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Sep 18, 2018 11:35 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Plan To Relocate Montauk Substation Creates New Pile of Concerns

PSEG and the Long Island Power Authority are in talks to buy four parcels of land just south of the Montauk water tower with plans to construct a new power substation. Neighbors have objected, saying that such a facility in a residential neighborhood, adjacent to the Montauk Playhouse, is a poor fit. Dana Shaw
Sep 19, 2018 7:31 AM

Neighbors of the swath of Montauk hillside that the Long Island Power Authority and PSEG Long Island have been eyeing as a possible alternative site for a new power substation are rallying in opposition to the idea, saying that putting a substation near residential neighborhoods and the Montauk Playhouse is a poor choice.

Neighbors say they’ve been told that LIPA is in talks to purchase four lots to the north of the Montauk Playhouse and just south of the Suffolk County Water Authority water tower and pump station, at a price of more than $6 million.

Documents on the Long Island Power Authority website show that the utility has identified four parcels, totaling 6.7 acres, as targeted for acquisition for the construction of a new substation—and that the utility has deemed the acquisition of the lots in and of itself as not causing potential environmental impacts.

The substation itself, the LIPA forms show, would comprise about 1.5 acres of the sloping land, though specific designs have not yet been drafted.

East Hampton Town Planning Director Marguerite Wolffsohn said that representatives from PSEG have told the town that the tallest structure on the property would be 20 feet and that by constructing the facility low on the hill, they hope to be able to screen it from view. Ms. Wolffsohn said the town has asked the utility to produce digital renderings simulating the visibility of the substation were it to be built on the property.

The letter from LIPA engineers says that once the new substation has been designed, it would have to be subject to review under the guidelines of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, though the utility would likely conduct that review itself. Ms. Wolffsohn said the project would have to come before the town's Planning Board because covenants on the four lots that were in the original subdivision of the property would have to be altered. She said that the town would insist that a scenic easement along Flamingo Road remain in place.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said earlier this month that the utility company has pledged to work with the town’s Planning Department and Planning Board on screening and lighting plans, even though the company has long maintained that it is not subject to town zoning requirements.

Those who live in the area near the newly discovered proposal say that the utility’s exemption from zoning means that, in their eyes, they have to halt the plans to buy the land or there will be no recourse for residents.

“Once the land is purchased, it will be hard to stop,” said Shaun de Jesus, who owns property on the west side of Flamingo Road opposite the parcels the utility companies are looking at. “Obviously, people are very concerned. This is a residential neighborhood, not Industrial Road. We are hoping the town can push back on PSEG to find another location or continue with the previous Shore Road site.”

Mr. Van Scoyoc said that shortly after taking office in January he had urged PSEG to reconsider the use of the Shore Road parcel, which LIPA has owned for decades, because of broad concern among the Montauk community about keeping the power station in a low-lying area that could flood in a major hurricane.

The supervisor also said the utility has considered multiple alternative sites in the months since, though it appears the one near the water tower was found to be the most viable.

A spokeperson for PSEG, which contracts with LIPA to operate the electrical grid and supply infrastructure, said that the company has not finalized it's plans for the Montauk substation.

"PSEG Long Island is still evaluating sites that could accommodate a new LIPA substation to support future reliability," Elizabeth Flagler of PSEG said. "At this point we’re in discussions and no firm decisions have been made."

The four parcels that LIPA and PSEG are considering are at 66 and 68 Fairmont Avenue and 20 and 22 Fenwick Place. They are owned by two limited liability companies, Equitable Montauk LLC and Rosalie Montauk LLC, according to Suffolk County records.

Both entities are connected to Ralph C. Macchio and his wife, Rosalie Macchio, who own numerous properties throughout Long Island under similarly-named LLCs. They are the parents of actor Ralph Macchio, who also owns a home in Montauk.

The lots are zoned for residential development only.

Neighbors say they have been told that the Macchios, who purchased the four hillside lots in the late 1990s, have agreed to a sale a price of $6.2 million for the lots—though none could identify the source of the price they had been told.

“All we know for sure is that this has gone a lot farther than any of us realized,” said Tom Ciccariello, who owns three properties immediately abutting two of the Macchios’ properties. “What’s really pissed people off is that the Town Board knew about it and has kept it quiet. They should be saying to PSEG that they have to try harder to find a place that is going to be suitable.”

Mr. de Jesus said that an online petition opposing the hillside location has about 700 signatures.

At a Town Board work session last week, Mr. Ciccariello noted that the Playhouse is home to one of Montauk’s most popular day care centers and is about to embark on a multimillion-dollar expansion to add, among other things, swimming facilities that will draw more young people.

Mr. Ciccariello noted that all the rooms on the north side of the Montauk Manor also look down on the site from above and that it would be essentially impossible to screen the facility from their view.

“These are properties that are on a main road, and I don’t care what PSEG or the town says, there is no way you are going to screen a 60,000-square-foot power station,” Mr. de Jesus said.

The critics of the hillside site say that the original plans for the substation in the industrial zone along Shore Road would make more sense, despite concerns about flooding.

The town has proposed several times in recent years that the planned new substation be moved to a spot near the town dump off Montauk Highway, which sits on the highest hill in the hamlet, but the utility has said the site was unsuitable for its needs.

A private developer has already started construction of a battery storage facility on an adjacent property that was chosen—and approved by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board—largely because of its anticipated proximity to the planned new substation.

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oh well, we paid for that mistake. What next???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Sep 19, 18 10:18 AM