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Sep 23, 2019 1:34 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village May Require Building Owners To Cover Windows If Stores Remain Vacant

Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren is proposing a new law that would require building owners to decorate their storefronts if they are vacant for 30 days or more.  GREG WEHNER
Sep 25, 2019 10:31 AM

Legislation aimed at requiring property owners with vacant stores to cover up empty windows was proposed last week by Southampton Village Board members in an effort to improve business district aesthetics and to make the village more welcoming to visitors and shoppers.

During a Village Board meeting on September 12, board member Mark Parash introduced the legislation, saying the law would not be a new tax — an idea originally floated by Mayor Jesse Warren during his successful campaign this year — but would, instead, be a village code requirement, with violations that could result in fines for property owners.

“Residents and community members have expressed concerns about the look and feel of the village when storefront windows are empty and dark,” he said. “I believe this could bring positive attention to our business district and get us back on track.”

Village officials have been looking for a way to address the numerous vacant storefronts and nonresidential buildings that are either unlit, fenced off, boarded up, unsafe or unsightly, and which impact the historic business district in a negative way.

Rather than have storefronts that look like dark empty boxes, Mr. Parash and the board are proposing that the owners of any store that is left unoccupied for 30 days or more must take steps to dress up the windows.

Some of the allowed options under the most recent proposed law include “contemporary or historical images of the Village of Southampton, works of art or artistic displays for public benefit approved by the village, and information about a public event.”

Since taking the helm as mayor, Mr. Warren has made it his mission to find out why so many storefronts are vacant, while also looking for a solution. “The entire goal of this is to avoid what we call a ‘dark box,’” he said. “Just think about that dark box as something we want to avoid.”

The fear, Mr. Warren explained, is that, come Easter time, visitors might walk around the business district and see nothing but a bunch of empty, dark boxes.

“That just creates an environment that does not create vibrancy [and] does not attract visitors,” he said.

While the proposed law gives some options to store owners, they would not have their hands completely tied. In fact, Mr. Warren said options, such as window covering that displays the new village logo, which reads “Eat and Shop Local,” could be approved, along with artwork from the Southampton Art Center, Southampton History Museum or Southampton Art Association.

Any other option the store owner wants to go with that is “out of the box” would need to be approved by the village.

“We want to make this as easy as possible, and as seamless as possible, so having some pre-approved options would be a good start,” Mr. Warren said.

Building owners who do not comply could be faced with penalties including a fine between $750 and $3,000, imprisonment of up to 15 days or a combination of both, according to the draft law.

A public hearing was held on the legislation when it was introduced on September 12, and the record was held open to allow for more input. A second hearing was scheduled to be held on Tuesday, September 24, and was adjourned until Tuesday, October 22.

“I’d really like to have a good discussion with the public,” Mr. Parash said.

“We want to engage our community. We want to get as much comment as possible,” Mr. Warren added.

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So, quite literally, the proposal is window dressing. Well, at least its not a tax or some other misguided interference in market forces. Those have a perfect record of hurting the people they are intended to help.
By CPalmer (108), Southampton on Sep 23, 19 2:39 PM
Sure, papered-over windows don’t at all hint at vacant stores! It might be better to require placement of large, quality faux green plants Illuminated by battery or solar lights just inside the windows of vacant stores. At least they wouldn’t scream loser!
By SusieD (115), Southampton on Sep 23, 19 2:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ignore the bigger issue of lacking infrastructure/tenant use options and instead paper over it all.

Yes, a sewer district would likely incur an assessment that affects all Village Residents - even those not actually using the sewer system itself, but would increase the value of the entire business district - thus making the Village more desirable as a whole. Weighting would most likely be placed on those utilizing the system as well. Remember, even those without students in the schools ...more
By Mouthampton (436), Southampton on Sep 23, 19 3:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
"Mr. Warren has made it his mission to find out why so many storefronts are vacant,"
High rents, no seasonal customers and locals that can not afford to shop in the village.
Not so hard to figure out.
By Thedudes (3), East Hampton on Sep 23, 19 3:40 PM
Millenial problem solving. Pretend a problem doesn't exist...
By lirider (288), Hampton Bays on Sep 23, 19 10:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
As a local store owner on the East end. This is obviously not a long term solution. Windows need to be covered because local business owners can’t afford taxes or rent. How about instead of covering windows, we lower taxes to help local owners and try to help this community out. Stores will close more and more as we go into 2020. Good luck Mayor.
By Shlocalowner (1), Hampton Bays on Sep 23, 19 10:24 PM
Have they decided on a color yet for the paper?
By V.Tomanoku (788), southampton on Sep 24, 19 12:29 AM
What is with these negative comments? The Village looks pathetic with so many store windows filled with nothing but “for lease” signs. This proposal is obviously not intended to cure the underlying problem but rather to improve the look of the Village in the interim. The suggestion that this proposal will take the place of real work to address the underlying problems is absurd. If the negative types had positive ideas for change that would be more helpful. Towns like Palm Beach are ...more
By nancyloo (13), Palm Beach on Sep 24, 19 5:07 AM
3 members liked this comment
The village is suffering from an anemic off season that lasts 10 months out of the year which is because of online sales which in turn makes it very hard to keep your doors open when coupled with triple leases and a village lacking restaurants to draw people here. We are also the only east end town that does not have a regular Jitney stop in our downtown which would be a very beneficial thing.
By lursagirl (241), southampton on Sep 26, 19 12:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Triple net leases typo correction
By lursagirl (241), southampton on Sep 26, 19 12:28 PM
Agreed, I doubt any of them shop or even walk in the village.
By Fred s (3178), Southampton on Sep 24, 19 5:30 AM
There is already art work in some of the store windows and it is much more appealing than an empty room. Winwood walls in Miami attracts people from all over the world and it is only art work.
By AL (81), southampton on Sep 24, 19 8:36 AM
Blue and green paper would be nice and it'll match the algae in Lake Agawam.
Can we also paper over the SH Village Office windows? There's not much going on and the occupants seem somewhat vacant......
By G (339), Southampton on Sep 25, 19 2:44 PM
The problems the business district is having are the result of long term policies so there is no short term fix. The fix will be long and painful. Southampton Village has seen it's budget skyrocket in the last decade. the underlying cost of the village budget has driven taxes up. Greed in the real estate industry and by landlords has driven the sale values of the properties to unsupportable levels. That brings in shops that no one local can shop in. Add in the seat belt police making every trip ...more
By bird (824), Sag Harbor on Sep 25, 19 4:40 PM
Bird, I agree with you on the landlords being greedy and cry for a break. A tenent gets popular and the lease goes up$$$ They have to move or pay inflated rates.
As for the seatbelt law, I hope you weren't caught. It's a LAW, cell phone use is another one. I wish the village would enforce it fully. I see 2-3 every day in the business district I drive through.
Jessie, Jay is the photo op guy, don't try to compete.
By knitter (1895), Southampton on Sep 26, 19 12:29 PM
How about a best dressed empty store award? Now they get told what art to put in the window??? Grade school art, high school art or professional art?
Haven't heard from the senior member of the board???
By knitter (1895), Southampton on Sep 26, 19 12:34 PM
Stop. Just stop. Really.
By even flow (985), East Hampton on Oct 3, 19 4:46 AM
Raise your hand if you have voter’s remorse. Village made a big mistake with this Major-Lite.
By even flow (985), East Hampton on Oct 3, 19 4:45 AM
power tools, home improvements, building supplies, Eastern Long Island