The Southampton Town Board voted 4-0 Tuesday afternoon to approve new “optional” zoning in Riverside, where the town has been engaged in an 18-month-long effort to revitalize the hamlet.
The board also approved the Riverside Revitalization Action Plan and zoning map amendments to the town master plan, as well as the the environmental impact study for the project. The new zoning is optional, meaning that landowners can chose to keep their existing zoning if they want.
The approval means the development project can go forward from a zoning standpoint, although Kyle Collins, the town’s planning and building administrator, said it’s only an initial step in the overall plan.
“None of this is going to happen unless we get a sewage treatment plant,” he said.
The sewage treatment, which can cost multi-millions, is a requirement because of the proximity to the Peconic River and Pine Barrens, along with the high water table, which otherwise makes large-scale development difficult.
Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who is stepping down at the end of this year to run for Congress, called the vote “a dream come true” for her.
“This was exactly what I wanted to see done during my time as supervisor,” she said. “So many of us felt that If we didn’t do something that really mattered for a part of town that really needed it, our job was only half done.”
Jay Schneiderman, a longtime county legislator and former East Hampton Town supervisor, will replace Ms. Throne-Holst in January.
The redevelopment plan calls for an optional overlay zone that will allow apartments on the upper floors of buildings with retail or restaurants on the ground floor.
It also gives greater building density and height to commercial properties closer to the traffic circle and rewards property owners who consolidate smaller properties into bigger ones with additional development density.
The town had hired Plainview-based planner/developer Renaissance Downtowns in early 2014 to be “master developer” for Riverside.
Renaissance is not paid anything by the town and will only make money if it can develop property in Riverside, according to Sean McLean, the Renaissance vice president, who is a Flanders resident. The town will make about 10 acres near the state police barracks available for Renaissance to purchase and Renaissance will work with private property owners who are interested in developing their land.
The development effort was named Riverside Rediscovered. It used the Internet, drop-in visits to the office and public meetings to gather input from residents on what type of development they’d prefer to see in the hamlet.
Siris Barrios, a liaison to Riverside Rediscovered who was out of town Tuesday, appeared at the meeting via video phone from Ecuador to support the plan.
The plan’s own impact study estimates that its proposed zoning would result in an additional 2,267 dwelling units in Riverside and would add about 28 more students to the school district per year over 10 years, raised concerns from some speakers.
That part of the plan faced opposition from some residents of nearby Flanders in recent months, but no one voiced opposition at Tuesday’s meeting.
Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, who is leaving office at the end of the year to become a county legislator, voiced some cautions about the project Tuesday.
“This plan is very far reaching and requires considerable funding sources, particularly with regard to sewer treatment, before any of it can be realized,” she said. “It’s my main concern we not grant additional (housing) density and create more of a problem for this neighborhood that so desperately needs improvement.”
She asked for assurance that Renaissance would remain committed to the project in the future, something Mr. McLean and Renaissance CEO Don Monte said they were committed.
Vince Taldone, the president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, told Ms. Fleming that the community would be looking to her as a county legislator to come up with some funding for the project, specifically sewage treatment.
“We send bundles of money to Hauppauge, it’s time for a little to come back to help support our need to protect groundwater, to develop the community, create the jobs and cure some of the social inequities that are out there,” Mr. Taldone said.
Photo Caption: Southampton Town officials are hoping new Riverside zoning, adopted Tuesday, will help eliminate scenes like this in the future. (Credit: Tim Gannon)