“This town is like Mayberry,” said Bayport Civic Association president Bob Draffin. “The hamlet study will keep it like Mayberry.”
On Tuesday, Dec. 15, the Town of Islip unanimously adopted a zoning study on the hamlet of Bayport and ushered in a new era of responsible and community-backed development along Bayport’s stretch of Montauk Highway.
Town supervisor Angie Carpenter said of the community’s overwhelming support of the study, “We were always behind them and I have made this [study] a priority during my tenure.”
The last zoning study for the area was done in 1978 and had been described by the Bayport Civic Association as outdated and “of a bygone era,” when building suppliers were the most prominent merchants in the area.
“The central part of town was on Middle Road,” said Draffin, “but now it’s moved north to Montauk Highway.”
Developers have been keen on making proposals to the town, but often with businesses that have not had a favorable opinion from local residents and community groups. Examples of this include both a Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks with drive-through capacities.
In the most prominent showdown of traffic-dependent development and small-town wishes, QuickChek, a New Jersey-based company, proposed a sprawling gas station on the land of former Bayport Transmission.
A Town Hall meeting was held at the Bayport Fire House with over 100 attendees from the community, who almost all spoke out against QuickChek. While the town rejected the application following the strong feelings of the community, the company was able to sue in New York’s higher courts and won their bid to develop in Bayport.
“Having adopted this zoning study will give us the backing we need to reject applications that don’t conform to the hamlet study in the future and have that decision be final,” said Carpenter.
Ron Meyer, commissioner of planning and development, said he was proud of the public participation included in this study. “My work is all for consensus building,” said Meyer. “Thankfully, we were able to have face-to-face meetings pre-COVID to really understand what the town [Bayport] wanted.”
The zoning study, which cost the Town of Islip $91,000 and was conducted by BFJ Planning, a New York City-based land-use planning firm who was the lowest bidder, outlined parameters for future developers on Montauk Highway in Bayport with the goal of generating a “small-town feel” as a sense of place.
Some of the specifications included: more robust landscaping, such as linear and consistent tree-planting; obscuring visible front parking lots with low walls; ornamental fences, or hedges; and lower, uniform signage aimed at more of a pedestrian downtown than a traffic-based commercial center.
The recommendations of the zoning study do not require existing businesses on Montauk Highway to change any current signage or appearance and was thought of as a fair way to introduce pre-emptive, aesthetic requests to new developers without burdening existing businesses.
“It was very important to us not to force anything,” said Carpenter. “We wanted public participation to be the cornerstone of this study so that the board could act in accordance with the community’s wishes.”
Carpenter offered that developers looking for denser or urban-style projects had other avenues in the Town of Islip where multi-story development fits best.
Carol Seitz Cusack, president of the Bayport-Blue Point Chamber of Commerce, said, “We are ecstatic at the implementation of this zoning study as we want to keep the sanctity of our wonderful town with mom-and-pop stores that truly embody our values in Bayport-Blue Point.”