Committee: Give new buildings same old look

Shops along Jobs Lane in Southampton Village Thursday Shops along Jobs Lane in Southampton Village Thursday afternoon. (Feb. 21, 2013) Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

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When a committee started mapping the future of Southampton Village's business district six years ago, they had to consider village growth, sewage treatment and more housing, new parking lots, expanded parks and a thriving new arts district.

And everything in the village had to look just about the way it does today.

That magic, outlined in a 116-page study on the village website, will be the subject of a public hearing on March 14. It could become the blueprint for the village's growth for the next half-century.

And almost everything in the village will look just about the way it does now.

"Our philosophy is to protect the historic aspects of the village . . . when you build something new, you build it like it's old," said Mayor Mark Epley. "People come to our village because it has a certain flavor, [but] many parts are ripe for development. If we don't get in front of it now . . . we see difficulty in the future."

It's more than just old-fashioned facades. The detailed plan requires varied setbacks, different heights, emphasis on large ground-floor windows, and materials and colors that blend with existing buildings.

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And every single new building must have trim or molding or some other element painted white, to match the buildings along Main Street and Jobs Lane.

The plan calls for expanding parks, changing off-street parking requirements to make it easier to build apartments above restaurants and other stores, and creating new streets to ease traffic flow. It also calls for expanded community art activities and for more foot traffic.

New underground sewer pipes will be just as important. "A lot of the zoning is hinged on the development of sewage [treatment] in the village. It will allow second-story residential living on top of the buildings in the business district; and hotels and restaurants require sewage.

"At the moment, even though zoning is in place, in the absence of sewers you will not be able to develop it," explained Southampton Village Planning Commission Chairman Siamak Samii, an architect who led the seven-member planning committee that crafted the redevelopment plan.

Roy Stevenson, owner of Stevenson's Toys and Games on Jobs Lane, said he was pleased with the plan. "They did a good job in examining what the village is all about," he said.

Stevenson heads the village's planning board, and -- while his agency has no connection to the Planning Commission because they are separate bodies with different missions -- deals with village land-use issues.

He said that having residential and commercial uses in buildings and opening the village to more restaurants could help ease the economic pressure pushing property owners to raise rents. Henry Hildreth, whose family has operated a home goods store in Southampton since 1842, said the idea of having people live on top of the stores in the business district will help local business. "People flock to other people," he said.

Hildreth also agreed with the section of the plan calling for an arts center at the old Parrish Museum. "We need something that will draw people to the village in the evening," he said.

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