The master developer that has been attempting to devise an ideal layout for the future of Riverside—including architecture styles, business models and community ideas—handed in the first draft of an action plan to the Southampton Town Board earlier this month.
The draft will be presented by Renaissance Downtowns, the master developer hired last April, and discussed by the Town Board at a work session today, Thursday, April 30, at 11 a.m. in Town Hall.
Last week, Sean McLean, vice president of planning and development for the Plainview-based developer, presented an outline of the draft to residents of Riverside Rediscovered, the community group created to run parallel to the developer in order to give residents the opportunity to create a list of what they would like to see replace the empty storefronts, rundown buildings and litter strewn throughout Riverside.
The action plan presented last week, which is also being reviewed by the Town Board before today’s meeting, outlines an optional overlay zoning code, which gives developers and business owners freedom to decide if they want to develop their property according to the current zoning or the new code, which incorporates mixed-use zoning in certain areas of the hamlet.
The optional zoning code, referred to as the Riverside Overlay District, does not have an expiration date, Mr. McLean explained, meaning that businesses and property owners can choose to opt in at any time.
“They can choose never to opt in to the new zoning,” he said. “No property owner loses their rights. No conditions or hardships are put on them through this process, but when they opt in to the new zoning code, they opt in to all of the conditions of increased environmental sensitivity … and also policies that would require local hiring, local jobs policies and local contracting policies for jobs in the area.”
“Those types of things are very important,” he continued, explaining that part of Renaissance Downtowns’ mission is to develop areas and incorporate the most high-tech, green technology available. The other goal of the revitalization effort is to create a walkable downtown area.
Renaissance broke the hamlet into six zoning districts. All of the properties and businesses in the hamlet were considered when drafting the action plan, but Mr. McLean explained that a few of the single-family home and rental communities are not expected to be redeveloped into mixed-use properties.
“We want entrepreneurship. We want organic growth,” Mr. McLean said. “We want creativity in the market, but they’re going to have to follow regulations to make sure that the identity of Riverside remains constant and the quality of construction materials and architecture is consistent.”
The first zone, called the Riverside Hamlet Center, situates itself around the traffic circle and expands about a quarter-mile out. Mr. McLean said Renaissance pictures the Hamlet Center with the tallest buildings with the greatest variety of mixed uses, which could include retail stores, hospitality businesses, cultural and entertainment uses and residential apartments. The layout, he said, will include off-street parking and wide sidewalks so that shoppers and residents can park and walk from shop to shop.
The Hamlet Center would also include walkways to the riverfront, he said.
The second zone, or the Riverside Hamlet Neighborhood, would include restaurants with outdoor seating, shopping, office space, upper-floor apartments and community utility and food production areas. It would be within walking distance of the Hamlet Center zone. Mr. McLean noted that early research suggests that the Riverside, Northampton and Flanders communities could support a 12,000-square-foot grocery store, something that residents have spent years lobbying for.
The density of each district decreases with the distance from the traffic circle.
The third district, located between one-half and three-quarters of a mile from the traffic circle, is the Special District, which proposes residential neighborhoods and lower-impact uses for businesses.
The other district focused on homes is the Riverside Suburban District, which would maintain the suburban character of the existing neighborhoods and allow higher densities than current zoning.
The final two districts in the draft, called the Gateway and Waterfront districts, focus on creating a better transition to Riverside by alleviating traffic and opening up space along the Peconic River and adding businesses along the water.
If the draft is adopted by the Town Board, a State Environmental Quality Review will have to be conducted on the entire action plan. The process will include public hearings as well as studies to see how the proposed change of use would impact the environment and quality of life in Riverside.