Promise Of Park If Bel-Aire Doesn’t Sell

Southampton Town Park Director Kristen Duolos and Councilwoman Julie Lofstad help cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the updated Ponquogue Beach pavilion.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman has promised to keep Hampton Bays’ Bel-Aire Cove Motel property community parkland until it sells.

However, Schneiderman said he’s confident someone will purchase the parcel and turn it into a 22-unit boutique hotel or 11 condominiums.

“This is until it does sell, so it’s on an interim basis,” Schneiderman said. “I’m confident it will sell.”

Because the Southampton Trustees own the land, Hampton Bays Civic Association president Maria Hults said she thought it would be fitting to make the area a community park. She noted the Station Bar and The Hamlet restaurants on Shinnecock Road aiding in this idea.

“You can have a healthy smoothie and walk down to the water,” she said. “It would be wonderful to launch kayaks from there, let people enjoy the water.”

The town has not closed on the property yet, and would still need to raze the building, put in a new wastewater system, and get the permits in place. Once that’s complete, an outside company will be working with members of the civic, beautification association, and citizens advisory committee to create charrettes, or renderings, similar to what the town did in designing the renovation of the Ponquogue Beach pavilion.

“This was the best we could negotiate with them at this time,” Hults said. “But it desperately needs to be cleaned up. I think that’s one thing we can all agree upon.”

Ponquogue Pavilion Is Now Open

The Ponquogue Beach pavilion is finally open following renovation.

Built in 1966, the entire 3.9-acre site has been transformed into a modern, eco-friendly facility using sustainable products, including an increase in natural lighting through skylights, harvesting rainwater for irrigation, and new restrooms. The $3.5-million construction project took place over the last seven months.

The makeover also includes a new roof, upgrades to exterior materials including epi decking, which will not splinter, and low-maintenance, chemical-free siding. The ramp to the beach has been extended and widened to make the water accessible to the handicapped, and the concession area has a new look with additional outdoor seating. The indoor and outdoor lighting has been replaced with LED fixtures. There are more outdoor showers and the restrooms now include changing areas.

The parking lot has been upgraded with rain gardens and native plantings, and resurfaced and restriped. The attendance booth and entrance have also been replaced and modernized to improve appearance, accessibility, and safety. Electric vehicle charging stations will be installed in the future.

The improvements follow several community meetings, including a beach survey and an online poll. The community responded overwhelmingly in favor of keeping it a “low-key and family-oriented beach.”

“It is spectacular,” Hults said. “It is absolutely in line with what everyone who had a voice in what they wanted to see. It looks very much in character, like it did, but it’s brand spanking new.”

While Schneiderman said he thinks it should be noted as one of the best beaches in America, Hults thought differently.

“I’m hoping nobody finds out so we can keep it for ourselves,” she said, laughing. “I think we have absolutely, hands down the best beach. I can only encourage everyone to get out and enjoy it.”

Public Hearing On Form-based Code

A town board hearing on a Hampton Bays form-based code is June 11 at 1 PM.

The resolution is on the table following multiple meetings last year on the downtown overlay district, where a pattern book was created with the help of consultants Nelson, Pop and Voorhis that used community input on the maximum height of buildings, types of storefronts, and walkways they’d like to see on a redeveloped Main Street. If passed, new construction and changes made to existing properties would have to follow the design guidelines.

“We’ll look more like a village,” Hults said. “People will be happy walking the town. You can attend the public hearing and make your comments known so that it is truly a town voice that speaks.”

Hampton Bays Beautification Association president Susan von Freddi said the idea is to do just that — make Hampton Bays’ Main Street and central business district more walkable and user-friendly, and connect it to Good Ground Park, the amphitheater, and playgrounds. The parking lots would also be joined and placed behind buildings, making it easier to navigate.

“If you like walking around in Sag Harbor and Southampton, and you like the size of the stores, as opposed to walking on County Route 58, which has large blocks of barren walls, no windows, no sidewalks, no doors, then come out and support this,” said Hampton Bays resident Kevin McDonald, who is also the conservation project director for public lands for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island.

“Think about walking or riding a bike, pushing a baby stroller. That’s what you should be imagining when you hear what the form-based code is supposed to look like,” McDonald added.

Hampton Bays is one of 17 hamlets within the town and spans 18 square miles, 13 of which are land and five water, or 28 percent, making it the hamlet that enjoys the greatest amount of shoreline, with Peconic Bay to the north, and Shinnecock and Tiana bays to the south.

“We want to keep the quaintness,” von Freddi said. “We want a major strategy for promoting the downtown area so that people will have a reason to come to Hampton Bays, stay in Hampton Bays, and shop in Hampton Bays.”

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