The Southold Town Board unanimously enacted a one-year moratorium on processing of applications for new hotels, motels and resorts Tuesday evening, overriding the Suffolk County Planning Commission’s recommendation that the town instead enact a six-month moratorium.

Southold Town is in the midst of a zoning code update that it expects to be finished by March of 2025, and is likely to make several changes to its regulations regarding hotels and other transient housing establishments as part of that process, as five hotel proposals in the works could have added as many as 180 hotel rooms to the area.

Those proposals include an application for a large hotel redevelopment of the former Capital One Bank headquarters on the Main Road in Mattituck (pictured above), a 9-room hotel proposed on Mill Road in Mattituck, which was recently submitted to the town’s planning board, and three concept-stage hotels at Brick Cove Marina and at Peconic Bay Vineyard and Old Field Vineyard.

Civic and environmental groups in Southold have been pushing for months for a broader moratorium while Southold finishes the zoning update. Many at a public hearing on the hotel moratorium Tuesday evening said they would still like the town to consider a more broad development pause while it finishes the zoning update.

Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association President Charles Gueli read aloud an April 10 letter from the North Fork Civics consortium of seven civic associations in Southold Town, urging a broader moratorium due to “an unprecedented and accelerating surge in development pressure.”

Chuck Simon of Southold said that hotels are by definition a transient use, while local schools are suffering from plummeting enrollment. He cited statistics that show the Southold Union Free School District enrollment has dropped from a high of 900 students to just 500 students now.

“What’s really important is that we consider affordable housing, so children can stay in the school system,” he said.

“How much of the land is vacant and can be developed?” asked North Fork Environmental Council North Fork Land Use Coordinator Anne Murray, adding that the town’s Geographic Information Systems Coordinator, Jon Sepenoski, had told her that morning that it was likely “thousands of acres.”

“I can guarantee a lot of people who own those parcels are not going to say ‘I want to sell my development rights to the town’,'” she added. “Save What’s Left. We live in one of the last great places.”

Ray Weathers of Cutchogue said he thinks the moratorium should last for two years, and added that he’s concerned about residential property owners who hide behind limited liability companies.

“You see the operational component, but the major partner, you don’t see,” he said. “I think those are serious constraints when dealing with the sustainability of 23 square miles. We have been under this pressure for years.”

John Armentano, a partner with Farrell Fritz Attorneys, asked, on behalf of his clients, the Cardinale family, owners of the former Capital One headquarters in Mattituck, that ‘redevelopment’ projects be excluded from the moratorium.

The Cardinales have proposed a resort hotel at the site, initially with nearly 200 rooms. Their management company met with an angry response from the Mattituck community when they pitched a 121-room hotel with an indoor water park, a 300-seat catering hall and a 200-seat restaurant for the property in 2023, but Mr. Armentano said the project has since been scaled back to 81 rooms “within existing buildings.”

“This plan has been significantly reduced,” he said. “All open space that exists is to be preserved, with no impact to environmentally sensitive parcels to the west.”

“It’s a rather large building, unused and unsightly,” he said, adding that its condition has devalued it in the eyes of Southold Tax Assessors, and redevelopment would increase the amount his client would pay in property taxes.

“My clients are here to suggest repurposing be considered as part of your exclusions,” he said.

Group for the East End Senior Environmental Advocate Jennifer Hartnagel said The Group supports a broader moratorium, which it feels is “a legally permitted and warranted action” while the town updates its zoning code.

“The North Fork is really at a turning point, I think we all know that, as far as development,” she said. She also urged the board not to exempt redevelopment applications.

“That would completely undermine the purpose of what you’re trying to do here,” she said, adding that the Cardinale site “is a complete teardown, not a reuse of the site.”

She urged the board to finish the zoning update as soon as possible.

George Cork Maul, who represents New Suffolk on the North Fork Civics coalition, urged the board to make the town’s Zoning Advisory Committee meetings more open — the public currently sits behind a roped-off area in the meetings in the former Southold Savings Bank lobby that now serves as a Town Hall Annex. He said that volunteer group is doing great work, and needs more than the three more meetings it’s been allotted to finish it.

Editor’s Note: (Mr. Maul also serves as The Beacon’s Creative Director, a non-editorial role)

He then showed the board an advertisement from a South Fork magazine for a land use law firm that showed a close-up of an elephant’s foot, with text asking residents to call them for legal advice if local zoning is crushing their real estate dreams.

“The residents of the Town of Southold are willing to fight for the beautiful community we have here, and greed is not going to be how this town goes,” he said. “Every large project that wants to turn a quick buck and turn it over to mergers and acquisitions for the next group to own — that’s not what we want here…. There’s a big difference between growing pumpkins and having a resort with pumpkins in the front yard.”

As the Town Board members began, one by one, to cast “yes” votes to enact the moratorium, Town Supervisor Al Krupski thanked the public for showing up.

“I understand the call for a broader moratorium. I think people understand the complications with that,” he sad. “The board is committed to completing the zoning update in March.”

He urged members of the public to show up to weigh in on zoning recommendations that are expected from the town’s zoning consultant later this summer.

“That’s when it’s going to be very impactful,” he said, urging more members of the public to attend Zoning Advisory Committee (ZAC) meetings. “We need a lot of public participation.”

The ZAC meetings are generally held on Mondays at 4 p.m. at the Town Hall Annex, and are posted on the town’s calendar. The next meeting will be held June 24.

Councilman Greg Doroski said that, while Mr. Armentano made a compelling argument regarding redevelopment of existing sites, many potential sites for new hotels already have uses on them, and a hotel could be considered redevelopment at any of those locations.

“I would welcome any applicant to appeal for relief,” he said. The moratorium legislation includes a process for appealing to be allowed to continue with an application.

“There’s a lot of legitimate concern about the pace of development in Southold Town,” he said, adding that there’s not any one use, other than hotels, that is facing enough development pressure to warrant a moratorium.

“Moratoriums are a pretty significant tool that could have a significant detrimental effect on Southold,” he added. “We have a very engaged community that has really helped shape these discussions. The right people are here for the job.”

“I’m so appreciative of the local civics. We have super-engaged citizens,” said Councilman Brian Mealy. “We need a strategic strike at something that is troubling.”

“This is one tool that is a strategic strike,” agreed Councilwoman Anne Smith. “We are working hard on all fronts… We appreciate the engagement, and any open and honest feedback you can give us.”


Southold at Work to Protect Against Hamptonization

Keenly aware of its potential to rival the Hamptons as a second-home destination for the super-rich, Southold Town is also working to limit some of those extravagances, including excessive irrigation and oversized houses on small lots. Read More.


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Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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