After years of debate, the Southold Town Board voted July 19 to rezone the old abandoned oyster factory property on Shipyard Lane in East Marion.
Under the new zoning, a small resort hotel, restaurant, marina and conference center, along with some residential housing lots, could be put on the 18-acre property, instead of a large marina and boat storage buildings.
But the new owners of the property, have other plans that don’t fit the new zoning either, and they rented the East Marion Firehouse on July 23 to lay out their plans before a community that is already at arms about increasing traffic and environmental pressures on their small hamlet.
The new owners, builder Bill Locantro of Paramount Custom Homes, and Sal DeLorenzo, along with their architect, Edward Butt and engineer Doug Jones, want to build a residential development there called Oyster Cove@Peconic Bay, with 22 two-family detached housing units and 36 condominiums. There would also be a 16-slip private marina, with two slips reserved for local oyster farmers, in an existing basin that was part of the oyster factory operations.
But neither the new zoning nor the prior zoning allows what the developers plan to do, said Mr. Butt, who spent nearly two hours at the July 23 meeting presenting the plan as he was peppered with questions from the community about traffic, beach access, sewage disposal, environmental remediation and the perils of building so close to the water.
Mr. Butt said his plans were already drawn up before Southold rezoned the property, and the developers plan to approach the town looking for relief from the new zoning, either by another rezoning of the property or with variances from the town Zoning Board of Appeals. He said there currently aren’t enough options in the “menu” of Southold’s zoning code to provide for a project like the one they’ve proposed.
“What can be done, based on the zoning that was just approved, is very, very large homes, with a hotel in front with a restaurant and yacht club. That is not what our intention is,” said Mr. Butt.
“We build high end homes. We don’t want a hotel and we don’t want a 200-seat restaurant,” said Mr. Locantro, who added that he envisions the place will be a summer community.
Mr. Jones, the engineer, said he’s had a discussion with representatives of the Greenport Sewer District about hooking up to the sewage treatment plant that serves the Peconic Landing retirement community, that they’d be bringing a public water main down from Route 25 to the site, and that the Department of Environmental Conservation would closely monitor any work along the shoreline to ensure any contaminated sediments are handled appropriately.
But one member of the audience, who serves on the board of the San Simeon by the Sound nursing home, said that when San Simeon planned about a year ago to build housing on their property and tie it in to the Greenport sewer district, the answer they received was a flat “no.” He questioned whether a sewer hookup would be as easy as Mr. Jones seemed to think.
The units would need to be elevated due to FEMA floodplain building requirements, but the developers plan to use the extra space to make all parking for the property underneath the buildings. They would still be underneath the 35-foot height limit on buildings in Southold Town.
Many members of the public said they were concerned about the project adding to the intense traffic in the neighborhood, which includes cars heading to and from the Orient Point Ferry and to the Lavender by the Bay farm on Route 25 in the height of lavender season.
Mr. Butt said a traffic study will be done as part of the process of submitting the plans to the town’s land use boards — that study would be done in the high summer season, he said, but not this year.
Some members of the public said they’d heard the developers expect to make between $160 million and $240 million from the project. The average price of a condominium unit there would be at least $2.5 million.
“We’re builders. We do this to make a profit. Let’s be transparent,” said Mr. Locantro. “That’s what we do for a living. I’m used to building high quality homes.”
He added that the rezoning of the property has complicated his plans.
“We’re not commercial guys. We do residential,” he said. “Now that it is zoned where it is strictly going to be a hotel and restaurant, we’re going to look at our options of what we would or wouldn’t do with the property, whether to sell it or turn it over to another operator…. Something’s going to be built here, one way or another.”
Southold Town Councilwoman Jill Doherty, who was in the audience, implored members of the public to show up for any future public hearings on the project before either the town board or the land use boards like the zoning board and the planning board.
“It’s very important that you go to these meetings and pay attention,” she said, adding that many times no one shows up for public hearings and elected leaders are left without an idea of how the public feels about a topic.
“Your voice matters,” she said.