A proposal by a Bridgehampton real estate company to place LCD television screens in the windows of their Main Street office has drawn the attention of members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, as well as Southampton Town councilwoman Nancy Graboski, who sees it as setting a dangerous precedent and disrupting what nine-months of the year is a quiet and attractive downtown.
The company, Sotheby’s International Real Estate, however, sees the screens — which would display houses and properties for sale — as no more offensive than the displays of glossy photographs real estate offices already commonly use.
During its monthly meeting on Monday, August 23, the Bridgehampton CAC unanimously agreed to send a letter of protest to the Southampton Town Board and the town’s zoning board of appeals agreeing with the town’s building inspector that the application should be denied.
According to a letter to Grabowski from Mark Viseckas, senior building inspector, he denied Sotheby’s application for an “illuminated window sign,” deeming it a sign prohibited under the town code. Since his determination, Sotheby’s has made an application to the town’s zoning board of appeals to overrule his decision.
Viseckas’s letter states that Sotheby’s hoped to erect two liquid crystal display (LCD), 48-inch televisions in their windows facing the sidewalk along Montauk Highway.
“Since there are a number of high end real estate services along Main Street that may desire to install similar devices should the variance be granted, one might imagine strolling, or driving, through a Bridgehampton ‘Vegas’ strip in a worse case scenario,” write Viseckas.
“This offers a discreet way to present properties rather than simply have copies of photographs in our windows, which is presently done by Sotheby’s and other real estate brokerages in the Hamptons,” said Debra Reece, an attorney who is also the vice president and brokerage manager for Sotheby’s Bridgehampton office. “This will take us forward.”
Reece acknowledged an application has recently been made to the zoning board of appeals, and said she believed that the Southampton Village offices of Sotheby’s International Realty already feature television screens in their storefront.
Bridgehampton CAC Chairman Fred Cammann said his committee was firmly behind the building inspector’s position.
“The problem with signs is it can be a permanent problem and we agree with the town that we are trying to preserve what Main Street looks like now, and our feeling is, you get into the more elaborate signs and televisions sets and it gets out of control,” said Cammann. “We really do resist anything that is not in the code already. That kind of signage was pretty heavily discussed in our hamlet when the comprehensive plan was made. It just doesn’t seem like there is any reason to change.”
“Obviously, if one guy is allowed to put a horse in the middle of the street, everyone else is,” said Cammann of the precedent a decision like this could make. “We are constantly fighting to prevent people from changing the appearance of the center of our hamlet. It doesn’t help business for everyone – either we have the charm or we don’t have the charm. We are constantly trying to keep the nature of what makes this place appealing alive.”
“This really becomes advertising,” said Graboski on Tuesday. “It is intrusive to the landscape, intrusive to the quiet, rural farming hamlet of Bridgehampton.”
“I would hope Sotheby’s will give this another thought and come to the conclusion that they can market properties as effectively without such an intrusive form of advertising that affects the community character we have all struggled so hard to protect,” she said.