East Hampton Adopts 4-Year Commercial District Study Into Comp Plan

Montauk residents participating in the hamlet study charettes in 2016. The recomendations born out of the hamlet studies for the town's five hamlet business districts were adopted into the town's Comprehensive Plan last week. Michael Wright

The East Hampton Town Board last week unanimously adopted the five long-term planning documents collectively referred to as the Hamlet Study into the town’s Comprehensive Plan, after four years of working with residents and consultants.

The study, which kicked off in 2016, compiled a package of recommendations for each of the town’s unincorporated business districts that will guide thinking on how commercial development should be steered in coming decades. A parallel study of the actual economics of each district is ongoing.

Of particular interest were the studies in Wainscott, where the idea for a detailed business district planning study was born and where residents are eager to see their highway-side business district made more welcoming and walkable; and in Montauk, where the consultants focused largely on how the hamlet’s two commercial districts might adjust to anticipated sea level rise and the redevelopment of several large and largely underutilized parcels.

The focused look at hamlet business districts itself was a recommendation in the last update of the town’s Comprehensive Plan in 2005.

“I think this will help solidify and set our path for the future of East Hampton in a way that preserves our quality of life,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said at the May 7 meeting of the Town Board. “I’m really pleased with the outcome.”

The town paid Massachusetts planning consultants Dodson & Flinker and Lisa Liquori, the town’s former planning director and leader of the 2005 Comprehensive Plan update effort, more than $365,000 over the last four years to lead the study and draft the recommendations adopted into the plan this week.

Each hamlet’s package of guidelines addresses the current makeup of its sometimes scattered commercial properties, their potential future uses and possible ways that redevelopment could be steered to better aesthetics, efficiency and accessibility through zoning changes or incentives.

Mr. Van Scoyoc applauded councilwoman Sylvia Overby for shepherding the study through the last four years of public meetings and detailed tinkering with various drafts.

“I’ve said over and over that the reason this took so long is that everybody kept wanting to comment, which is tremendous,” Ms. Overby said of the more than a dozen public discussions of the plan since its first drafts were presented to the board in 2017 — including a raucous meeting in Montauk last year at which a group of residents who said they had been largely unaware of the study, some three years into the process, objected to a suggestion in the study that some hotels should be removed from the hamlet’s oceanfront and built on higher ground. “We got lots of participation, so it took us a lot longer to make sure everybody’s comments were part of this plan.”