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Oct 15, 2014 11:19 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Business Owners Want Looser Regulations, Sewer District

Oct 15, 2014 1:09 PM

Shop owners want more restaurants, looser parking regulations, new sign laws and even a sewer system in Westhampton Beach.

These and other suggestions were shared during a meeting held for the business community, hosted by Mayor Maria Moore, on Tuesday evening inside Westhampton Beach Village Hall. A standing-room-only crowd of more than 70 people turned out for the informal forum, which lasted more than two hours.

Ms. Moore had promised to engage the business community since the early days of her campaign for mayor this past spring. The mayor added that she wants to end the “us versus them” mentality between the village’s public and private sectors.

“The reason for this meeting was to open up future communication between us,” she said. “We care about their concerns, and we want to hear their ideas. It’s very important to have open communication.”

With an apparent majority of the individuals in attendance representing properties and businesses south of Montauk Highway, much of the discussion was geared toward drawing people into the heart of the village, particularly during the non-summer months. Ideas, such as closing Main Street off to vehicular traffic to hold events, and hosting more live music at village parks, were floated, but the most popular idea was to establish a sewer district that would allow more bars and restaurants to open in the village.

Ms. Moore agreed that creating a sewer district is an important step to take, but she noted that it is not always a popular topic in the village because of the cost attached to such an endeavor—one that would likely run into the millions of dollars. She suggested that the business owners, as a precursor, get together to help share information about what it would take to create a sewer district in the municipality.

One of the biggest misconceptions, Ms. Moore said, was that village government was closing down or preventing bars and restaurants from opening, when, in reality, strict county and state regulations have stripped many properties of their “wet use” permits because many lack adequate sewer or septic systems. The area’s low water table is also to blame for prohibiting the opening of such businesses.

“A lot of people think it’s the village,” she said, “but it’s really the [State Department of Environmental Conservation] that’s limiting the number of wet-use facilities.”

Business owners say a sewer district would allow for more businesses, as well as the expansion of current businesses, with many pointing to the waterside villages of Sag Harbor, Patchogue and Greenport, and even downtown Riverhead, as areas that have been thriving as of late thanks in part to sewer districts.

In 2006, Westhampton Beach had the opportunity to connect to the county-run sewage treatment plant at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton but chose not to because of the costs associated with it.

Another focal point of the meeting was creating off-season draws to lure people to Main Street in the fall, winter and spring. David Mogull, owner of Yoga Shanti on Main Street and the main organizer of the Hamptons Music Festival, which is set to take place in the village later this month, said he’s eager to work collaboratively with whoever is interested in order to grow the festival to make it a substantial draw to Westhampton Beach. Other business owners discussed creating pop-up art displays in vacant spaces to create a more vibrant looking downtown.

Similarly, Jack McKeown, owner of Books & Books on Main Street, talked about starting a literary festival in the village, or perhaps partnering with friends of his who own vineyards on the North Fork to create a wine festival in the village. Westhampton Free Library Director Danielle Waskiewicz also offered to ramp up the library’s wireless network to cover the whole village, turning the entire municipality into a hot spot.

Some wanted the village to go further in its efforts to attract new tenants, either by marketing itself as a more pro-business community, or by recruiting specific businesses—namely, restaurants—while blocking others, such as a CVS Pharmacy, which is seeking a variance that would allow it to rent the former bowling alley space across from the Waldbaum’s on Sunset Avenue. However, as Dean Speir, village resident and author of the “On The Beach Blog,” pointed out multiple times during the meeting, both requests would require the village to go beyond its legal authorities. “It’s a free market,” he noted.

Lou Cassara, owner of Barth’s Pharmacy on Sunset Avenue, warned those in attendance that while the expansion of the village’s business community is a good thing, it also could create some problems down the road. “The art, the food, the culture—it’s all great,” he said. “But in order to do it the right way, we need to expand our infrastructure as well. You may need more police. Right now, we have private garbage service, but we might need to go to public garbage. These are things that just need to be considered.”

Nadine Hampton, owner of two Main Street businesses, Mustique and Hampton House, said she would like to see Westhampton Beach Village Police officers patrolling the downtown area during the summer, rather than the part-time traffic control officers who have been used over the past few years. “The darn ‘rent-a-cops,’” she said. “They are so nasty—they put forth such a nasty image for the village.”

Ms. Hampton suggested that, if the traffic control officers remain, they be more welcoming and instead of writing tickets for parking violations and expired vehicle registrations, they write “Welcome to Westhampton Beach” notes to place on people’s cars.

Several business owners with storefronts outside of the central business district, including Stephen Sans, owner of North Mall Dry Cleaners & Laundry Service, said they were frustrated that so much attention is being paid to Main Street when businesses on Old Riverhead Road and Montauk Highway are struggling equally, if not more.

Mr. Sans, along with others, complained about the village’s sign ordinance, which forbids them from placing flags or signs along the roadway to attract customers. “That’s my number-one concern about doing business in Westhampton compared to Hampton Bays,” he said. “I can’t do anything outside my own walls to attract business.”

Ms. Moore said that, in the near future, she plans on dividing interested business owners up into committees to sort through specific issues, such as the village’s sign ordinance, that have been a thorn in the side of several business owners in recent years. Others will focus on issues such as creating new events and festivals.

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Encouraging push forward. Keep up the good work! Hopefully the Trustees will also fall in line.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Oct 15, 14 12:35 PM
What is encouraging? And who stated the other Trustees aren't in line with The Mayor? I'm lead to believe by the meetings they are all on the same blank page.
By beachbme11978 (78), Westhampton Beach on Oct 15, 14 9:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
Encouraging?!? Keep up the good work?!? What are you talking about. The only thing the Mayor has accomplished in 4mos is raise her salary. Sure she holds a meeting of buisness owners and landlords but most of what was spoken is ticketing and concerts to help the downtown area and run Waldbaums out of town to add one more abandoned building to Sunset Ave, what crap. Then when the Mayor speaks she doesn't know what she is talking about. It's the health department not the DEC that requires the septic ...more
By Hollywood (86), Westhampton Beach on Oct 15, 14 6:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
The problem here is the Mayor made promises not only that she cannot keep, no one can. A sewer district is great and had the same business owners and residents not shot it down in 2006 the Village could have one by now. There is no way the Mayor can fill the vacant stores in the Village, Unless she is the landlord of them all.

Yes, Hollywood you are correct it is the Suffolk County Board of Health that regulates sewage not the DEC. A little alarming she doesn't know the difference between ...more
By beachbme11978 (78), Westhampton Beach on Oct 15, 14 9:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
It would not be the same without negitive comments by Hollywood and Beachbme. You should have stood up and offered constructive suggestions.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Oct 16, 14 8:01 AM
I wish a professional environmental consultant would chime in here, but a sewer district doesn't have to mean ripping up all our roads and pumping waste all the way up to the airport.

There are smaller, more efficient technologies that can be used downtown to treat waste that can enable the village to improve its infrastructure. They should be considered.
By winkelby (38), westhampton on Oct 16, 14 2:17 PM
Great Job by Mayor Moore to invite the business community to come and sit down and start a dialogue. This is a first time this has been done. Forming committee to actually take on several of the topics is the next step.
Seeing how many different businesses and landlords were represented and are concerned about our economic future is a sign that this was needed.
Looking forward to being involved in any future ideas, being in business almost 30 years in this village has been so great, opening, ...more
By Shock (48), on Oct 17, 14 5:15 PM
Start with replacing the Building Inspector and his Code Enforcer! Evil to the core at every level.
By whatapity (106), Tuckahoe on Oct 25, 14 10:04 PM