Pictured Above: The controversial Enclaves resort hotel project in Southold began clearing land in late February, after years of concerns raised by Southold residents.

The Southold Town Board waded into a discussion Tuesday on whether to propose a moratorium on development of hotels and motels while the town completes its Zoning Update, as the North Fork Environmental Council begged the town to consider a much more sweeping pause on development.

The conversation comes just after The Enclaves resort hotel received final site plan approval and began clearing a nearly seven-acre lot in Southold for development of a 40-room resort hotel, and as five new hotels and two expansions of existing hotels, totaling about 180 new hotel rooms, are being proposed by developers, Town Planning Director Heather Lanza told the Town Board at its March 12 work session.

Town planning staff are in the midst of a series of meetings with civic groups in hamlets across the town, at which Ms. Lanza said hotel proposals have emerged as one of the biggest concerns among residents.

Ms. Lanza said the town currently has one formal application for a new hotel, two are just design concepts and two are in presubmission meetings with the town. The two expansions include one for additional rooms and one for the addition of a restaurant.

Town Attorney Paul DeChance said the town would be “putting a pause on everything we have that doesn’t have final approval,” if it adopts the moratorium, and added that, because the town is in the midst of updating its zoning code “there is basis to apply for it (a moratorium) and a good chance of it being approved” by the Suffolk County Planning Commission if the town outlines the specific purpose and limited duration of the moratorium. Ms. Lanza said she expects the zoning update to be complete in the spring of 2025.

Board members were cautious of even opening the conversation.

“This very discussion is going to kick the hornet’s nest,” said Councilman Greg Doroski. “We’re going to see a bunch of applications come in for multiple high-intensity uses.”

“I want to guard against an open-ended moratorium, ensuring the maximum length of 12 months, and make sure we get the code update on the books within 12 months,” he added.

“My concern with the moratorium is there are so many changes you have to make, because we have a lot of applications and there’s a lot of talk about this — are we just reacting?” said Councilwoman Jill Doherty. “Moratoriums take time, paperwork and money. I’d like to see the value of let’s just go to work and get it done.”

“I’m not advocating either way, but if we don’t do a moratorium, we will be processing several hotel applications over the next couple months,” said Ms. Lanza. “That’s just a fact. It doesn’t matter how fast we prioritize hotels.”

Ms. Lanza said some of the potential changes to hotel requirements in the zoning update would include an updated calculation for the number of allowed hotel rooms per acre, a cap on the maximum size of hotels, and assessment of requirements for ancillary facilities at a hotel, like conference centers, recreation centers, water parks, golf simulators and restaurants.

“If you’re an investor or a developer, it would give you some comfort to know this is where the town’s directing me. They just came out of a zoning update, and if I apply under these parameters I should be successful,” said Town Supervisor Al Krupski.

North Fork Environmental Council (NFEC) Southold Land Use Coordinator Anne Murray, of East Marion, urged the board to enact a broader moratorium at its regular meeting the same evening.

She said that, in the 14 years since Southold began working on its Comprehensive Plan Update, the town has seen “an unprecedented surge in development, the loss of affordable housing and a huge increase in tourism and traffic.”

She said the NFEC urges the town to enact a “12-month, carefully considered moratorium on all commercial development and subdivisions, excluding single family homes that do not need further approval, including trustee permits.”

“With a moratorium in place, the Town Board, planners and the public will have the time they need to fully focus on the zoning effort, and breathing room to carefully evaluate what we want this place to look like 10 years from now,” she added. “Without a moratorium in place, we face pages of plans from more developers who care little for our fragile environment, as well as our fishing and farming heritage. I know all of you as public servants care deeply about Southold. Act before we are faced with another Enclaves disaster.”

Her tearful comments were met with applause from the audience.

Town planners will take part in discussions with the Cutchogue and New Suffolk civic associations on Thursday, March 14 at 5:30 p.m. at the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Library, and with the Southold-Peconic Civic Association on Saturday, March 23 at 10 a.m. at CAST in Southold.

The Town Board is also considering extending a 12-month moratorium on Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) due to expire in April, after New York State recently issued local code recommendations for siting and safety requirements for BESS facilities.

The board will hold a public hearing on a 12-month extension of the BESS moratorium at its next regular meeting on Tuesday, March 26 at 4:30 p.m.

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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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