Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Proposed Hampton Road Fire Station

There is an important vote this Friday, October 9th, 2009 regarding the proposed new fire-station on Hampton Road. Village residents can vote at the Southampton Cultural Center between 12 noon and 9pm. A nice sketch of the proposed building has been distributed throughout the village on a flyer (see rendering above) urging everyone to vote, there have been numerous articles in the Southampton Press about the project, and there was a public answer & question event on Sept. 23rd at the fire-station (one can see the video of that event via the village’s website here: I think it’s great that the Fire Department held a public event and think that the engagement of village residents into the process is crucial to garnering support for the project.
I am very much in favor of this project, but – of course – would love to suggest a few aesthetic tweaks. I have been fortunate to see all of the elevations (I think handouts of them will be available at the library and village hall prior to the election) and can honestly say – with a bit of slight modification, nothing major – it will be a welcome improvement and much needed asset to the village. Slight design modifications are likely to occur during the next phase (design development) of an architectural project anyway. Prior to seeing all of the elevations I was concerned because all we had seen so far was the hand-drawn sketch of the building’s side elevation facing Narrow Lane. But that sketch generated other questions: What about the front, the prominent Hampton Road elevation? And is the southern portion all glass? And why is the limestone (concrete?) band on the northern wing at a strange height? Overall however, I like the materials (brick and stucco I assume), I like the roof brackets (some have called ‘outriggers’), I like the effort of including vernacular elements and the overall traditional intention of the design. I am told that the vote on Friday is only to approve the public funding of the project and that the design is only schematically developed and will still be open to public review, perhaps (fingers crossed) even to local board review.
Municipal projects are not required to be reviewed by our local Planning Board or Board of Architectural Review & Historic Preservation. While most readers of this blog understand that I have issues with the qualifications of these board members, ideally, assuming we had boards filled with qualified members, I can see no negative aspect of routing these projects through those boards. To be completely transparent with the public and allow them to participate in every step of the design, and to have the ‘experts’ that the village takes the trouble to appoint to these boards for these anyway just makes sense, right? I mean, what does it say that the Village must review all building projects, except when they’re for themselves? Why do they get a free pass? I’ll bet it would make for better architecture also. I personally think the addition to the elementary school is lovely, but don’t like the design of the connection between the new addition and the existing structure. I’ll save that critique for a future post. I have also heard comments about how the site plan could have been developed more successfully. Maybe if it had been required to go through the local review boards, it could have been an even better design overall.
I will not be sharing with you whether or not I will vote yes or no on Friday because I think you should all make your own decisions. I will share that I have no problem with the proposed cost (even though, if the fire station serves areas outside of the village, I don’t understand why town residents – or some of them – don’t also have to pitch-in), and am okay with approving the design understanding that it is still in schematic form and will be open to additional public scrutiny. I completely support the updating of the fire department’s facilities and recognize that as an important community need, but for the record, I disagree with the provision that municipal structures be exempt from local review practices.

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