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Downtown Study Comes Into Focus

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 16:40

The East Hampton Village Board, which is seeking to hire a firm to help tackle the challenges in the village’s commercial district, including the need for sewage treatment, increased parking, and affordable housing, discussed the details of a comprehensive study to be done of the area at a work session last Thursday. 

Billy Hajek, the village planner, presented a draft of a request for proposals from firms that can devise a strategy for overcoming the challenges.

He said that two committees that had been established by the board, one focused on developing affordable housing, and one on revitalizing the downtown, had both been stymied by the same obstacles: the need for more parking and adequate sewage treatment. 

At a board meeting in January, Barbara Borsack, a trustee, pointed out that the village could not safely allow new restaurants to open in the business district without the installation of a sewage system that could handle increased density and reduce the nitrogen that adversely affects ground and surface water.

Concerns about existing septic systems have also scuttled plans to provide more affordable housing in the village by increasing the number of second-story apartments on Newtown Lane and Main Street.

According to the draft request for proposals, the sanitation study must include an analysis of existing sewage flow rates and the potential for growth within the current system. Firms would also be asked to establish whether it is feasible to construct a sewage treatment plant, to provide cost estimates and funding options for such a facility, and to suggest possible locations. “Options should not exclude the possibility of a shared system with the Town of East Hampton,” the proposal says. 

As for affordable housing, firms are asked to identify existing houses and apartments that can be put to such use, to recommend incentive programs for property owners, and to find opportunities to build new housing. 

The parking study would include an analysis of existing facilities, the effects of expanding or redeveloping them, and the effectiveness of existing parking regulations. 

The study would also focus on whether additional zoning regulations would be necessary to make sure redevelopment of the district is compatible with the character of the village. 

The board will vote on the proposal at a meeting on Friday, May 17.

The board also announced a tentative budget of just under $22.9 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year. Becky Molinaro Hansen, the village administrator, said the budget increases spending by $549,000, 2.5 percent over the current budget. Revenues include an additional $362,232 in property taxes, she said, which would put it a little more than $10,000 under the state-mandated tax cap. 

Ms. Hansen said the budgeted expenditures include $108,000 in employee retirement contributions, $192,920 for increased health insurance premiums, as well as Medicare reimbursements for a growing number of retirees, and two new insurance policies: cancer liability benefit coverage for firefighters, which, she said, is a new state requirement, plus cyber liability coverage. 

Money has also been allocated for capital projects such as the restoration of the historic Dominy workshops and the upgrading of the village’s dispatch center. 

The final budget numbers are still being calculated, she said, and a formal presentation of the budget will be held at the board’s next meeting.

A public hearing will also be held that day on May 17 on a proposed law that would allow the village to increase property taxes beyond the state-mandated tax cap. 

In other business, the board approved a special event permit for a summer fair sponsored by the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce that will take place in Herrick Park on Aug. 17 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The chamber will be joining forces with the Artists and Writers Softball Game, which will be held on the same day. 

The board also approved a proposal to apply for an $85,000 grant from Suffolk County, which will be put toward the restoration of the Dominy workshops.

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