The campus is currently in a residential zone, leaving the door open to the land one day being used for houses — but newly proposed legislation would slam that door shut.
New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. visited the Southampton Town Board April 13 during a work session to explain how the town can make sure the the college campus always remains a college campus.
Thiele said he recently came across the city of Ithaca’s zoning ordinance, which includes a university zoning district for its Ithaca College and Cornell University. “I had one of those ‘eureka’ moments,” he said.
Legislation he worked on in collaboration with state Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle and Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, modeled after the Ithaca law, aims to preserve higher learning in Southampton Town.
“You would be zoning the property for the use it has been put to for the last 50 years,” Thiele said. “We’re not really talking about radical change in what is, but I think we’re demonstrating commitment of what we’d like to see in the future”.
And it’s not only Stony Brook Southampton that the town has to be vigilant about, Thiele reminded the board. “As I often have to tell people, the is actually in the town of Southampton,” he said.
In addition to academic buildings, dormitories and libraries, “affiliate enterprises” such as hospitals, theaters and laboratories would be permitted in a university zone. Special exception uses would also be provided for the coffee shops and food courts typical to a college campus.
Thiele said the notion of preserving the Stony Brook Southampton campus' academic use has been floated for some time.
“It goes back to the days when Long Island University owned the campus,” he said.
LIU opened the school in 1963 under the name Southampton College. But in 2005, LIU announced the college would close.
Thiele said the future use of the campus became part of a Shinnecock Hills hamlet study that never came to fruition.
Worries halted when Stony Brook University stepped up in 2006 to purchase the campus.
“Stony Brook bought it — all was well with the world,” Thiele said. “The college was going to continue.”
But since then, “We’ve gone through some fits and starts with the campus,” he said, referring to when Stony Brook shuttered the dorms and transferred the four-year sustainability degree programs to the main campus. “Again there was uncertainty about what the future of the campus was going to be.”
Thiele noted that new activity is starting at Stony Brook Southampton, including the expansion of the world-class fine arts program to include film and theater. “Hopefully, there will ultimately be an undergraduate program in the arts.”
And a $7 million to $8 million marine science laboratory is expected to break ground by year’s end, he said. Summer programs in oceanography are being planned for high school students, and the dorms will open this fall for a Semester by the Sea undergraduate program.
“There are the ongoing negotiations with and Stony Brook about an affiliation agreement that, hopefully, will lead to a hospital being constructed on that campus, and with a curriculum in health industries,” Thiele added.
There are also plans to establish the , a think tank for the East End, on the campus, and Thiele said incorporation papers were recently filed.
“There a lot of things going on at the campus,” Thiele said.
The Southampton Town Board votes Tuesday evening on whether to schedule a May 22 public hearing on the law.