Civic members want update on plans for Hampton Bays park

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Members of the Hampton Bays Civic Association are not happy about all the delays in planning their new public park, called Good Ground Park, and shared their feelings with Town Board member Dan Russo, their guest speaker during Monday night’s meeting.

Even though the meeting was held to discuss the Southampton Town Board’s plan to approve a building moratorium in Hampton Bays, many of the two dozen people in attendance at the hamlet’s senior center on Monday were more interested in discussing the town’s plans for the park. The Town Board extended the public hearing on the proposed building ban by two weeks during Tuesday’s meeting.

Marie Mulcahy, a former civic president and current member of the Hampton Bays Beautification Association, told Mr. Russo that the planning process for Good Ground Park has taken far too long.

“It’s dragging too long, Dan,” Ms. Mulcahy said. “When is this going to get finished?”

Mr. Russo explained that the town’s initial plans for Good Ground Park were rejected because town officials did not do a good enough job in meeting the demands of hamlet residents. In February, town officials unveiled their conceptual plans for the 38-acre park, which will be located on the north side of Montauk Highway, just west of Squiretown Road.

Mr. Russo said that Araiys Design, the landscape architects behind the project, were aware that residents wanted a less invasive design. On Wednesday, Timothy Rumph, the president of Araiys Design, said that there are no new plans for the parks in the works at the present time. “We are awaiting direction from the town,” he said.

Mr. Russo said that if the town scales back its original plans, which had called for about 30 acres of woods featuring hiking trails and 8 acres for an oversized and manicured lawn, it might be able to proceed at a quicker tempo. He also said that it is in the town’s interest that the new park reflect the needs of the community.

“That park is supposed to serve this community,” Mr. Russo said. “They should get what they want.”

At the present time, work has been completed on a pocket park on the north side of Montauk Highway, and residents can either access the larger property through that park or via a small gravel access lot off Squiretown Road.

“It’s an interest of mine, personally,” Mr. Russo said, regarding when construction would begin on the main part of Good Ground Park.

Southampton Town purchased the 38-acre property that will feature the future park five years ago, utilizing $3.5 million from its Community Preservation Fund. The pocket park, located just west of the restaurant JT’s Place, opened in 2006.

In January, Suffolk County awarded a $84,000 grant to the Hampton Bays Beautification Association, money that has been earmarked for lighting and the installation of a public walkway that will link the pocket park to the larger recreational venue. In addition, Town Supervisor Linda Kabot has included $1 million in this year’s town budget to finance whatever work needs to be completed.

Meanwhile, another civic member questioned whether or not the park, if and when it is completed, will be open to all town residents or just those living in Hampton Bays. The park, when it is completed, will be accessible to all people, including those who do not reside in the town.

As for the proposed moratorium, civic members stated that they favor the town’s decision to implement a 12-month building ban that focuses on the Montauk Highway corridor. The moratorium is needed to give town planners ample time to complete a Generic Environmental Impact Statement, or GEIS, for the area. The study will take a close look at current and future development in Hampton Bays and offer suggestions on what can be done to ease pollution and traffic congestion while protecting the character of the community.

However, Mr. Russo said this week that the one-year building break might not give planners enough time to complete the study. He noted that the East Quogue moratorium, originally adopted in April 2006 to allow time for an environmental study in that hamlet, was recently extended and will now expire this August.

“It would be a dream to complete the study [for Hampton Bays] in that amount of time,” Mr. Russo said, referring to the proposed 12-month moratorium.

The moratorium will include most of the property along Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays between Jones Road in the west and Peconic Road in the east. The building ban will not apply to development projects that have already been approved by the town, such as Stop & Shop supermarket and the Arborview condominium complex.

Mr. Russo said that a member of the Hampton Bays community will be asked to sit on an ad hoc committee that will be dedicated to monitoring the progress of the environmental study.

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