Pictured Above: The future site of “The Enclaves” in Southold

We’re shocked, but not surprised to see the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency dismiss the concerns raised by numerous Southold residents over the tax breaks awarded in January to the resort hotel known as The Enclaves, which will likely soon begin construction.

The brusque manner in which the IDA disregarded the mountain of public opposition to the project is sadly representative of the cozy relationship developers maintain with regulatory bodies in the area East Enders call Up The Island.

This decision makes it impossible for us to not acknowledge that the Up West mentality is now Out Here, and the East End is not prepared to meet this moment.

If economic development is a stated goal of our comprehensive planning, how many future proposed zoning changes will be challenged by developers on the basis that new zoning is contrary to the our Comprehensive Plans’ goals of economic development? 

We heard from the developers of The Enclaves themselves before the IDA last week that they believe their project helps meet the goals of the Economic Development chapter of Southold’s Comprehensive Plan, a document that should have served as a tool to develop zoning to protect Southold from overdevelopment. Zoning recommendations are coming soon, we’re told, but is it too late?

We’re bound to find out the answers to these existential questions in the months ahead, as Southold, Riverhead and Shelter Island flesh out zoning recommendations in their comprehensive plans, and in places like East Hampton, where massive new mansions and modest longtime summer homes are both at threat from rising seas. It is certainly going to be a bumpy ride.

Track excavators belonging to Army Corps contractor Great Lakes Dredge & Dock are stationed in downtown Montauk awaiting the start of work there.
Track excavators belonging to Army Corps contractor Great Lakes Dredge & Dock are stationed in downtown Montauk awaiting the start of work there.

The Time for Flood-Proofing is Now

Speaking of rising seas, as we do here often, the long-term impact of the flooding we saw on the East End in January is not to be understated. We are on the front lines of climate change, and we’re finally starting to act, as a region, like we know this to be the truth. It’s about time.

From raising roads to strengthening emergency response networks to working with the Army Corps of Engineers and coastal morphologists and surveyors to protect the South Shore, there’s a lot that local government is now fully on board with doing now to address the impacts on our coastline. 

But there’s a lot we all have to do as individuals too, and paying for adequate insurance (which is becoming more difficult every year) is just the beginning. If you live in an area that is subject to flooding — whether from rain or the coastline, now is the time to start moving your utilities out of your basements and making a plan for better drainage around your home. 

The far more difficult conversations are going to be the personal ones we have with our families, in our homes, about whether the costs of living so close to the coast are sustainable. Deciding where to live is a personal decision, but East Hampton Town’s Community Preservation Fund has mechanisms in place for buying properties to serve as a natural buffer from rising seas, and New York Governor Kathy Hochul just announced the state is looking in to a voluntary buy-out program for property owners. 

If we make these big decisions now, we’ll have far more peace of mind the next time the water begins to rise. And rise it will. We are seeing it, in real time.

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One thought on “February Editorials: “Up West” is Now Out Here

  1. I just need to vent – My Response to IDA Public Comments
    The recent unanimous 7-0 vote by the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) approving the $2.7 million tax relief package for The Enclaves, the $43.9 million 40-room luxury resort hotel in Southold, makes one thing abundantly clear – the Suffolk County agency did not listen or did not understand the Southold residents or the Town of Southold’s opposition to the project.

    Some of the Suffolk County-appointed IDA board members, after their January 25th decision, were quick to offer comments about the project. When reviewing the starkly dismissive quotes by the IDA, a few stand out and underscore the communication breakdown between the IDA and some in the community.

    For example, one IDA member, Mr. X. Cristofer Damianos, says, “North Fork is a tourist destination,” and the “North Fork will also benefit from the approximately $7 million in hotel taxes.” Yes, Southold is indeed a tourist attraction for some; however, for many, it is their home and certainly more than just a tourist attraction. While the central concern of the IDA is economic, they should have understood the Southold Residents’ “investment” in the community is not measured in the same sort of currency that the IDA concentrates on. Many who came out to the public hearing and wrote letters in opposition see their neighborhoods, community, and hamlet in a currency much more valuable than the rigid business concerns of the IDA. Their commitment to the area is shown by choosing to raise their children here, retire, live, and die here. And to raise their voice when necessary to preserve what each individual loves about their community.

    So when IDA Vice Chair Kevin Harvey was quoted saying, “A lot of people saying tax breaks, blah, blah blah,” Many just shook their heads. A tone-deaf comment like his is more than insulting and makes it clear to everyone that the December 11th public hearing was merely a charade. It demonstrates that the Southold residents’ voices are meaningless and inconsequential, and this non-elected agency knows better than those directly impacted by their decisions and the Town of Southold.

    Mr. Harvey goes on to make a very puzzling statement that calls into question the efficacy of his agency, saying, “There’s always a misconception as to what the IDA does and how effective it is . . .” He then says, “The bottom line is, we’re here to educate the public as well as to provide tax incentives to builders.” If this is true, then here’s the question to the IDA: If there’s “always a misconception as to what the IDA does and how effective it is,” and it’s your job “to educate the public,” then is it possible that the IDA is not doing a very good job of educating the public? Clearly, more must be done by the IDA to inform the public because many educated individuals in Southold cannot intelligently make sense of how the IDA can render a unanimous decision in this case and then so flippantly dismiss the efforts of residents of the community who are respectfully asking for their side to be heard.

    While Dan Baker, the attorney for The Enclaves, described the letters in opposition to the project as “repetitive and regarding land use” and “not germane to this application,” this is what one would expect from someone representing their client. But when a Suffolk County agency like the IDA renders a 7-0 unanimous decision after hearing from a majority of Southold residents in opposition, followed by numerous emails and vocal opposition from the Southold Town, one must ask: who represents the needs of the people living in Southold?

    After making their decision, the comments of the IDA members appearing in the newspapers made it clear that they did not understand the arguments being made by Southold residents or were not listening to them. In retrospect, it seems intellectually dishonest for IDA to stage a hearing in Southold to show that the agency is transparent and open to hearing disparate views before deciding on The Enclaves project.
    There may be agreement, however, on one point between those opposed and those for the project. At the public meeting on December 11, 2023, an unambiguous statement from a member of the Southold Planning Board stated that he believed this was “the worst project that has ever come before the Southold Town Planning Board. It offers nothing beneficial to our community and residents.” It is this last sentence that may prove to be entirely accurate, and it is something that both sides – the residents in opposition and the principals building the project – can agree on. The difference is that, for one side, the community and the residents are of little importance.

    Nick Antonucci
    Southold Peconic Civic Association – Board Member
    Southold, NY

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