Pictured Above: A rendering of the proposed Mattituck hotel by GSA Architects
More than 100 people tried to cram into the basement of the Mattituck-Laurel Library Monday evening, Jan. 30, filled with pointed questions about a proposed new 121-room resort hotel on the site of the former Capital One headquarters on the Main Road in Mattituck.
In addition to the rooms, the two-story hotel would have an indoor water park with slides and waterfalls, a 300-seat catering hall, a 200-seat restaurant, and 200 underground parking spaces, in addition to 376 outside parking spaces.
Two earlier iterations of the hotel plan have had as many as 200 rooms.
Ward Capital Management is managing the 11-acre property, which is owned by the Cardinale family, who also are the longtime owners of the Mattituck Plaza shopping center just up the road from the site. Ward’s CEO, D’Wayne Prieto, presented the project on behalf of the Cardinales, who weren’t at the meeting organized by the Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association.
Mr. Prieto said the building would have a retractable roof over the entertainment areas, and would be a LEED-certified, environmentally friendly building, though he wasn’t sure yet what level of LEED certification it would be able to achieve. He added that the developers would build an on-site, 30,000-gallon nitrogen-reducing septic system.
The boisterous crowd, which spilled out far into the gallery space outside the library meeting room, didn’t mince words in response to Mr. Prieto’s characterization of the project.
He was met with shouts of “that’s a lie” when he said the location wouldn’t create a traffic bottleneck, cries of “it’s not for us!” when asked how it would benefit the local community, incredulity when he told attendees the hotel rooms would cost an average of just $200 per night, and a collective gasp when he said “every beach in the United States is a federal beach. That means it’s public.”
While the Public Trust Doctrine does allow anyone to walk the beaches below the high tide line in New York State, it doesn’t allow anyone to use the parking lots associated with beaches.
Mr. Prieto had been responding to concerns that people who visit the hotel would visit local beaches, which have become extremely busy in the summer. He said he believed the pools and amenities in the hotel would encourage guests to recreate there instead of at the beach.
But he later said “we will provide services from the hotel to the beaches. They don’t have to provide parking.”
The project, which would require a special exception use permit from the Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals, is currently being reviewed by the town’s Planning Board.
A frequent refrain from the crowd was the question of why this is being built here for tourists when the area is currently in the middle of an affordable housing crisis.
Mr. Prieto said there would be four on-site housing units for employees, including the hotel’s general manager and engineer, and the hotel would employ about 70 people,
“Who’s going to benefit from this project? Are the people in this room going to benefit?” asked Michael Bartos of Peconic, echoing a question asked several times. “If you bring a project like this, you’re gonna need a paid fire department, more police officers and my taxes are going to go up in Peconic. Who’s going to pay the cost of the extra services?”
“We’ll pay our fair share of taxes based on the value of the property,” said Mr. Prieto.
A member of the Mattituck Fire Department said the department already answered nearly 700 calls last year, and has already recently hired paid EMTs to help handle the surging call volume.
“Are you aware of the nature of this area?” asked Emily Tuthill. “We’re not the South Fork. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to get anywhere on 25 — the roads are so busy…. Small businesses are here to help with the people that come out. We don’t need something artificial like this.”
“It’s an amenity,” said Mr. Prieto. “If you use the amenity, it benefits you. If you don’t, it doesn’t.”
When asked if local people could use the water park in the hotel, he said that they can if they are staying in a room they have booked there.
“There’s a light right there at Factory Avenue that causes a lot of traffic that the town does not even know how to fix. We can’t even establish a plan for the corner of Love Lane,” said Kerri Friend of Laurel. “It’s become a highway and it causes gridlock and impacts residential areas. We are fighting desperately to not be the service road to Sunrise Highway. This is where people walk, jog and live. It puts people’s lives at risk.”
She added that she worked on Wall Street before becoming a teacher, and understands that Mr. Ward is just working for the Cardinales, but “you’re putting the safety of the people here at risk for the benefit of tourists.”
“We’re going to be doing everything for the tourists, as we have been doing, creating a Disneyland for them,” she said. “People came here to visit because it’s not Nassau. It’s not western Suffolk. It’s not New York City.”
“When is our opportunity to speak to the Cardinales? When are we going to have our say?” she added, then turned to the crowd. “We’re badgering him, but we need to speak to the people in charge.”
A hotelier from Jamesport named Mickey said he didn’t think the rooms would be $200 per night.
“The issue on the North Fork is that there are not that many affordable hotel options,” he said. “A lot are charging $600 to $1,000 per night. After paying that, people can’t afford to spend money at local businesses.”
He said he thought the Mattituck project would cost between $30 million and $40 million, and that they’d have to charge around $700 per night to break even.
Mr. Prieto said the construction cost would be “about that.”
A real estate development consultant named Victoria, who said she wasn’t from the area but was just visiting, said she believed the development costs would be more than $30 to $40 million.
“$200 a night is not computing with me,” she said.
“It’s an average of $200 per night. There are times it’s going to be more and there are times it’s going to be less,” said Mr. Prieto, adding that the Cardinales “have three generations in real estate. They know what they do. They deliver a quality product. I’m the developer, and they’re developing it on their balance sheet. We have done very careful studies on this, and it provides the best possible project at this site.”
When asked why another hotel Ward Capital Management had tried to develop in New Rochelle was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and if the neighborhood would end up with a “half-built albatross,” Mr. Prieto said the New Rochelle issue was due to a partnership dispute in which his “partners tried to steal my company. It had nothing to do with financing.”
“This hotel, specifically, would be privately financed,” he said of the Mattituck plan.
Several people inquired where Mr. Prieto lived. He said he lives in Dobbs Ferry, in Westchester, but has a house in Sag Harbor.
“If you live in Westchester, why don’t you put this in Chappaqua,” said Bill from Mattituck. “If you really want to come here, why don’t we put a luxury tax on your room for the Town of Southold.”
Mr. Priato said the Town of Southold would have to take up that idea.
Gary from Mattituck asked what the hotel operators would do if “New York City comes here” and says they’ll pay $500 per night to put up homeless people at the hotel.
“Are you going to say no to $500 a night?” he asked. “There are five million illegals coming into this country. They’re looking for an ideal spot just like this. What’s to stop them? Homeless services and the federal government, they don’t have to ask your permission. They can make you take them.”
“I’m not in that business and I would never do that,” said Mr. Prieto.
Mattituck dentist Kathleen Agoglia, a 70-year-old Gulf War veteran, said she usually gets her health care at the Veterans Administration in Northport, which is “almost impossible” due to traffic, but during current renovations in Northport, Long Island veterans are now being sent to St. Albans in Queens. She added that more than 90,000 Suffolk County veterans need medical service.
“Why can’t this be some kind of health care facility for veterans on the North Fork?” she asked.
“We never got a call from anyone interested in that use for this property. It’s been sitting for 10 years, and that wasn’t a business that called,” said Mr. Prieto.
“It’s obvious people in this area are becoming more and more astute about environmental impacts, as we’ve seen our lives change with development,” said Louise Harrison of Peconic. “Endless questions are going to be asked during the review process, but nobody’s addressed the forest that has to be removed for parking, setbacks from the wetlands. I think there’s some incredulity among us. My question is, in the market studies that you did, did you find people would want to come to this place for an inside resort area? We’ve all experienced people coming to the North Fork for the outdoors, beaches and vistas. It’s hard to believe people are going to be attracted to a place like this unless it’s completely raining for five days straight.”
Mr. Prieto said the back portion of the property “is not as heavily wooded as you think it is,” and added that the market studies have shown that “the North Fork has about 1 million people visiting it every year and 1,000 hotel rooms.”
“One thousand rooms is not sufficient,” he said.
Former Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association President and Founder Mary Eisenstein, who led the meeting, said the project would likely come before the Southold Town Planning Board at a public meeting in March, and asked attendees to give Mr. Prieto a round of applause.
“We want to respect whenever someone is willing to come out and give us the facts,” she said.