Apr 29, 2013 5:10 PMBy Michael Wright
EDITOR'S NOTE: An early version of this story, and the version appearing in print in the Western Edition of The Press this week, erroneously reported that the Southampton Town Board had approved the Hampton Bays hamlet study on Tuesday night. In fact, the board adjourned discussion of the proposed study, with plans to adopt it in a month. The Press regrets the error. Below is the corrected story.
After eight years of drafting and redrafting, the Southampton Town Board on Tuesday night took a final look at the 450-page Hampton Bays hamlet study, a long-awaited document that is supposed to serve as the guidebook for future development in the hamlet.
The adoption of the study, which is expected to take place in May, will be the last major hurdle to clear before its extensive recommendations, which seek to oversee the management of land use in Hampton Bays in order to control and mitigate the effects of past and present development, while also shaping future development strategies to lessen their impact on the environment and community character, can be folded into the town’s Comprehensive Plan.
The study will be put through a new round of public vetting by community groups before it is adopted as a rider to the town's Comprehensive Plan.
The study includes more than 100 recommended policies and mitigation proposals to protect the environment, recommendations on curtailing development, and strategies for alleviating some of the stresses caused by high-occupancy housing of converted motels and condominium developments. The recommendations focus on a mixture of zone changes, capital projects, stormwater management and roadway upgrades.
The study, the full text of which is now posted on the town’s website, was drafted by engineering and development consulting firm Cashin Associates. This final draft was crafted by Cashin based on input from hamlet residents gleaned during a series of public comment sessions nearly two years ago.
Town officials and Cashin engineers noted when a draft of the plan was presented to the Town Board in February that many of the concerns raised by the public in those hearings have since been addressed, most notably through the preservation of a 19-acre property that had been targeted for a condo development, called Tiana Commons, and a Planned Development District proposal that seeks to restore the Canoe Place Inn.
“For all the criticism for the amount of time it’s taken ... a lot of what is in there has been undertaken,” Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said.
And still other recommendations are already high on the priority list for town lawmakers. Ms. Throne-Holst said the town is already looking at some of the rezoning recommendations contained in the plan and working on an effort to get Montauk Highway, where it serves as the hamlet’s Main Street, repaved.
The supervisor said she’d also like to “light a fire” under the implementation of plans for Good Ground Park, a 38-acre property purchased by the town in 2003 that is located north of Main Street. The property was earmarked for a sprawling public park and urban renewal effort with scattered commercial development areas. The town dedicated the Vincent J. Cannuscio Trail, which runs through the park space, last year, honoring the former town supervisor and Hampton Bays resident.
The hamlet study will, as it already has, act as a road map and reminder to the Town Board to keep such efforts rolling.
“It’s a good working document,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “It has already served well as a working document during the time it was being developed. Yes, it took a long time to get here, but, as a result of that, it is very thorough. It has been a very useful exercise.”
The study also highlights some of the significant challenges facing the hamlet in the coming years. Residents of Hampton Bays pay the third-highest school taxes in Southampton Town, even though recent demographic studies show there has been a steep increase in the number of hamlet residents living below the poverty line.
A key component to easing such stresses will be reducing the “build-out” in the hamlet. With the amount of undeveloped land relatively low, the study focuses on efforts to curtail the conversion of smaller transient motels into condominium developments or permanent residences, which can add students to school populations. The study recommends new formulas for converting hotel units into residential units, cutting the total number in half.
The study also spotlights the stated desire of hamlet residents to maintain Hampton Bays as a seaside resort area. To that end the study seeks to limit commercial sprawl away from the hamlet’s main business district along Montauk Highway, as well as address water quality issues that could impact the value of the region as a recreational destination. Conversion of paved areas to permeable surfaces, stormwater runoff abatement and designating critical environmental areas where development was tightly controlled should be pursued, the study says.