Coastal Retreat a Focus of Town’s New Hamlet Plan

Walkable, workable, safer from sea level rise
Consultants working on hamlet plans for East Hampton Town envision a downtown Montauk in which businesses have relocated landward from breach areas and filled in gaps in present development, while beaches and dunes are rebuilt. Dodson and Flinker, L.K. McLean Associates, RKG Associates, Fine Arts and Sciences

Connectivity and resiliency were the buzzwords in a presentation of updated hamlet-study plans that drew a capacity crowd to East Hampton Town Hall on Tuesday, with an overarching message that future development and redevelopment, consistently adhering to a coherent master plan, represent an opportunity to create a town that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The consultants engaged by the town board to conduct studies and make recommendations for the commercial districts of Wainscott, East Hampton, Springs, Amagansett, and the downtown and harbor areas of Montauk proposed dramatic changes for Montauk, including a coastal retreat in the face of sea level rise. 

In the downtown area, a multi-phase relocation of businesses landward from vulnerable breach areas would be accomplished through voluntary buyout programs, the identification of suitable areas for relocation, and adoption of a transfer-of-development-rights ordinance. Beaches and dunes would be restored to buffer against rising seas, and relocation would fill the downtown area’s vacant spaces.

Throughout the town, the consultants suggested strategically located roundabouts to improve traffic flow, bicycle and pedestrian pathways, walkable village centers, and second-story affordable housing, all of which they said would allow preservation of the respective hamlets’ historical and scenic character. 

In the Montauk harbor area, it was proposed that the loop at the north end of West Lake Drive be abandoned as a roadway and a portion converted to a naturalized shoreline. The town and Army Corps of Engineers would develop a plan to combat erosion of the beach adjacent to the west jetty. Coastal landscape buffers would be created and bulkheads raised and fortified against rising seas. 

These changes, the consultants said, would allow a continued reaping of the economic benefits derived from the town’s status as an internationally known tourist destination while also making it environmentally resilient. 

Peter Flinker of Dodson and Flinker, a Massachusetts consulting firm, and Lisa Liquori, of Fine Arts and Sciences and a former town planning director, presented their findings in the latest step in a multi-year process to guide future development. Feedback from the hamlets’ citizens advisory committees and individual correspondence, both received subsequent to the presentation of draft plans in June, helped to inform the updated recommendations, they said. Each hamlet plan is intended to dovetail with recommendations in the town’s comprehensive plan as well as with adopted plans and policies covering the likes of wastewater management, housing, water quality, coastal management, and energy. 

The consultants encouraged the formation of hamlet business associations, emphasizing that public-private cooperation would be important in achieving goals like connectivity, including of parking lots that would serve multiple businesses and public institutions. 

The town would likely need additional staff to implement the recommendations and required funding and follow-up study efforts, Ms. Liquori said, citing the necessary coordination with outside agencies. Alternatively, Mr. Flinker said, the citizens advisory committees might perform that function.

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, the deputy supervisor, said yesterday that the board’s next move should be a work session to consider the presentation, with officials from the Planning Department on hand. A review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act would follow, and the plan would be refined with further public comment. A public hearing could happen by summer’s end, she said. 

 

Montauk

Along with the recommendations detailed above, Mr. Flinker said that the goal should be to preserve the best aspects of the downtown, harbor, and train station areas while making them more resilient to sea level rise. 

Recommendations for downtown included on-street parking changes and the use of flood-prone areas for parking, one-way traffic on some streets, designated taxi stands, a shared-use path on Main Street, and roundabouts at the eastern end of Old Montauk Highway and the intersection of Main Street and South Essex Street. Year-round housing should be added in second-story apartments, the consultants said, and seasonal work force housing encouraged via adoption of a seasonal housing overlay district. 

At the harbor, a roundabout at the intersection of Flamingo Avenue and West Lake Drive was proposed, as was a pedestrian walkway along the waterfront. 

Wainscott 

Recommendations for the town’s westernmost hamlet include a consolidation of existing parking lots and vacant parcels into a cohesive parking area, allowing fewer curb cuts. Connected sidewalks and paths, and consistent landscaping, would unite the commercial district, they said. 

A roundabout would replace the traffic light at the intersection of Main Street and Wainscott Northwest Road, improving flow, they said. The consultants envision parallel on-street parking, continuous sidewalks, and new street trees, along with raised medians. 

A home improvement zoning district should be created to facilitate relocation of incompatible uses, and the town should work with and explain the benefits of relocation, planners said.

They also suggested the town work with the owner of the former Wainscott Sand and Gravel property and the public to develop a plan for the site. Proposed uses include recreation and open space, home improvement and other businesses, relocated commercial-industrial uses, a solar farm, a shared parking lot, and modest affordable housing, though they acknowledged that the citizens committee, school district, and property owner all expressed reservations about the latter idea. 

A community wastewater system should be evaluated as part of the watershed management plan for Georgica Pond and redevelopment of the former sand mine property, they said. 

 

East Hampton

The consultants offered analyses and suggestions for North Main Street, Pantigo Road, and the sand mine at Springs-Fireplace Road, which is to cease operations within the next few decades. The study has identified the latter location as one of the largest developable areas in the town and a candidate for subdivision with commercial-industrial and residential parcels. 

The town should facilitate work force housing, adding second story apartments in commercial and limited business overlay zones and encourage affordable apartments in residential zones close to commercial areas, the consultants said, as well as advanced wastewater treatment. The creation of mixed-use work force housing on the former Stern’s property on Pantigo Road should also be encouraged, they said, and opportunities exist to create second-story apartments on North Main Street and Pantigo Road.

A new commercial special vehicle permit use should be created and suitable areas for contractors to keep heavy vehicles identified to alleviate noise and disruption in residential areas. Once developed, such vehicles might be kept at the sand mine site. 

On North Main Street, home to the East Hampton Historical Farm Museum and to which the Dominy clock and woodworking shops are to be returned, development should reflect small-town scale, historical character, and pedestrian orientation, the consultants said. 

Property owners on Pantigo Road should be encouraged and incentivized to consolidate parking and reduce existing curb cuts in present and future development. The intersection with Skimhampton Road should be realigned, they said. The standalone emergency room to be operated by Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, for which the town will lease property off Pantigo Road, represents an opportunity to improve traffic circulation, the consultants said.

 

Springs

Commercial vehicle parking use is also important for Springs, the consultants said, to relieve residential areas while accommodating the construction trade industry and independent contractors. 

The Fort Pond Boulevard area has the potential for development over time, and the consultants recommended creation of overlay districts and design guidelines emphasizing its neighborhood character. Bicycle and pedestrian routes should be established there. 

The consultants also envisioned a maritime walking district, a continuous waterfront path crossing public and private land, and suggested the town dock as a waterfront promenade and public park. The Paumonok Path might be linked with the head of Three Mile Harbor, they said. 

Traffic calming and bicycle and pedestrian routes for Springs-Fireplace Road and Three Mile Harbor Road should be considered, along with safe routes to the ocean and bay beaches, scenic areas, and other destinations. Sidewalks on Springs-Fireplace Road should be extended, the Suffolk County Transit bus route improved, and the shuttle bus services that have worked well in East Hampton and Montauk should serve Springs as well, the consultants said. 

Amagansett

Maintaining Amagansett’s scenic, rural, historical, small-town charm, and walkability, along with the farmland north of its commercial center, are the priorities in this hamlet, the consultants said. The hamlet’s municipal parking lot must accommodate more vehicles without encroaching on the farmland bordering it, and time limits would better manage demand. A raised walkway through the lot was suggested. 

Stores on Main Street might be adapted to accommodate second-story apartments while also creating a more cohesive streetscape, though that would require costly advanced sewage treatment, and the hamlet’s citizens advisory committee was cool to the suggestion.

The eastern edge of the hamlet is far more open to potential development, the consultants said, proposing a single district rather than a set of disparate lots, with parking consolidated behind buildings. A new interior roadway, pedestrian plazas and walkways, and new mixed-use structures close to Montauk Highway were proposed, as was a shared-use path along Montauk Highway for bicyclists and pedestrians, and connections to the ocean beach along and within existing roads. 

The Long Island Rail Road station’s parking lot must be reconfigured and expanded, with possible time limits implemented, and the nearby Long Island Power Authority substation better landscaped, they said. 

Residents will have time to digest the proposals, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said at the presentation’s conclusion. “This is going to be an ongoing conversation with the public,” he said, adding that the proposals represent “a great opportunity to improve our quality of life.” 

The town is “a popular place,” he said. “We know our infrastructure barely gets by” through the annual summer influx. “Through this,” he said, “we can address transportation needs, parking, circulation,” as well as wastewater, environmental stewardship, and economic opportunities. 

The presentation, Ms. Overby said yesterday, was “the first time we got to see how we can individualize” each hamlet. “I don’t think everything we saw is going to take hold,” she said, “but certainly, there were good ideas and examples of how we can really get details for each hamlet and keep each as identifiable as possible.”