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Nov 2, 2017 2:47 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Considering Historic District In Downtown Bridgehampton

David Wilcox, the director of town planning, left, and Kyle Collins, town planning administrator, during Thursday's work session. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Nov 7, 2017 11:49 AM

Downtown Bridgehampton could become the first New York State-recognized historic district in unincorporated Southampton Town if a proposal by Supervisor Jay Schneiderman proves successful.

Mr. Schneiderman has launched discussions to include the hamlet’s business district on the State Register of Historic Places—which already includes parts of Quogue, Sag Harbor, Sagaponack and Southampton villages—to help preserve the history of the hamlet.

He noted that he was “surprised” upon realizing that none of the town’s historic districts can be found outside of an incorporated village. He said he decided to start with downtown Bridgehampton because its historic significance is “glaringly obvious.”

“I personally feel there are not enough protections in place,” the supervisor said, adding that he has noticed an increase in new structures being built in Bridgehampton.

To be listed on the State Register of Historic Places, a structure generally needs to have some historic significance or be more than 50 years old. Once it is added to the register, there could be some restrictions for buildings within the district, such as choices on the color of paint, and architectural restrictions on renovations or additions.

Mr. Schneiderman, who said he helped create the Amagansett Historic District nearly two decades ago when he was supervisor of East Hampton Town, explained during last week’s work session that if Bridgehampton doesn’t get added to the state register, he fears the hamlet would eventually lose its “historic touch.”

To become a historic district, an area must contain a high number of historical houses or other structures, according to former Southampton Town Historian Zach Studenroth. An individual building could also qualify to make the register if it is more than 50 years old, features unique architectural designs, or has had notable residents or visitors.

While most of the other Town Board members appeared to agree that Bridgehampton’s older buildings should be preserved, some expressed concerns about the limitations it would place on property owners who wish to update their homes.

Town Historian Julie Greene, who also works as the collections manager, curator and archivist for the Bridgehampton Museum, said it’s important to place some restrictions on property owners within the district to protect the historic buildings. She pointed to Quogue Village’s toothless designation: Officials in that village do not prohibit homeowners from making modifications or even demolishing homes even if they fall within its historic district.

Quogue’s designation functions more like the town’s heritage areas that already dot the municipality—designated sections that contain homes and structures of historical significance. However, heritage areas place no restrictions or covenants on property owners when it comes to possible building modifications.

Other historical districts, including those in Sag Harbor and Southampton villages, mandate that property owners preserve the integrity of their structures.

Though she is awaiting more details, Pamela Harwood, president of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, said this week that she thinks the community would support such an initiative. “I think it’s an intriguing idea,” she added, noting that the proposal will be discussed at her group’s next meeting. “I think the community would welcome it.”

Town officials plan to meet with Bridgehampton residents and business owners to gauge their feelings on the proposed historic district designation, and review more information about the process before moving forward.

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