The received an update Thursday on an ongoing land use study and access management plan for County Road 39, a major thoroughfare that has been the source of much traffic-based vexation — with residents crying out for a long-term vision.
Jeff Murphree and Freda Eisenberg of the town's planning and development department, public transportation and traffic safety director Tom Neely, as well as representatives from ADLIII Architecture PC and Ronald Hill of Dunn Engineering delivered a status report of the land use study. Murphree explained that the group is getting to the end of an advisory committee review process.
"It's a work in progress," he said, adding that the hope was to gather feedback from the town board.
The plan was put in place in 2008, coinciding with the enactment of a now-lifted moratorium designed to give the corridor some breathing room from development while experts — and the community — weighed in on County Road 39's future.
Eisenberg said through both phases of the land use plan thus far, representation from groups including the Southampton-Shinnecock Hills-Tuckahoe and Water Mill citizens advisory committees has been invaluable, with stakeholder interviews a critical component of the process.
The goal of the corridor study, she said, was to ensure County Road 39 remains "a place where people travel safely and efficiently in a well-maintained and landscaped manner, facilitating movement."
But, Eisenberg emphasized, the goal is not to develop the corridor as a hamlet and village center. "It is not a destination in itself."
Five categories of recommendations and implementation strategies were given, including zoning, design standards and guidelines, infrastructure improvements, open space and environmental protection, and suggested local government action.
Highlights of the draft's recommendations include refining building setbacks as a tool for improving the appearance and function of the corridor. The proposal calls for establishing an optimal minimum frontyard setback requirement. The existing 50-foot standard should be increased, Eisenberg sad, to provide for the eventual implementation of Suffolk County's long term plan, which proposes widening the road to provide shoulders.
County Road 39 was widened in 2008 to add a second eastbound lane, which tremendously reduced morning traffic to Southampton Village and points east.
Rear and side yards were also discussed Thursday. A suggestion was put on the table that would call for a maximum gross floor area of 15,000 square feet per building or complex in the highway business zoning district. Currently, a number of businesses on the corridor exceed this number. The suggestion reflects growing concerns of community members that the size of new buildings on County Road 39 detract from the area's bucolic rural charm. Another concern was outdoor displays of boats and other items that detract from the flow of the corridor; buffers were discussed.
Councilman Chris Nuzzi suggested that standards be applied with some "flexibility."
And Councilwoman Bridget Fleming asked what part the business community has played in the process, strongly suggesting that economic development be encouraged. She also noted the empty storefronts on County Road 39.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst agreed and suggested establishing incentives for businesses.
Murphree said it's a fine line, as any retail use will compete with businesses already struggling in the village of Southampton.
Fleming urged the input of Southampton Village business owners. "Economic development is huge and is going to clash with any design changes if we don't have a sense of vitality in the area," she said.
Another issue revolves around improving visual gateways to the corridor — and streetscape upgrades that include safe pedestrian travel and crosswalks.
"One size doesn't fit all along County Road 39," concluded Murphree.