A recent survey showed Hamptons Bays residents want outdoor dining,...

A recent survey showed Hamptons Bays residents want outdoor dining, a farmers market, more landscaping and a performing arts center developed in the downtown.

Credit: Gary Licker

Hamptons Bays residents envision their downtown of the future featuring outdoor dining, a farmers market, more landscaping, wide sidewalks and a performing arts center, according to a recent survey.

Cafes, diners and sit-down restaurants topped the list of types of businesses people would prefer, followed by bookstores, gourmet food shops, a bakery and clothing and accessory shops.

More than half of those who answered the municipal survey also said they want apartments above those stores, with 63% saying that housing should be for year-round residents.

Traffic, vacant storefronts and higher property taxes topped the list of concerns about the negatives that revitalization could bring. 

Southampton Town officials conducted the survey last month to gauge the community's appetite for revitalizing the hamlet's downtown business district. Nearly 88% of respondents said the town should continue to focus on improving the area.

“I was getting somewhat discouraged that maybe we should just give up and not try to revitalize downtown Hampton Bays,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said at a town board meeting Thursday. “But overwhelmingly this survey is saying ‘No, don’t give up. Keep at it. Get it right.’ ”

Close to 1,200 people, nearly all Hampton Bays residents, opined on the current state of the downtown, with about 73% of respondents saying that making downtown more vibrant should be a goal.

Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone said the survey was meant to provide guidance on whether the community supports revitalization efforts. Schneiderman said talks of revitalization have spanned “for as long as I can remember.”

The survey closely followed the town abandoning its Hampton Bays Downtown Overlay District — a controversial zoning change officials hoped would spark investment in the area, boost new businesses and lead to a more walkable downtown.

The plan faced community pushback on issues that included the potential height of buildings and a proposed bypass road. Hampton Bays resident Gayle Lombardi filed a lawsuit against the town in 2020 seeking to annul the district’s adoption due to concerns that included environmental issues.

A state Supreme Court judge sided with Lombardi in 2021 and the town filed an appeal as it sought to redo an environmental review and address other concerns the judge raised. The board ultimately decided to abandon the overlay district and start fresh.

Schneiderman said this week that he has held listening sessions and focus groups to gather feedback in addition to the survey. 

Schneiderman told Newsday zoning changes would be needed in order to move away from higher-density development like big-box stores and pave the way for the boutique stores and cafes that people want, with "the kind of character you might see in Sag Harbor or Greenport or East Hampton Village."

The board plans to apply for a state Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, which Riverhead won in 2022, to support the potential redevelopment.

Survey results are available on the town's website.

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