Building incentives, new sewers are key parts of Riverside plan

Renaissance Downtowns' plans to help revitalize Riverside are expected to be presented to the Southampton Town Board next Thursday. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)
Renaissance Downtowns’ plans to help revitalize Riverside are expected to be presented to the Southampton Town Board next Thursday. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

A year after Renaissance Downtowns signed on with Southampton Town to create a new zoning code aimed at revitalizing Riverside, the time is coming for the company to unveil its redevelopment plans.

The plans — expected to be unveiled next week — hinge on the economically distressed hamlet’s getting a new sewage treatment plant and landowners’ getting incentives to build up their lots in exchange for accepting tightened environmental restrictions. 

The town selected Renaissance Downtowns as its master developer for Riverside in December 2013 but is paying the company nothing. Residents voted to name the revitalization effort “Riverside Rediscovered,” and the project also has had an office on Peconic Avenue with a full-time employee and a website set up for the past year in hopes of maximizing public input on the plan.

Renaissance Downtowns, a for-profit real estate development company based in Plainview, will help landowners develop their property or buy it from them. The company’s potential profits will come from developing the land, according to Sean McLean, vice president for planning and development at the company.

“It’s going to potentially encompass the majority of the developable property in Riverside,” Mr. McLean said, referring to the area covered by the redevelopment plan, which runs from the former drive-in property to the traffic circle on Flanders Road, and from the traffic circle to Ludlam Avenue,on Riverleigh Avenue.


 To spur development in Riverside, ‘hiring locals’ incentive

• Tempers flare as garbage district opponents flood civic meeting

• New Riverside traffic circle has yellow light

The plan that’s being developed for Riverside is what’s known as “form-based” zoning, which incorporates design and architectural guidelines and an overall look for an area into zoning requirements but allows a greater flexibility of uses, according to Mr. McLean. Renaissance is proposing to allow three-story buildings with ground floor shops and upper-floor apartments along the south side of Flanders Road near the traffic circle.

The proposed zoning would be optional for landowners, as Renaissance is gambling that by allowing them additional uses in exchange for tighter environmental regulations, most landowners will take the proposed new zoning to increase their property values.

However, the area’s proximity to both the ecologically-sensitive Pine Barrens and the Peconic River — one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 28 ‘Estuaries of National Significance’ — requires keeping any development in check with extra treatment of added waste.

“None of what we’re proposing happens unless we have sewer treatment,” Mr. McLean said.

Renaissance Downtowns plans to acquire about 10 acres of town-owned land for redevelopment. These lots are land the town acquired through a variety of means, such as tax default, and were not acquired for environmental preservation, Mr. McLean said. Part of this land, near the state police barracks, is a possible location for a sewage treatment plant and municipal parking. However, the location of the sewer plant, as well as who would own and operate it, is something that will be determined through the environmental study process, according to Mr. McLean.

The zoning also proposes requirements that local workers be used both in construction and in permanent jobs at businesses built under the zoning, which some residents see as a key element of the plan.

“We need a very strong emphasis on trying to create an environment where we are encouraging the hiring of local people and minimizing displacement by offering quality housing to people who are living in substandard housing and are already here,” said Vince Taldone, the president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

“Everybody is concerned about displacing current residents,” Mr. McLean said.

The proposed zoning will still need to be approved by the Southampton Town Board, and it will still need to undergo a state environmental impact study, according to Mr. McLean.

A $236,900 state grant that the town acquired for Riverside last year will pay for some of the studies needed for the development plan, Mr. McLean said.

Renaissance has also been trying to gauge public opinion about the types of development residents would like to see in Riverside, according to Siris Barrios, a community liaison for the redevelopment effort.

To date, the two top uses residents have voted for are a walkway and boardwalk along the Peconic River and improved public transportation, she said.

Mr. McLean, a Flanders resident, said the tentative schedule is for Renaissance Downtowns to present the plans for Riverside at the April 30 Southampton Town Board work session.

“We are on target, although crunched, to have the action plan and draft zoning submitted on April 30,” Mr. McLean told the town-appointed Riverside Economic Development Committee last week.

[email protected]