor has already been approved, though the town fire marshal has yet to sign off on it.

A cornerstone of the new facility is a landscaping plan created by Charlie Marder, which will bring in trees from various regions of the United States and Europe to provide both aesthetics and screening to the adjacent residential properties. An outdoor classroom is planned, where children can learn about glaciers, kettleholes, and other earth-science concepts by observing their own surroundings.

“We’re providing a real benefit, other than putting up walls, that we see too many times in the Hamptons, that block off the open spaces,” Mr. Marder told the planning board. “I don’t think it’s an arboretum, but we’ve brought an arboretum level to the property. Again, it’s not just another landscape on a piece of property, it’s levels of education with multiple layers of benefit.”

Michael Guinan, vice president of Project Most’s board of directors, said this week that the original landscaping plan was “sufficient, but not inspiring.” The new one “is obviously consistent with our mission and our hopes for the property. We think it’s brilliant, and we’re really happy to be working with him.”

Also newly proposed is a second curb cut off the road, to allow for improved one-way traffic flow and a safer, more efficient drop-off and pickup. The County Department of Public Works is handling that application.

But Project Most’s existing traffic study needs a lot of work, said Tina LaGarenne, the town’s assistant planning director. The study “omitted discussions of the closest roadways,” she said, including Morris Park Lane but excluding Austin Road and Neighborhood Road. “Those do need to be accurately described.”

The Planning Department is also questioning the accuracy of what the traffic study calls “pass-by trips.” Project Most explains that most of the people accessing the site are parents who “are already on the road.” However, Ms. LaGarenne advised the planning board in a memo, “this assumes that a significant number of parents already travel on Three Mile Harbor Road and that this will not be a new destination at this location, which does not seem certain. If the applicant has further logic to support this statement, it should be provided. Otherwise, the planning department recommends it is removed from the study.”

The queuing-up of cars on the property — Project Most says there’s room for 11 at a time — and those waiting on Three Mile Harbor Road to drive in, is also a major concern. “This is a busy road with 40-mile-per-hour cars going by. We really can’t have cars queued there on the side,” Ms. LaGarenne said.

Speaking on behalf of Project Most, Tara Burke of Lighthouse Land Planning said that the traffic study will be revised, and that her firm will work with the Planning Department to fine-tune the remaining aspects.

Although its application for planning board approval was ultimately again deemed incomplete, Mr. Guinan sounded hopeful. “I thought the feedback from the board was helpful and fair, and we know what we need to do to figure this out and respond,” he said.

Although the board’s June 14 meeting was not a public hearing, Samuel Kramer, its chairman, allowed one concerned neighbor, Kevin Scott, to speak on behalf of a number of others who’d shown up that evening. They “have heavy investments and heavy devotion to this community, and we want to be heard equally,” Mr. Scott said. He invited the board to tour the residential community near the Neighborhood House property.

“Project Most is committed to working with them in good faith, to address all their concerns,” Mr. Guinan said this week.

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