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Dec 22, 2015 3:43 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Southampton Town Board Approves Plan To Revitalize Hamlet Of Riverside

Sean McLean aand Don Monti of Renaissance Downtowns at Tuesday's meeting.  DANA SHAW
Dec 23, 2015 9:40 AM

Christmas came a little early for proponents of a plan to revitalize the Riverside community, as the Southampton Town Board on Tuesday afternoon unanimously approved an action plan aimed at attracting new businesses and residents through gradual zoning changes.

The plan, known as the Riverside Action Plan, will go into effect in the new year. It will give property owners, residents and businesses alike, the opportunity to choose between keeping the current zoning for their properties or adopting changes via a new zoning plan authorized Tuesday. In total, there are six new zones that will be implemented throughout the hamlet, and individual property owners will have the choice of opting in to the new zoning.

Other parts of the action plan call for the redevelopment of the Peconic River waterfront to include the construction of boardwalks and parks and the creation of additional roads. Another critical component, according to planners, will be making sure that Suffolk County follows through on a proposal to establish a sewer district in the hamlet, one that is needed to accommodate new restaurants and a small supermarket.

The Southampton Town Board unanimously adopted the findings of the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement for the Riverside Brownfield Opportunity Area, the Riverside Revitalization Action Plan, and the zoning code and map amendments to the town’s Comprehensive Plan, all of which were necessary to amend the plan. The board also separately approved the implementation of an overlay zoning district.

The goal, Ms. Throne-Holst has said, is to enhance the overall quality of life in Riverside through beneficial development and adding more job opportunities and affordable housing.

The vote was met with cheers and a standing ovation from the packed Town Board room, where several members of the Riverside community expressed their gratitude for the proposal, saying they were looking forward to a better future for Riverside.

“By adopting the new overlay zoning district, you are helping this community and telling us it is our community,” resident Angela Huneault said. “You are giving this community, three days before Christmas, what they have been waiting 50 years for. I thank you.”

There are several new zones being implemented: the Riverside Hamlet Center, the Riverside Hamlet Neighborhood, the Special District, the Riverside Suburban District, the Gateway District and the Waterfront District. Each property owner will have the right to keep the current zoning or change to the new zoning, but once a switch is made, the property cannot revert back to the former zoning.

During the review process for the plan, which was adopted as a part of the town’s Comprehensive Plan, the town opted to work with Renaissance Downtowns, a private firm that spearheaded the “Riverside Rediscovered” initiative. On Tuesday, the company’s CEO, Don Monti, said he was excited to see the project move forward, noting that a lot of work remains to be done.

“I see this as a beginning of something that will really be spectacular for the town and the community,” he said.

While the adoption on Tuesday allows for changes to be made in Riverside, it will still be up to developers to pitch projects in the area. All projects will still have to go through the town’s review process, though there are expedited procedures in place for the hamlet.

One of the biggest proponents for the plan is Sean McLean, also of Riverside Rediscovered, and a resident of nearby Flanders, who was teary-eyed on Tuesday when it became clear the project would be approved.

“Even if I had to do it for free and in my spare time, I will stay the mother hen on this project for the next 10 years to make sure it happens,” he said, responding to Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, who wanted to ensure that the project would remain a priority for Renaissance moving forward. “It has been a very meaningful, personal process for me, thank you for the opportunity.”

According to Vince Taldone of the Flanders, Riverside, Northampton Association, the plan will do great things for the area, and he is excited to see it go through.

“It has really been an absolute pleasure to see a great developer come to the floor and ask the people, first, what they were asking for, and working with the staff and community for the last year. It has been my pleasure to play a part in it,” he said.

The revitalization of Riverside has been a key project for outgoing Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who in her original campaign for office six years ago ran on a 13-point plan. By having the Riverside project approved, she said she has achieved all 13 of those points, and that it is only fitting the project was approved in her final Town Board meeting.

“This is exactly what I wanted to see done in my time as town supervisor in this town,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “To make something that really mattered for a part of the town that really needed it.”

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Let's see how much of this plan comes to fruition...Good ideas...But as always...execution is this town's biggest downfall.
By Mouthampton (439), Southampton on Dec 22, 15 4:15 PM
1 member liked this comment
That place has been downtrodden since I was a kid in the 60s. Good luck. If you start driving out the poor and the criminal element, you will have the liberals up in arms. They have to go somewhere.
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on Dec 23, 15 6:50 AM
It's just more bs for Riverside. They need millions for a sewer, which there is no plan for yet. Then they need deep pockets to build, which they don't have. They have some really nice pictures, and plans, but no one to implement any of it. They really need to find a developer.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 23, 15 7:29 AM
Great ideas, the area sorely needs some improvement. That being said, there is a criminal element there that is generational and needs to be controlled if they plan to draw in folks to patronize new establishments. Cleaning out the crack heads and prostitutes on the street around the circle would be a start.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Dec 23, 15 8:26 AM
1 member liked this comment