Along with walks on the beach and chowing down at East Hampton’s finest eateries, strolling along East Hampton Village’s thoroughfares to shop and gawk ranks high on the list of favorite activities.
However, over the past few years, as more and more local businesses have taken down their shingle because of the economic downturn, the formerly-dressed windows of the empty and silent shops have remained, well, naked. And that’s not okay with the East Hampton Village Board.
“The board of trustees has fielded a number of complaints over the past several years about the unappealing appearance of papered-over or dark storefronts, particularly during the off-season,” reads a section of a proposed local law, which would require businesses or building owners in the village to pretty up their windows whether or not the stores are occupied. At last Thursday’s meeting, the board agreed to hold a public hearing on May 18 to further discuss the situation.
This is not the first time that nonexistent window displays have come up. In June 2010, the village issued a pamphlet to commercial property owners and tenants titled, “Maintaining an Attractive Commercial District During the Off-Season: Guidelines for Vacant and Closed Stores.”
“The treatment of a vacant store or of a store that is closed during the winter can detract from the overall character of an area and can degrade the setting of neighboring businesses that remain open,” Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. wrote in an opening letter to the brochure. “Papered-over windows and disheveled empty storefronts diminish the life and vitality of the street.”
However, the plan “fizzled out,” Mayor Rickenbach said last Thursday.
“Following meetings with commercial property owners and other interested community members, the board now finds that it is appropriate to enact a requirement that owners and tenants in possession of empty storefronts erect displays consistent with the guidelines,” read the notice of public hearing for the new law.
The May 18 hearing will begin at 11 a.m. at the Emergency Services Building on Cedar Street.