To spur development in Riverside, ‘hiring locals’ incentive

Sean McLean and Siris Barrios of Renaissance Downtowns discuss plans for revitalizing Riverside at Monday's Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association meeting. (Credit: Tim Gannon)
Sean McLean and Siris Barrios of Renaissance Downtowns discuss plans for revitalizing Riverside at Monday’s Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association meeting. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

A private developer hired more than a year ago to help revitalize a section of Riverside has roughly a month left to deliver a final “action plan” to Southampton Town.

And while many of that plan’s details remain to be seen, the company announced Monday that it hopes help to spur development on many of the area’s blighted parcels through a simple exchange: more uses will be allowed on-site in exchange for more jobs for locals. 

Renaissance Downtowns has offered similar incentives in other markets where it has worked, said Sean McLean, its vice president of planning and development. The Southampton Town Board selected the company to be Riverside’s master developer in December 2013.

“As part of all the zoning codes we try to put in place, there’s a community benefits policies portion and most of the community benefits policies are to ensure that local residents get construction jobs, if they want them; that local contractors get construction contracts; and that permanent jobs also go to local residents,” Mr. McLean said at Monday’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

Renaissance Downtowns has been involved in similar revitalization efforts in Huntington Station, Hempstead and the Nassau County “hub” near the Nassau Coliseum.

The Southampton Town Board will ultimately have to approve any new zoning proposed by the private firm. Although Renaissance won’t be paid a fee by Southampton, it will be able to purchase land and develop it in the future, thereby profiting from the plan it creates. Company representatives have also said they can help private landowners find buyers for their properties.

The local preferences would be written into the zoning suggested to Southampton Town and must be adhered to for as long as that zoning is in place, Mr. McLean said.

“The first time that had ever been done in the country was in Hempstead, where we did it, and now it rides with the deed,” he said.

Making the new zoning optional means that if property owners want to retain existing zoning, they can, Mr. McLean said. Renaissance believes most will opt for the new zoning, he said, since the majority of property owners in Riverside haven’t been able to do much with their properties under the current zoning.

The proposed optional zoning would allow things like three-story buildings with ground-floor retail along Flanders Road, which are not permitted now. But it also would come with stricter environmental protection requirements. The area subject to the zoning option would stretch roughly from the former drive-in movie site on Flanders Road to the traffic circle, then south on County Road 104 to around Ludlam Avenue.

Renaissance Downtowns’ final action plan will also need to undergo an environmental impact study that scrutinizes how it will affect traffic, sewage treatment, drainage and flooding in the area.

Any development of the Riverside area will require upgraded sewage treatment, but the specifics of how that will work have yet to be determined, Mr. McLean said. The lack of sewage treatment has been partially blamed by officials for limiting the amount of development that’s occurred in Riverside over the years.

FRNCA president Vince Taldone said he’s concerned that the location of a new sewage treatment system could generate opposition, and possibly litigation, from neighbors.

Mr. McLean said there are new types of sewage treatment plants that can be built under parking lots to make them less conspicuous.

Renaissance plans to work with private property owners to help them develop their properties and also plans to acquire and develop about three acres of land now owned by Southampton Town in the vicinity of the state police barracks. Mr. McLean said this land could be developed as a sewage treatment plant and for parking to serve development planned for private properties on Flanders Road. To date, Mr. McLean said he has spoken to many property owners in Riverside and most are eager to work with him.

The revitalization effort has been dubbed “Riverside Rediscovered” and Siris Barrios, a community liaison hired by Renaissance, has been seeking public input, both in person and through the website, on the types of development residents would like to see in Riverside.

So far, a boardwalk along the Peconic River is the most popular idea, followed by WaterFire on the Peconic — a project being explored in conjunction with Riverhead Town — and “Riverside Row Restaurants.”

[email protected]