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May 25, 2011 11:09 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Around Southampton Town Hall: Board To Vote On CPI

May 25, 2011 11:11 AM

The Southampton Town Board reviewed the details of an application for a proposed industrial park at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton at a public hearing on Tuesday night.

The main feature of the proposal is a three-story hotel at the site, which was a subject of concern for local residents at the first hearing on the project earlier this month, since it called for an additional story than what was already approved in 2007. The overall plan, a planned development district, was approved in 2007, but the developers are now seeking to modify that original plan.

The project proposes a three-story, 43-foot-tall hotel on the nearly 50-acre project site, which is taller than the 35-foot, two-story building approved in the original plan. The project also would create approximately 510,000 square feet of industrial space.

Tuesday night’s public hearing focused on concerns about the size of signs on the property. One of the developers of the project, Gregg Rechler, a managing partner of Rechler Equity Partners—with his cousin Mitchell Rechler, presented elevations of the proposed plan to the board. Mr. Rechler is asking for a 6-foot-tall by 16-foot-long sign totalling 96 square feet, according to Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, who expressed concern at the last public hearing that such a sign would resemble a billboard.

Mr. Rechler said two signs would be mounted on a decorative wall that would be 96 square feet in size, and that the signs would not actually be that big.

“We’re not proposing a billboard,” Mr. Rechler said. “We’re proposing a decorative signage wall.”

Representatives of the developers also argued that there would be mitigation measures taken to shield any visual impact of the hotel, including a berm along the property line and architectural elements that would make the building look traditional and fit within the character of Southampton Town.

Joe Gazza, a real estate developer and Quogue resident, made a number of comments objecting to the project. He said the developers should be required to preserve more land on the nearly 1,500-acre airport property, which is located both in the Pine Barrens Core area and Compatible Growth area—highly environmentally sensitive areas. But the developers and Town Planning and Development Administrator Jefferson Murphree argued that the plan is in compliance with the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act, and 35 percent of the property will remain preserved and undeveloped.

The board ultimately voted to close the hearing, allowing for a 30-day written comment period. The next step is for the Town Board to make a final decision on the proposed changes to the plan, said Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

CPI Application To Move Forward

The Town Board unanimously gave the green light for developers Gregg and Mitchell Rechler to move forward with a formal application for a planned development district project in Hampton Bays that would create 40 townhouses on the Shinnecock Canal in exchange for renovating and expanding the Canoe Place Inn.

This does not mean that the project is approved. What this is means is that the developers have supplied enough information and cleared the pre-submission application requirements for PDD projects—guidelines that have been clearly defined and spelled out in a recently-approved PDD code.

Although they’re not required to abide by the new rules because their PDD application predated the code’s passage, the developers are doing so anyway, according to Ms. Throne-Holst.

At this point, the board will enter a formal application process and will conduct a number of public hearings and presentations on the project, Ms. Throne-Holst said.

The board’s official nod to the developers follows a long and tumultuous project history. The developers originally proposed a vastly different application for the property in 2007 that would have seen the inn demolished and created 75 condominiums erected in its place. In 2008, the Rechlers filed suit against the town, claiming that a building moratorium in place at the time impeded their ability to use their property at their discretion. Tensions between the town and the cousins reached all-time high this past fall when the developers submitted an application for a permit to demolish the inn—drawing the ire of local preservationists who want the building protected.

Both the initial application and the demolition permit have officially been withdrawn by the developers as of Tuesday, according to Ms. Throne-Holst.

Some members of the community spoke for and against moving the project forward. One Hampton Bays resident, Marilynda Vianna, said she believes the project will only increase density and pollution in an already burgeoning hamlet. On the other hand, resident Marie Mulcahy said she believed that the newly renovated Canoe Place Inn, and the additional homes, would bring value to the community.

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That Gabreski sign's pretty big, and it's hard to believe that the hotel behind it will actually look as muted as it does in the "visual representation" above. Where is the CAC-West in all this? Where are other community groups?
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on May 25, 11 3:21 PM