Southampton Town planners gave the an update last week on the on the town’s study of the County Road 39 corridor — including suggestions to put further restrictions on building sizes and to require that highway businesses put in green spaces and trees.
Assistant planning and development administrator Freda Eisenberg explained that the plan is not to attract more people to County Road 39, but to help move traffic along and reinforce its use as a highway.
“We want safe and efficient travel through the corridor,” she said. “It should look good, but the corridor is not a destination itself.”
Eisenberg said that, as a major artery in town, County Road 39 serves a valuable function that should be maintained, but improvements need to be made to enhance its look and traffic movement and performance.
The maximum building size along the highway has already been downsized from 20,000 square feet to 15,000, Eisenberg pointed out, though she said taking it down another notch, to 10,000 square feet, may be better suited to a semi-rural resort area.
The study also considers capping the amount of a building lot that can be paved over, by setting a maximum impervious surface limit. While limits exist on how much of a lot can be built on, “that doesn’t prevent you from paving the rest of it,” Eisenberg said.
The limits would be complemented by green space requirements, including a tree for every eight parking spaces and tree placement designed to screen merchandise from the highway.
Greener lots would also be more sensitive to the environment by capturing storm water on site and letting the ground filter it, Eisenberg said. Requirements might include swales to capture even more runoff.
Design guidelines would include requiring building façades to face the highway and parking spaces to be situated behind or to the side of buildings. Trucks, which may act as mobile billboards for the businesses, would have to be parked out of sight of the highway.
But no matter what new zoning laws are implemented after the County Road 39 study is completed, there will be existing structures with grandfathered rights, Eisenberg noted. “Like a lot of other areas in the town, there is already a lot of development.”
She said lawmakers might want to consider limiting grandfathered rights so when properties are redeveloped they will conform better to current zoning.
To get businesses in line with the new County Road 39 vision, planners suggest the town considers establishing a revolving loan fund for site improvements, preservation and redevelopment activities. Eisenberg said a business improvement taxing district would also be considerd.
To address speeding on County Road 39, Eisenberg said planting tall narrow trees on either side of the highway will create a visual sense of narrowing, so motorists will slow down. The trees could also screen sound barriers, which are also being considered.
And though town planners do not want to encourage pedestrians to come to County Road 39, Eisenberg said there are already pedestrians using the highway and safety measures should be put in, such as enhanced crosswalks and signals and bus stops.
Eisenberg said a Suffolk County plan to put new shoulders on the highway — the shoulders were eliminated in 2008 when the highway was widened to accommodate a second eastbound lane — has gone from a long-term plan to even more long term, considering the state of the economy.