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Dec 12, 2018 12:08 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

After Heated Debate, Southampton Town Board Again Tables Bel-Aire Cove Decision

Town Board member Christine Scalera debated with the rest of the Town Board about the need to hold a public hearing to use Community Preservation Fund money to purchase the Bel-Aire Cove Motel in Hampton Bays, despite the rest of the board's opposition to the move. GREG WEHNER
Dec 18, 2018 11:51 AM

Southampton Town Board members once again have tabled a proposal to purchase and redevelop a motel in Hampton Bays under the town’s Community Development Program.

Instead, following a heated and lengthy debate at a meeting on Tuesday, December 11, the board decided to hold a public hearing in January on an alternative proposal—to purchase and preserve the Bel-Aire Cove Motel property on Shinnecock Road using Community Preservation Fund money—although only one board member spoke in support of the idea.

Town Board member Christine Scalera, the lone Republican on the five-member board, proposed the public hearing to purchase the property with CPF money, after members of the community flooded board members with requests to purchase it for preservation over the past few months. Though no other board member spoke in favor of the idea, they all agreed to hold a public hearing to vet the idea.

Ms. Scalera said she would love to see the property purchased for economic redevelopment—even as a hotel—but town code regulations would need to be enforced. If they were not enforced, the property could end up being a site for year-round apartments. The property is zoned for a seasonal hotel, but the Bel-Aire Cove Motel does currently serve as a residence for many of its clients—so the town would be in the same place it’s in now, she said, with a property not being used according to zoning, and contributing pollution to the bay.

She also said the purchase is based on speculation that someone would come in and purchase the property. Given the history of the town failing to sell town-owned properties—like a community center in Westhampton that recently has failed to attract a buyer, twice—Ms. Scalera said she is hesitant to use taxpayer money to purchase the Bel-Aire Cove Motel.

Throughout the hearing process, including emails to Town Board members about the purchase, Ms. Scalera said the overwhelming majority of people want to see CPF money used to purchase the property. She added that other properties on the water, like the one the motel sits on, would be looked into for preservation.

Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman has openly stated that he does not support purchasing the property with CPF money. He has said he would prefer to see the property contribute to the town’s tax base, which wouldn’t happen if it were preserved.

In August, Mr. Schneiderman presented an out-of-the-box plan to purchase the Bel-Aire Cove Motel for $1,060,000 through the town’s Community Development Program. Once purchased, he said, the town would tear down the motel, obtain the necessary permits for redevelopment, and work with members of the community to come up with a plan for the property based on what they would like to see there.

Mr. Schneiderman first proposed putting a co-op space or an eight-unit condominium complex spread between two buildings.

It was not until recently that Mr. Schneiderman said he might support keeping the property as a 22-unit motel, but instead of having the units spread throughout a single-story unit, he suggested having a two-story building with 11 units on the first floor and 11 on the second.

Mr. Schneiderman said he has been working on a plan for the building for a number of years—one that pays a higher tax to the school district and increases tourism value to the hamlet.

Town Board member Julie Lofstad also said she would like to see the property used for tourism, because for the past 10 years she has heard Hampton Bays residents ask for a better tourism base. She added that she was not saying the use of CPF money would be wrong, but she did not see it appropriate for the area. She agreed that Mr. Schneiderman’s plan would both help the tax base and help tourism.

Ms. Scalera told board members she heard overwhelming support from the community in previous hearings about the motel’s purchase, for CPF money to be used, and that it was only fair to have those people heard in a separate public hearing.

She added that having the hearing allows the issue to be fully vetted before the board makes its decision.

Mr. Schneiderman said having the additional hearing would stall the purchase, and the town would risk losing the property.

Ultimately, though, he joined all of his colleagues in agreeing to have a public hearing to allow everyone to be heard.

A public hearing on the matter will be held at 1 p.m. on January 8 at Town Hall.

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If you preserve it, it will only turn into a hang-out/hideout for the homeless and druggies. What a DUMB idea.
By HamptonDad (205), Hampton Bays on Dec 17, 18 11:43 AM
90% of the HB residents work..1pm on a Tuesday! Our ridiculously high property taxes are due this month...which will be coupled with the reassessment which will probably increase them but sure I CAN NOT WAIT TO TAKE THE DAY OFF to have my voice heard!
By 1bigfish (18), Hampton Bays on Dec 17, 18 2:24 PM
The taxes on this property is approximately $18,000 and similar "boutique" motels and small condo complexes pay about the same. I say $3.50 per taxpayer per year (18,000 divided by 5,000 taxpayers) of potential lost taxes is money well spent to see this motel sold and demolished. There is no guarantee that the proposed project won't end up as emergency housing and/or affordable housing once it is owned by the Town and will end up costing the taxpayers much more than $3.50 per year.
By G.A.Lombardi (372), Hampton Bays on Dec 17, 18 2:48 PM
So is this the answer to everything that's wrong with this town - tear it down? I agree with tinboat below, the government officials have got to do their job.
By HamptonDad (205), Hampton Bays on Dec 17, 18 5:28 PM
I don't make some generalization - this is a single one-acre piece of property zoned mostly R-20. So there are three options (1) leave the substandard housing as is since the Town has demonstrated that they can't or won't do anything about it for at least 5 years; (2) Town buy it with Community Preservation monies and the community will know the outcome or (3) Jay's original proposal for the Town to buy it and "roll the dice" that the Town will actually pull off some condo development or "boutique" ...more
By G.A.Lombardi (372), Hampton Bays on Dec 17, 18 6:25 PM
and to be clear as to the Board members' positions, Councilperson Scalera also stated that the Board's first course of action should have been/should be to enforce the laws. The proposal for CPF is in response to Supervisor Schneiderman's nebulous and unsubstantiated proposal to buy the property for "community development" that came out of left field in August.
By G.A.Lombardi (372), Hampton Bays on Dec 17, 18 6:53 PM
To remove it from the tax roles is wrong, There are laws in this town and the town has dozens of lawyers dealing with exsisting cases. The property is being used illegally as a apartment building not motel , does rhat mean I can turn my residential property into a bus depot.. Deal with the problem! That is why you were elected! HB needs family summer lodging,like they had when I grew up summers here in th 60s and 70s.
By tinboat (16), hampton bays on Dec 17, 18 4:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Town has represented for years that, since this is "pre-existing non-conforming" R-20 property that the courts don't uphold the "motel" use. I personally don't believe them. The Town Board just "settled" with Tiana Pines after 5 years and I believe 70 adjournments to allow the owners to convert to apartments. If they purchase this particular one with CPF, at least the costs for code enforcement, school enrollment , etc. will be eliminated. Not the ideal outcome, but better than what is there ...more
By G.A.Lombardi (372), Hampton Bays on Dec 17, 18 5:26 PM
If you watch the video and I recommend everyone does, Councilwoman Scalera, said she would have wanted to see it stay as a hotel (redone) for tourism if she had faith that the Board would enforce its laws but like the community she doesn't trust they would. Good for you Ms. Scalera- Honesty! I understand pilot payments would be available if CPF took it so schools would not be impacted by the purchase. Stay the course Ms. Scalera!
By Roughrider28 (80), southampton on Dec 18, 18 8:41 AM
Exactly RR, Supervisor Schneiderman pulled the proposal for redevelopment out of the air in August and can't back it up. Councilperson Schiavonni and Bouvier seem to go along for the ride and could not back up why they believe it will be "successful" and a benefit to HB. I felt Councilperson Scalera's frustration with her other Board members. Personally, I find the proposal for redevelopment unfounded and borderline unethical.
By G.A.Lombardi (372), Hampton Bays on Dec 18, 18 9:11 AM
This situation has gone on for over six years. The property is located in a critical environmental area. Lets have the public hearing I believe that it's a specious argument that we might lose the property.. Jay told us previously no one would purchase the property as is.
By HB salvation (13), Hampton bays on Dec 17, 18 7:47 PM
This is how the town operates!! Look at the camp rangers house; could have been used and on the tax rolls all this time by keeping the people who lived there in place......but it sits vacant and a eye sore for the neighbors and they were displaced....why would this be different?
By Cercis (5), hampton bays on Dec 17, 18 7:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
When it comes to anything Jay does, one needs to FOLLOW THE MONEY
By bigfresh (4245), north sea on Dec 18, 18 10:17 AM
and what about the rest of the Board members and alleged trusted advisers? What is the price for selling out? This Town Administration runs fast and loose - all fun and games until someone ends up hurt, sued or indicted.
By G.A.Lombardi (372), Hampton Bays on Dec 18, 18 10:35 AM
Stay out of the real estate business... You can't run what you have now...
By knitter (1656), Southampton on Dec 19, 18 11:40 AM
Eliminating the students dumped in the school system at $30K per yer each while only contributing $18K a year in taxes. Demolishing the motel and preserving the land would be a financial windfall for HB. No PILOT program needed.
By bird (777), Sag Harbor on Dec 19, 18 2:47 PM
I’m with you, bird. Tear it down and save the land. It’s all about money and politics not quality of life.
By Moral Dolphin (46), Southampton on Dec 20, 18 6:22 PM
1 member liked this comment