Southampton voters to decide on $2.2M override to buy land for new public safety complex

At the ballot box on June 25, voters will decide whether to approve a debt exclusion for the purchase of land at 117-225 College Highway at $2.2 million, which contains roughly 52 acres.

At the ballot box on June 25, voters will decide whether to approve a debt exclusion for the purchase of land at 117-225 College Highway at $2.2 million, which contains roughly 52 acres. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

At the ballot box on June 25, voters will decide whether to approve a debt exclusion for the purchase of land at 117-225 College Highway at $2.2 million, which contains roughly 52 acres.

At the ballot box on June 25, voters will decide whether to approve a debt exclusion for the purchase of land at 117-225 College Highway at $2.2 million, which contains roughly 52 acres. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By Alexa Lewis

Staff Writer

Published: 06-09-2024 1:00 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — The town will take another significant step toward the construction of a new public safety complex on June 25, when voters will decide at a special election whether to buy land that was already approved at this year’s annual Town Meeting.

At the ballot box, voters are being asked to approve a $2.2 million debt exclusion override for the purchase of roughly 52 acres at 117-225 College Highway.

“The central location of this plot of land is imperative to public safety,” Police Chief Ian Illingsworth said.

Southampton’s current fire and police stations have a number of issues due to age and structural inefficiencies. The fire station was built out of a schoolhouse constructed in 1863, and the police station operates out of the old Town Hall building, constructed in 1904. The upcoming vote about the College Highway site presents another hurdle to be cleared on the way to better conditions for the two departments.

“This was the number one site designated by the [Public Safety Building] Committee for the new public safety complex,” said Select Board and Planning Board member Stephen Johnson. “That building will only take up a small portion of the acreage. The whole property has opportunities for a variety of municipal uses.”

The property comprises three parcels of land designated for mixed-use development, which presents the town with a myriad of development options.

A portion of the land is commercially zoned, and Johnson hopes it can be used for the economic development of the town. Other proposed uses for various parts of the property include sports fields and courts, affordable housing, and an access point for a nearby rail trail. According to Johnson, the town also hopes to preserve some of the acreage as conservation land and recreational space.

“This half-mile stretch is the most developed portion of our town,” said Johnson. “There’s still lots of open space, and we want to preserve that open space. Southampton has always considered itself a rural town.”

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The extra land could also be used as a site for the town’s new senior center since the originally proposed site was passed over due to the environmental challenges and general insufficiency it posed.

Johnson has been leading tours of the property with the goal of facilitating discussion around the many opportunities it presents, and “helping people begin to think creatively and collaboratively about what can be accomplished here,” he said. “I’m just thrilled to see the breadth of interest.”

The ballot vote following the recent approval at Town Meeting is concerns only the override needed to buy the land. Decisions about any proposed projects on the land are still a ways away.

“This project is likely to go five or more years before whatever is finally decided is somewhat on the ground,” said Johnson. “Meanwhile, we’re doing a lot of detailed land planning and working through the public processes in our committees … We’re trying to make sure everyone with a stake in this has the right information so we can collectively make these decisions. This property could shape the future of our town for several generations.”

The ballot on June 25 will pose a yes or no question regarding the debt exclusion and the land’s proposed use for “general municipal purposes,” which includes the possible uses posed above and other uses that may not have been explored yet. Polls will open at noon and close at 8 p.m.

Alexa Lewis can be reached at alewis@gazettenet.com or on Instagram and Twitter at @alexamlewis.