The Southampton Town Board is once again considering what the future site of the Westhampton Community Center should be.
At a work session last week, board members and town officials discussed the condition of the current community center, in a former American Legion building on Mill Road, and what the possibilities are for renovating that building or selling it and relocating the center.
Board members discussed the possibility that, if the town chooses to sell the property—which is currently zoned for residential development—the building could be rezoned to allow for a commercial use, since all of its immediate neighbors are commercial businesses.
With essential repairs to the current building, including a replacement of its foundation, likely running upward of $350,000, board members looked at the possibility of selling the building and constructing a new one on land owned by the town adjacent to Westhampton Beach Elementary School. The property was once targeted for a larger community center with a public swimming pool.
The town purchased the current community center in 1987 with a deed restriction that gives the American Legion post the rights to use the building for events and storing memorabilia, according to Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray.
The town owns two properties near the elementary school, totaling some 6 acres. Part of the property was purchased through the Community Preservation Fund, and part was bought with money from the general fund. The original plans were to use the entire property for the 10,000-square-foot community recreation center with a swimming pool.
That plan, known as the Southampton Aquatic Recreation Center, or ShARC, would have cost $20 million and was shelved amid the economic downturn in 2009. But board members said it may be possible to still use a portion of the property for a smaller community center.
With the recreation component dropped, CPF bylaws would mean that only the land purchased with general fund monies could be used for the construction of a community center.
Councilman Chris Nuzzi said that the board will need to do a close analysis of the costs associated with moving the center, and what the possibilities for selling the property may be. He noted that the rights of the American Legion to use the community center must also be considered.
“We’d like to have a discussion about … what the board and the community would like to do, and what to do with the existing property if we’re going to move the community center,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “We have to make sure that if anything is going to happen to the property, either re-use or sale by the town, the Legion group is considered.”
Officials have said that the most fiscally sensible move appears to be to try to sell the current community center property and use the proceeds from the sale to construct a new center on the property adjacent to the elementary school.
The town’s director of municipal works, Christine Fetten, told the board that making repairs to the existing building would be costly.
“Any work you put into it would be very expensive and wouldn’t address the interior issues with the building,” Ms. Fetten said, cataloging the structure’s needs, including a new foundation, an upgraded septic system, more parking, new siding and extensive plumbing upgrades. She said the town could look for state or federal grant funding to help defray some costs if energy-efficient “green” building materials were used, but that the out-of-pocket costs to the town were still likely to be substantial.
Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone asked whether the current community center property would be more valuable on the market if rezoned for office or commercial use, another point officials said they would examine.
“There’s obviously going to be several options for the board to consider going forward,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “Refurbish it or package it up and sell it.”