Strategic retreat from the coastline in Montauk is one of the most notable components of a series of hamlet studies presented to the East Hampton Town Board Feb. 6.
Over the past two years, planning consultants Dodson and Flinker have been meeting with community members in Montauk, East Hampton, Amagansett, Wainscott and Springs, as well as with business leaders throughout East Hampton Town, working to set a blueprint for how the town should manage future development.
The hamlet studies had been mandated in the town’s 2005 Comprehensive Plan.
In addition to a detailed, three-phase plan for coastal retreat in Montauk, their recommendations include developing walkable hamlet centers, affordable housing, public transit and walking trails, encouraging the town’s business community and maintaining the historic and environmental resources that make East Hampton such a successful vacation destination.
Peter Flinker of Dodson & Flinker and Lisa Liquori, a former East Hampton Town Planning Director now working with the firm Fine Arts & Sciences, presented their findings at two public meetings Feb. 6, one at town hall and another at LTV Studios in Wainscott. They are encouraging written public comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s necessary to increase resiliency, with strategic retreat from areas that are going to be wiped out anyway,” said Mr. Flinker of the plans for Montauk. The consultants divided their recommendations for Montauk into three areas — the area surrounding Lake Montauk, downtown Montauk, and the confusing network of infrastructure surrounding the train station, which they envision redeveloping as a welcoming gateway to Montauk.
Downtown, Mr. Flinker suggested the town could encourage the filling in of “gap teeth” in the building patterns along Montauk Highway, and encouraging the motels and businesses in the most threatened flood zones, through a voluntary buy-out program, to move inland.
“Where could the IGA go in the downtown area?” he asked. “We’re looking at making zoning adjustments to incentivize doing that.”
He also suggested, in a second phase of the relocation plan, development rights cold be transferred from the oceanfront hotel properties, incentivizing hotel owners to redevelop other properties just to the north.
“It would allow the dune area to be rebuilt and enhanced, and provide coastal protection for everyone,” he said.
He suggested the flood zones could be used as parking in the summer season, when there are fewer storms that produce flooding downtown. The consultants also recommended improved sewage management downtown.
The third phase would entail further relocation of businesses, moving up the hill along South Essex Street, along with raising Montauk Highway.
“We’re working coastal erosion into all of the redevelopment plan for the downtown area,” he said.
The consultants also recommended raising and fortifying the bulkheads around the town’s commercial fishing dock on the west side of the inlet to Montauk Harbor, and encouraging future development in areas of higher elevation near the dock. They also recommend removing a section of the loop of West Lake Drive along the severely eroding beachfront along Gardiner’s Bay, creating a naturalized bank, which “together with beach formation from feeder beach upstream, dissipates wave energy from storm surges. This landscape also provides a recreational and scenic public amenity,” according to the report.
The consultants have prepared a detailed set of arial images showing the existing buildings overlaid by the FEMA flood zone areas, as well as by projected sea level rise and storm surge impacts, culminating in a series of recommendations for how development could be moved landward throughout Montauk.
Plans for other neighborhoods throughout East Hampton include changing zoning in Wainscott to encourage a core, walkable business area, with a separate zoning district for home improvement supply stores.
To encourage hamlet center redevelopment, they suggested perhaps giving general design guidelines to builders, or perhaps developing a form-based code, requiring a certain style of development in an area.
The plan for sections of East Hampton outside of East Hampton Village include creating a maritime walking district surrounding Three Mile Harbor, with connections to marinas and to the Paumanok Path, which currently runs from Rocky Point to Montauk Point.
Mr. Flinker said recommendations also include better bicycle safety features on Three Mile Harbor Road and Springs-Fireplace Road.
Ms. Liquori said the plan also recommends creating a parking area for commercial trucks on Springs-Fireplace Road. There has been much controversy in Springs in recent years over the large number contractors parking their commercial trucks at their homes in Springs.
The plan also recommends lobbying Suffolk County for better bus service in Springs.
Ms. Liquori said a town-managed shuttle bus service in Montauk has proved successful in the past year, and could be a model for better bus service to Springs.
In Amagansett, they recommended creating parking areas behind buildings, taking cars off the street, and perhaps tightening zoning restrictions.
“There’s a lot of potential growth under the current zoning,” said Mr. Flinker, who recommended “putting a little less than what’s currently allowed.”
“Build something that you like, rather than something that you don’t like,” he said.
Ms. Liquori said a form based code could also be implemented for Amagansett.
In their business study, the consultants recommended the town encourage business development in existing hamlet centers, not along the town’s rural corridors.
They also recommend creating a dedicated Economic Development Planner position in the town’s planning department, leveraging the town’s competitive advantages in lodging and agriculture, supporting commercial fishing and the arts and creating new business opportunities for entrepreneurs, as well as developing a dedicated housing opportunity fund for year-round housing.
Ms. Liquori said the consultants are evaluating already published data to get an idea of the true economic value of certain industries throughout town.
The town is encouraging public comment on the plans, which can be read in full online at ehamptonny.gov/367/Hamlet-Study.
“This is a great opportunity to improve our quality of life,” said Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc at the Feb. 6 presentation. “We’re a popular place in the summer months, and our infrastructure barely gets by.”
“Through this process, we can address transportation needs, parking, circulation, wastewater, and there’s an opportunity to improve economic opportunities,” he added. “Overall, having guidance about how to develop in the future and having a shared community vision is extremely important. We need to allow the public some time to think about what’s been presented, and the town board will need to do a little reading to make sure we understand fully what’s been presented.”