August 23, 2006
Another step has been taken on the long road toward developing Sustainable East End Development Strategies.
Last Friday, Thomas Neely, Southampton Town Public Transportation & Traffic Safety Director came before the town board to present a follow-up to the SEEDS initiative that will allow the process to transition from findings and recommendations to eventual implementation.
Neely presented the board with a first-ever executive summary report of the SEEDS initiative and said that in order for the East End Transportation Council, as well as the East End Supervisors & Mayors Association, to embark upon the next stage of the project, it's important for key members to work together.
To that end, Neely is making a stop at each town and village board on the East End to ask each group to sign an intermunicipal memorandum of understanding.
By so doing, each individual town and village will be better able to evaluate big picture improvements to transportation systems and work together to address changes in land use decisions and support improved transportation networks.
Signing the agreement, said Neely, is the first step. Next, municipalities must agree to form a working group to begin developing recommendations on planning, zoning, and design decisions that will shine the spotlight on public transportation on the local level.
The goal, said Neely, is for each town and village board, as well as planning boards, to select liaisons to the working group.
In Southold, for example, Councilman Tom Wickham has been selected as the liaison to the working group, with acting planning department head Mark Terry and Neboysha Brashich, chairman of the transportation committee, to serve as well.
After the group is established it will work to choose East End transportation topics to embrace and pursue, and eventually prioritize a list of possible projects.
Based on the work that's been done so far, Neely said a number of key points regarding land use issues have emerged, including the importance of fostering development in hamlet centers and villages, and continuing in the crusade for preservation of open space.
"Towns and villages have to reduce buildout on the East End," said Neely.
Southampton Town Councilwoman Linda Kabot emphasized the need for decisions of the working group to be non-binding.
"This is a voluntary, goodwill effort to work together," assured Neely. "None of this is binding."
Councilman Steve Kenny asked about a shuttle demonstration program that was discussed in years past. Neely said that although the matter was discussed with the New York State Department of Transportation in 1995, talks just "fell away."
Councilwoman Nancy Graboski said an eye should be cast toward the Cape Cod region, where efficient transportations systems enable "residents to get around without getting into their cars." Graboski pointed out the East End has the necessary infrastructure to embark upon such a vision.
Graboski also pointed out that villages and towns have been entering into similar memorandums of understanding regarding hurricane and emergency preparedness efforts.
Also discussed was the creation of transportation development districts.
If individual municipalities can bond together to create one cohesive agency, said Neely, it will foster a "competitive edge" and enhance grant opportunities as a regional means of addressing East End transportation concerns.
Neely pointed out that the need is urgent for change: "In five years, we will have one big parking lot from Hampton Bays to Amagansett."
And, said Neely, the memorandum of understanding is the first move toward a greater end goal: "This is taking small, baby steps," he said. "This is goodwill."
Southampton was Neely's second stop after East Hampton. He was expected to appear before the Southold town board yesterday and will meet with the Riverhead town board tomorrow.