TO: Joseph Shaw, Editor, The Southampton Press
FROM: Rainer Greeven, Chairman, Executive Committee -Southampton Association
Dear Mr. Shaw,
The Southampton Association was pleased to re-engage the nationally recognized retail consultant Bob Gibbs to review his 2013 Study as it relates to the recent proposal to introduce retail as an additional use along North Sea Road. Mr. Gibbs makes 4 main points in his argument against the retail overlay in his executive summary:
TRAFFIC: traffic alone should be reason not to add additional car trips and turns along North Sea Road. The Post Office is sufficient evidence of the impact of higher frequency uses in this corridor. Slower access to the Village Center can only hurt businesses there and push more cars onto adjacent residential streets. Widening the street to add more turning lanes would only succeed in making this important gateway more like County Road 39 and detract from our small town character, one of our greatest and possibly most endangered assets.
COMPETES WITH VILLAGE CENTER: Gibbs is emphatic that any potential retail demand can easily be absorbed into our Village Business District. With a high year-round retail vacancy rate, reports of declining sales, and brick and mortar shopping in decline nationally, any temptation to move away from our full commitment to the Village Business District should be avoided.
EXTENDING “HIGHWAY TYPE USES” WILL FURTHER ERODE “VILLAGE CHARACTER”:
A move towards retail along North Sea Road will increase pressure to build square one-story structures with more parking, exterior lighting and signage, along with accompanying street widenings for turn lanes and traffic lights. These changes, which will come incrementally, will further erode our Village small town character.
A bright spot for the Village is the renewed consumer enthusiasm for “place” and “authenticity”. As more and more sales go on-line, brands and consumers are attracted to Southampton Village precisely because it still has a (rare) sense of small town authenticity and is a place to visit and stroll. Further commercial development leading into town (as we have all too sadly suffered along County Road 39) will continue to erode our small town historical character – one of the main reasons people love Southampton!
IMPACT ON RESIDENTIAL: The highest and best use in the Village remains residential. The best way to support our residential neighborhoods is with a compact, attractive retail core and quiet, tree-lined and bikeable residential streets. Additional commercial development along North Sea Road threatens to detract from neighboring streets with additional car trips. With the best of intentions, we could end up with empty commercial buildings and reduce the opportunity for North Sea Road to become a leafy residential “gateway” street, such as Hill and North Main Streets.
Southampton Village, founded in 1640, has the largest number of 100+ year old retail establishments in New York State and the most charming Main Street on Long Island. It is not an overstatement to say that our Village Center and adjacent residential streets are a regional treasure which we should do everything in our power to protect. We should follow the sage advice of our own 2013 Village Master Plan and encourage commercial development in the Village Center and avoid it outside the walkable Village Business District. Further, we should take advantage of this recent focus to continue implementation of the Village Center Master Plan by evaluating how we can improve parking, landscaping, and traffic flow in the Village Business District and work with businesses to improve retail sales.
To date, there has been no logical or credible argument to support this zoning change. The Southampton Association cannot support zoning initiatives that dangerously crowd our Village streets, detracts from our existing Village Business District and ignores the charming residential nature of our community. Please don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg!
August 29, 2016