Since the Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund was used nearly seven years ago to purchase the Doscher property next to in Southampton Village, the historic building and the land it sits on has lain dormant, and now Mayor Mark Epley says the building has become such a public health risk that it needs to come down.
Epley suggested at the Village Board's public meeting Thursday evening that Southampton abandon any future plans of restoring the building and raze it instead — but Trustee Nancy McGann is not ready to see the building go.
“The restoration costs on the building are substantial, a million and a half dollars just to restore it,” Epley said, adding that he'd rather the village spend its money on other projects. He said the building is attracting rodents and poses a health issue. “I think we need to take it down.”
McGann said she wants to find the money to restore the building. “I have such ideas for that building,” she said. “We could turn that into a youth and senior center.”
Epley noted that a restoration and usage plan must be developed before the village can seek to use CPF money. And because it is a Community Preservation purchase, there are limits on what the village can use the property for.
But McGann said the building is beautiful and the village should exhaust all possibilities before tearing it down. One option considered in the past that never came to fruition, she said, was to move village offices there temporarily while on Main Street is renovated. She said that in Nassau County old buildings have to restored to the degree that they a "breathtaking" and are now being used as municipal buildings.
Epley said village offices are not a possibility because of CPF restrictions and noted that the Parks Department was using the building for a time and was kicked out for that reason.
During the Southampton Village Center Master Plan development process, consultant Stanton Eckstut foresaw the Doscher property belonging to an arts district.
McGann said lockers could be put in the building for children and families who are using the Agawam Park playground. Epley said one idea is to open up the wall that separates the park from the Doscher property to expand the playground and picnic area, and perhaps put in an amphitheater or canoe launch for .
Epley said the Doscher house was used as a residence up until it was sold. But the building has an earlier, seedier past. "The original use of that building was a brothel," he said.
According to town records, the 1.6 acre Doscher property was purchased in 2005 for $3.1 million from Peter and Martha Jane Doscher.
The Town Board authorized the purchase unanimously with a July 12, 2005, resolution that stated that acquiring the property affords the opportunity to increase public parklands in Southampton Village.
"I think it's time," Epley said. "We really either have to put together a plan and do something with it and take action on this building, or we need to take it down."
"Save it or sink it," Trustee Bill Hattrick added.
What would you like to see happen with the Doscher property? Share your ideas by leaving a comment below.
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