The angry exchanges resumed on Tuesday when the East Hampton Town Board again discussed Stony Brook Southampton Hospital's planned emergency room annex ahead of a vote on the proposal's environmental impact that is expected next Tuesday.
The board had discussed the facility, to be constructed on the site of Little League playing fields on Pantigo Place in East Hampton, during a Sept. 1 presentation by Eric Schantz, a town planner, the project's architect, and an attorney representing the Southampton Hospital Association, the not-for-profit corporation that operates Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. Along with a declaration required under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, a change in the property's zoning from parks and recreation to commercial-industrial is required to move the project toward construction.
Other matters discussed at the Sept. 1 meeting, including an archaeological review and examination of a traffic study, have apparently been resolved, though not to everyone's satisfaction. The former concerned the site of a Native American burial ground excavated in a residential neighborhood around 600 feet to the east of the site in 1917, a later archaeological study having recommended further investigation. A "phase one report" from an archaeological survey team "verifies what we had known before," Mr. Schantz told the board, finding neither burial sites nor artifacts at the site of the proposed freestanding emergency room.
A 2016 traffic study, when the Planning Department was searching for an appropriate location for the facility, was based on a proposed 33,000-square-foot facility. Its footprint has since been reduced to around 23,000 square feet, changing the traffic calculation.
The newly updated study, said Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, concluded that traffic will be reduced on Montauk Highway, which encompasses Main Streets in the hamlets of Montauk, Amagansett, Wainscott, and East Hampton Village, as well as Pantigo Road in East Hampton, because the emergency room annex will receive emergency traffic that now moves through the town toward the hospital. The only significant concern, he said, was the additional time vehicles will wait to turn left from Pantigo Place onto Pantigo Road. "We have all remaining documents we were waiting on prior to SEQRA review," Mr. Van Scoyoc said.
Mr. Shantz agreed, but Councilman Jeff Bragman, who last week insisted that the board is moving too quickly toward a determination of no significant environmental impact, did not. "I just got the traffic report this morning," he told Mr. Schantz.
A point-by-point review of the 18 questions on an environmental assessment form that Mr. Schantz completed devolved into a prolonged and often-unintelligible shouting match. Mr. Bragman, who noted that the project came before the planning board on July 17, characterized the board's actions as a "rush to a decision" on what will be one of the largest buildings constructed in the town in many years. It seems, he said, "like the board is set to greenlight" the project "with a traffic study that came in this morning."
Mr. Bragman also sparred with Elizabeth Vail, the attorney representing the Southampton Hospital Association, pressing her on various components of the proposed facility and its ability to treat serious medical emergencies.
"You are making this impossible," Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who had sparred with Mr. Bragman at the Sept. 1 meeting, finally said.
The board, with the exception of Mr. Bragman, was clearly inclined to vote in favor of a resolution on Tuesday asserting that the facility would have no significant adverse environmental impact. That, Ms. Vail said, is "cutting it close," as it is the deadline for a SEQRA determination in order for the project to be eligible for a $10 million grant from New York State.