The Southampton Town Board approved two resolutions with divided votes at Tuesday night’s board meeting on issues closely watched in Hampton Bays.
The five-member board approved the installation of a new synthetic turf infield on a baseball field at Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays in a 3-2 vote, with Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni and Councilwoman Julie Lofstad voting no. The turf field is expected to cost about $184,000 and the contractor will be LandTek Group Inc. of Amityville. The project will be financed using funds from the parks improvement line of the town budget.
Additionally, in a 4-1 supermajority vote—only Ms. Lofstad was opposed—the Town Board approved a two-year extension of a special zoning designation for a proposed senior housing complex in Hampton Bays calling for the construction of 50 senior citizen condominiums on Montauk Highway. The special zoning on the property, called a planned development district, or PDD, expired in 2010, but now will expire in February 2020.
The applicant, RTW Associates LLC of Hampton Bays, had requested that the PDD be extended last month after the Town Board failed to hold the necessary public hearings to revert the zoning of the nearly 8.3-acre property, which sits just east of Allomara Road, back to highway business. The company plans to sell the property to an undisclosed party that has the money to develop the 55-and-older community. It had never requested an extension of the PDD prior to its expiration in 2010.
The approval of the artificial turf infield at Red Creek Park came despite concerns that the rubber it utilizes may present a health risk for children and adults playing sports on the surface, with fears that carcinogenic chemicals can leach out of the crumbs—referred to as “outgassing”—in high heat situations.
Kristen Doulos, Southampton Town’s Director of Parks and Recreation, oversees facilities at Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays, and said at a town board work session last week that Mother Nature has not been kind to the field. Particularly bad weather this spring has forced constant game postponements and cancellations—so frequent, in fact, that players often check in with Ms. Doulos before packing up their gear and heading to the field. Cancellations have become so frequent that enrollment in the adult men’s softball league is down, Ms. Doulos said last week.
Replacing the natural grass field with turf—which uses crumb rubber infill made from old tires—will help lower the $10,000 annual maintenance costs for the field, which is used five or seven times each week and requires maintenance two or three times per week, Ms. Doulos said.
Multiple studies have proven inconclusive, and more studies are ongoing, including one in the works by the Environmental Protection Agency. But by and large, installing synthetic turf fields has been a booming business for companies like LandTek, who have installed the fields at high schools across the country at a rapid rate, including in East Hampton, Southampton, Hampton Bays and Westhampton Beach. Residents in Sag Harbor were a notable exception, resoundingly voting down a proposal to install a synthetic turf field at the school in the fall.
Ms. Doulos said that she has not heard of any concerns from local residents about installation of synthetic turf at Red Creek, and added that many people have told her they would welcome the change.
“I feel comfortable moving forward with this project,” Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said at the board meeting, moments before authorizing LandTek to install the turf.