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Jun 10, 2016 1:44 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Main Street Is Epicenter Of This Year's Westhampton Beach Village Board Election

The candidates in the Westhampton Beach Village election.
Jun 10, 2016 1:44 PM

The proposed revitalization of Westhampton Beach’s Main Street is the primary topic on the minds of all three candidates—incumbents Charlie Palmer and Ralph Urban, and newcomer Stephen Frano—seeking the two open seats in Friday’s village election, the only contested village race in all of Southampton Town.

Mr. Palmer, a senior accountant with the Suffolk County Police Department, is seeking his third two-year term as a member of the Progress Party—the same ticket that Mayor Maria Moore is seeking reelection on though she is unchallenged in her first bid to retain her seat on the five-member board. Mr. Urban, a retired music teacher, is also seeking his third term on the board as a member of the Key Party while Mr. Frano, the former head of code enforcement for Southampton Town who has served on Westhampton Beach’s Planning Board for the past five years, is making his first bid for the board as a member of the Ocean Party.

The polls will be open from noon until 9 p.m. on Friday, June 17, at Westhampton Beach Village Hall on Mill Road.

In separate interviews this week, Mr. Palmer, Mr. Urban and Mr. Frano agreed that the village has to get back to basics, and that begins with reinvesting money and energy to complete upgrades to the municipality’s main artery—plans that include possibly burying utility lines. They said they are also eagerly awaiting the results of a study regarding the proposed creation of a sewer district in the village, while also turning their attention to fixing and upgrading other municipal properties, such as the village marina.

“Our infrastructure in the village is not being taken care of and maintenance is not being done,” said Mr. Frano, 65, who has served on the Village Planning Board since 2011. “If you lose that then you lose the basics for the village.”

Renovations to Westhampton Beach’s Main Street have been in the works since December 2014 when the board, led by Ms. Moore, opted to set aside $100,000 for the project. Additional funding has since been added to that account, which the trustees are slowing building up so they can invest the money in fixing up the village’s B-1 Business District. The possible work includes repaving Main Street, relocating and redesigning crosswalks, adding curb extensions, realigning the dangerous intersection where Mill Road and Library Avenue meet, and reorganizing street parking.

Mr. Urban, 67, said that the board’s attention needs to remain on infusing new life into the village’s main business corridor. Having served on the board since 2012, Mr. Urban said he is seeking reelection because he wants to continue several projects that he helped begin, including a review of the village code and the modification of building regulations that he thinks are needed to help spur new growth.

One such improvement, he said, would be working with PSEG to bury the power lines along Main Street. He noted that the village has already initiated discussions with the utility to find ways to complete the work at a reasonable cost.

“I think that would be a nice thing if we can accomplish it,” Mr. Urban said. “It is also very expensive, but if we are redoing other parts of Main Street, PSEG might defray some of the costs. It’s all in its infancy,” he added, referring to the negotiations.

Mr. Palmer, 59, also wants to bury the unsightly power lines along Main Street, noting that their removal would improve the appearance of the corridor. “If we do the revitalization of Main Street, the poles would be out of the way to make room for bigger, wider curbs,” he said.

He also noted that a key part to the village’s revitalization is continuing to explore the sewer district option, a project that is still in its infancy but one that the current board has been pushing forward in recent months so it can be fully vetted—a process that should eventually determine the cost and feasibility of the idea.

While the concept of a sewer district has been floating in the ether for the past decade, the first definitive steps were taken by the trustees in February when they hired Melville-based H2M Architects and Engineers to devise a proposal for the village that would sewer all of Main Street, as well as parts of Library Avenue and Mitchell and Mill Roads. The study, which could be finished by next month, is also supposed to help project the cost of such work.

In addition to helping curb the amount of nitrogen leaching into the groundwater and nearby Moniebogue Bay, a sewer district would allow for more restaurants and other “wet uses” in downtown Westhampton Beach.

“The primary reason, of course, is the environment and to help with the nitrogen levels and the algae blooms,” Mr. Palmer said, explaining why he supports investigating the option. “The secondary reason is if other wet uses, like restaurants, want to open up. [A sewer district] would give them that option to be able to open.”

Mr. Urban said that curbing pollution is more than enough enticement to investigate the feasibility of a sewer district, which is expected to cost millions to install. He noted that the village taxpayers would ultimately get the chance to decide if the project is one worth completing.

“I am for developing a well-thought-out plan and putting it in front of the voters,” he said. “I think that it is an important direction for us to look into because of pollution more than anything else. I know that others have an interest in the economy, and in developing the ability for more restaurants downtown, and both are important.”

While he likes the prospect, Mr. Frano said that, right now, the best thing to do is wait for the results the study now being completed by H2M, stressing that the cost of the work remains unknown. He pointed out that the cost might be too much for the village to take on by itself, meaning it would have to secure county, state and federal grants if it eventually opts to move forward with the project.

“We have to do something for the environment, there is no doubt about that,” said Mr. Frano, an avid boater and fisherman. “But I am not sure about the sewer district because the study hasn’t come back yet. So far people are just throwing out numbers.”

All three candidates said they are also looking for ways to extend the village’s busy summer season, namely by adding fairs and festivals in September and October to encourage more people to visit and spend money in the area. Though they were enticed at the idea of bringing Smorgasburg, a popular Brooklyn based food expo, to Westhampton Beach this summer, Mr. Palmer, Mr. Urban and Mr. Frano all had issues with the proposal as presented, namely the lack of flexibility of organizers to modify the calender so the Friday festivals could be held in the fall. All three also said they village wasn’t given enough time to review the suggestion before being given a deadline by the for-profit organizer.

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Sewers will not bring new people. If its not paid for by the Feds it will cost the taxpayers about $50 million.Vast majority of the pollution is caused by the runoff and the lawns. People are not in town 9 months of the year flushing their toilets yet their lawns are being maintained and the cars and trucks are driving the roads. Palmer has got to go.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Jun 13, 16 7:23 PM
Bring back Marrakesh!
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Jun 14, 16 8:47 AM
Remember Shane Daniels!

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jun 14, 16 2:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
20 years ago, but let's all keep living in the past.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Jun 15, 16 9:37 AM
Yeah, he was the guy attacked in the bank parking lot. Those banks should keep their properties safe for people.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 14, 16 3:12 PM