The Southampton Village Board is bringing in a Michigan-based economic and planning consulting firm to examine what retail opportunities are being underexploited in the village's business districts.
The board voted unanimously Thursday to contract with Gibbs Planning Group for the study, which Mayor Mark Epley said he wants to see get underway as soon as possible.
The aim of the study, Epley explained, is to answer, "How can the village of Southampton improve our Village Business District, by looking at efficiencies in our district and looking at small businesses to come in and open up to meet the needs of the people here?”
Epley said that when he sees an empty store in the village, he could then go — with the study in hand — to a corporation to show them why they should consider opening up shop there. He said he would also like to see the study influence locals to open up businesses that the study says the village could support.
The study could have implications on legislation that is on the table to allow for a supermarket in the Highway Business District. Epley said he plans to put off a vote on the legislation until the study is complete.
Epley also noted that, outside the village boundaries and jurisdiction, Southampton Town has an unrelated supermarket proposal, in Tuckahoe, and scoping sessions begin Nov. 27. He said that project, if approved, could change the game for village retail and open County Road 39 up to large shopping complexes.
One concern that has arisen, Epley said, is that residents might not come into the village to shop if their grocery shopping choice is located outside the village. The study could determine ideal locations for green grocers around the village.
The cost of the study is projected to be $12,000, plus travel, lodging and copying expenses, and the Southampton Association, a local civic group, has pledged $5,000. Epley said the Village Board does not have to go through a competitive bidding process to select a consultant because Gibbs Planning Group is a specialty consulting firm.
The Southampton Association previously spent $8,000 to bring Gibbs Planning Group principal Bob Gibbs to Southampton Village in May to talk to retail store owners and make presentations on his findings to the village's planning commission and the public.