By Claire Walla
Do you have any thoughts or opinions about local waterways in the town of Southampton? The vitality of marine life? Public access to town-owned beaches? The quality of water in this coastal region?
As the town of Southampton is in the process of developing its Waterfront Protection Plan (WPP), now’s the time to make them known. And, with its new website created specifically to address issues of water safety and environmental sustainability, the town of Southampton is making that task very easy for you.
As part of its much greater effort to develop a WPP, members of the WPP steering committee — planning and development administrator Jefferson Murphree, assistant planning and development administrator Freda Eisenberg, chief environmental analyst Marty Shea, town trustee Ed Warner and councilwoman Bridget Fleming — helped launch the website www.waterfrontprotectionsouthampton.org.
While it’s certainly an effort to share information with the public, it is also important for culling information from the public as the town continues to pursue drafting this plan to protect its waterways, according to Eisenberg.
As she explained to Southampton Town board members at a meeting last Friday, December 16, the website is part of an agreement the town made with the state one year ago when it accepted grant money to create a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP).
“One of the components of our contract with the state is to have a community outreach program,” Eisenberg explained.
Since it launched nearly two months ago, Eisenberg said the site has seen several hundred hits a month and has generated several comments from the public. Many of the issues raised on the website are being addressed by members of the town’s consulting agency, the Urban Harbors Institute at the University of Massachusetts.
While individual questions may not necessarily get answered directly, Eisenberg said the consultants will search comments for common themes and address overarching issues.
The website also includes research and information, such as the town’s current Peconic Estuary Plan and Regional Plan. And it further clarifies information, such as explaining why the town decided to develop a Waterfront Protection Plan — the town’s own terminology — rather than a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, or LWRP.
An LWRP — a common method of putting plans in place to protect local waterways that many local municipalities (including Sag Harbor) have already adopted — is technically what the state’s grant money is earmarked for.
However, Eisenberg explained, “the reason why it’s ‘waterfront protection,’ not LWRP, is that … the term ‘revitalization’ has connotations of redevelopment that aren’t particularly consistent with what we want to do in Southampton. The emphasis here is on protection and preservation enhancement.”
The website, she added, is important for getting information to the public in a more timely and efficient fashion.
“Instead of waiting until we have a complete plan at the end of the project to come out for a public hearing, we’re going to post material as it becomes available,” she said.
In January, Eisenberg said the committee plans to upload a research report submitted by the project consultants.
“They admitted they were a little overwhelmed by the amount of information Southampton has out there,” she added. “But, we’re still pretty comfortable in keeping to the finish date.”
The town is only one year into its two-year contract with the state.