The Southampton Town Board voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to approve a zoning change to pave the way for the redevelopment of the Canoe Place Inn and the construction of 37 townhouses on the east side of the Shinnecock Canal in Hampton Bays.
The current redevelopment proposal, originally submitted to the town by developers Rechler Equity Partners in February 2012, includes a plan to renovate the Canoe Place Inn for use as a 20-unit inn, a 350-occupancy catering facility, 70-seat restaurant, 20-seat bar and 120 outdoor seats, and the renovation of five existing cottages.
Three properties on the east side of the canal would be developed with 37 townhouses, a 1,900-square-foot clubhouse, pool and private marina and a community sewage treatment system for the townhouses, and one parcel to be owned by Southampton Town would provide a public fishing pier on the canal.
The town board’s move changed the zoning on the properties from Resort Waterfront Business and Motel Business into a Maritime Planned Development District. The eastern parcels had been in the Resort Waterfront Business zoning district, which does not allow for residential development.
All of the town board members gave statements before casting their votes in favor of the project.
“This is and was a very difficult decision,” said Councilman Brad Bender. “There is no willing seller for preservation and the tax loss to this community would be huge.”
Mr. Bender added that he believes the use of a state-of-the-art septic system on the property will not damage the environment, the CPI redevelopment will give Southampton Town its only catering hall, and the neighborhood will benefit from $300,000 donated by the developers to design the public fishing access pier and $50,000 to be provided in road improvements.
Councilwoman Christine Scalera said she believes “the canal does far more to unite town than to divide it,” and said she hopes the project will help the economy in Hampton Bays.
“I see this project as responsible and environmentally sound,” she said.
Councilman Stan Glinka said he hopes the development will “set the stage to bring future developers to Hampton Bays.”
Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said she believes CPI needs “a shot in the arm,” and said that “public pressure has had an enormously beneficial impact on this project.”
Ms. Fleming urged neighbors to contact her if they have any concerns about noise during construction or if the developers decide to use the wastewater treatment plant site for storage, both issues of concern that she said the developers have promised to address.
Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the CPI part of the project is “marrying historic preservation with economic developent” in a facility unrivaled in Southampton Town.
She said there’s nowhere for destination weddings or conventions in Southampton.
“Short of George Washington, everyone of note did sleep at the Canoe Place Inn,” she said.
She added that, while there was no proposal on the table for a Gosman’s Dock-style series of shops along the waterfront as proposed by many opponents of the project, she doesn’t thing that type of development will work.
“At Gosman’s, there’s nothing there eight months out of the year,” she said. “I don’t think that’s what you want to see on the east side of canal. There’s just so many ice cream shops that you can have that can sustain themselves.”
“People are going to come to Hampton Bays for this,” she added. “They’re going to spend the weekend there. It’s going to be the backbone of economic develpment and revitalization in Hampton Bays. I have no fear at all that this is going to be boarded up in seven years.”
Ms. Throne-Holst added that she’d received hundreds of emails in support of the project.
The project has been the subject of numerous contentious public hearings over the past three years, and the room Tuesday was filled with residents holding signs reading “We will remember your vote in November.”
Supporters and opponents of the project spent more than an hour discussing their concerns during the open public comment period before the vote.
Hampton Bays resident Bruce King said he thinks the complaints are baseless.
“The project is good, it’s clean and it’s going to help the environment,” he said. “It’s time to vote and it’s time to move forward on this project.
Hope Sandrow said 1,238 people have signed on in support of her change.org petition asking the town board to vote no on the townhouses, though board members said her petition contains several factual inaccuracies.
Ms. Throne-Holst pointed out that people from as far away as South Africa had signed Ms. Sandrow’s petition, and that her complaints about distance from wetlands are inaccurate because there are no wetlands on the bulkheaded site.
Bonnie Doyle requested the board vote no “to allow for thoughtful redesign that more accurately reflects the town’s desires.”
Al Algeri of the East Quogue Civic Association called the townhouses an aesthetic disaster on par with the oceanfront shoreline of Fort Lauderdale.
Bruce Doscher is a neighbor of the project who was originally opposed, but is now in favor of it.
“The Rechlers have bent over backwards to make this what it is today,” he said. “Most concerns are old. They’ve all been raised before.”
Maud Pollock wasn’t interested in the project at all.
“Hampton Bays is a disaster. It’s full of illegal aliens. Our schools are full of illegal aliens,” she said, adding that she believes the townhouses are not going to help the community.
“That canal should be left natural the way it is,” she said.