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Jul 14, 2010 10:39 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Condos in exchange for Canoe Place Inn restoration plan receives mixed reviews

Jul 14, 2010 10:39 AM

HAMPTON BAYS—Residents grilled Southampton Town officials over the last two weeks about a pending deal that would allow developers to build dozens of luxury condominiums along the east side of Shinnecock Canal in exchange for preserving the venerable Canoe Place Inn building—a proposal that raised concerns but few outright rejections from hamlet residents.

About two dozen people gathered at the Hampton Bays Public Library on Ponquogue Avenue for a Hampton Bays Citizens Advisory Committee meeting last Wednesday, July 7, where Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Planning and Development Administrator Jefferson Murphree unveiled early sketches of the proposed condos and outlined the tentative deal. They said the owners of the Canoe Place Inn property, cousins Gregg and Mitchell Rechler, will revise their bid to raze the 88-year-old Canoe Place Inn building if Southampton Town considers a separate application from them to construct 43 condominiums almost directly across the Shinnecock Canal, at the site of Tide Runners restaurant.

The Rechlers, who head the firm R Squared LLC in Melville, own both sites. They requested a zoning change within the last few years that would allow them to knock down the Canoe Place Inn building, where the nightclub Coliseum now operates, and put up a $100 million resort complex in its place. That proposal drew flak from some Hampton Bays residents who said the structure is rich in history even though it lacks landmark status.

Ms. Throne-Holst told residents that the pending counter-proposal from the Rechlers came after a long negotiation process that she called a “labor of love” on her part. The Rechlers declined to comment on the matter, citing ongoing litigation—their company filed a notice of claim against the town in September 2009 over a building moratorium in Hampton Bays that began in 2008 and expired this March.

The developers would need a zoning change, most likely in the form of a planned development district, or PDD, in order to build 43 condominiums, each 2,400 square feet, on the 4.5-acre North Road property where Tide Runners and 1 North Steakhouse now stand, officials said.

If approved by the Town Board, a PDD will allow the builders to skirt zoning rules in exchange for public benefits. As part of the PDD, the public would have access to a boardwalk along the canal, Ms. Throne-Holst said. That walkway and the preservation of the Canoe Place Inn are the only public benefits that had been discussed up to this point, she said.

The Rechlers would also seek to construct a wastewater treatment system on a wooded 2.6-acre lot, which they also own, across North Road from the proposed condos. Most of the trees on the parcel would remain undisturbed, officials said.

The luxury condos could sell for almost $1 million each, according to Jim Morgo, a former Suffolk County deputy chief executive who represented the Rechlers at last week’s meeting. The deal would make it financially worthwhile for the Rechlers to keep the existing Canoe Place Inn building and renovate it into a banquet hall and restaurant for weddings and other gatherings—a use that would be less lucrative than the original resort proposal, officials said. As per the plan, the exterior of the building would be restored and preserved.

The site of the proposed condos is currently zoned “resort waterfront business,” according to Mr. Murphree, meaning that the Rechlers are allowed to build marinas, motels and restaurants totaling up to 68,208 square feet of gross floor area. The wooded lot across North Road, where the wastewater treatment system would go, has the same zoning and allows for 48,000 square feet of development.

At 2,400 square feet per condo, the Rechlers will get a total of 103,200 square feet of gross floor area at the easternmost site—if the deal goes through. Condos also do not fall within the as-of-right uses for the property, meaning the Town Board will need to pave the way with a PDD.

Mr. Morgo told residents that Ms. Throne-Holst brought the Rechlers “kicking and screaming” to the negotiating table.

“The Rechlers, I tell you, don’t have an appetite to create something that looks just like the Canoe Place Inn on the outside,” he said. “They didn’t want it.”

The proposal drew a slew of questions from residents at the meeting, and reactions ranging from lukewarm to chilly as community members were forced to weigh the historical value of the building with the prospect of added density in their hamlet—already the most populous one in Southampton Town.

Ms. Throne-Holst insisted at the start of last week’s meeting that she was not out to “sell” the deal or even express an opinion, but simply to get a sense of where the community stood. She said community input will guide the rest of the process.

The supervisor did, however, stress that the deal would satisfy a need for a large event hall on the South Fork, and said that she usually has to travel to the North Fork for fire department dinners and other events.

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How is Canoe Place Inn zoned RWB when it is not waterfront?

Richard Casabianca, a lifelong Hampton Bays resident who once headed the hamlet’s historical society, called the Canoe Place Inn “Southampton Town’s number-one heritage aspect"

Is this guy out of his mind? There are many much more historic structures then this, North Sea Harbor for one, where the founders first came ashore. The Thomas Halsey House in Southampton circa 1648. The Pelletreau Shop circa 1686, which was a ...more
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 15, 10 5:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
ICE,

I'm guessing he is bias because he lives in HB....
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 16, 10 12:48 PM
Where to begin... As I predicted this would need an STP but I had no idea they owned that piece across the street - I sure feel bad for the homeowners around there, the property values will plumment.


First, Ms. Throne-Holst. Don't you know that your constituents no longer believe you? You state, "Mr. Morgo told residents that Ms. Throne-Holst brought the Rechlers 'kicking and screaming' to the negotiating table.
The Rechlers, I tell you, don’t have an appetite to create something ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 16, 10 12:58 PM
Considering the condition of the town's economy and the disgusting shape and use of the CPI, can anyone who has any grasp of reality quarrel with this compromise? The renovated and restored inn and the luxury condos will provide strong and desparately needed tax receivables. And, oh by the way, the Rechlers own the property; property rights are important in this country. They could demolish the inn and put up a Wendy's "as of right" in short order. We should congratulate ATH and the Town Board ...more
By gordie howe (55), hockeytown usa on Jul 17, 10 5:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Gordie,

What planet are you living on? The owners don't have the right to build a Wendy's on either site (both of which are zoned resort waterfront business). They certainly don't have the right to build 10 units/acre which is absurd. What benefit does the public get from this?

Tiderunners is a popular restaurant with the local crowd and is much better environmentally then the proposed condos. The Rechlers are using the outspoken people of Hampton Bays in order to get density ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 18, 10 4:47 PM
Why don't they have the right to put up a Wendy's if they chose? RWB allows for many uses, I don't see how they could be stopped if they chose that route, which of course they wouldn't.
How exactly is Tiderunners much better environmentally than the condos would be? I'm sure the bathrooms at Tiderunners get a good work out with many flushes all summer long. Then there is the kitchen and the various cleaners and degreasers used to clean it every night, all going into the septic system and the ...more
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 18, 10 7:33 PM
I still don't understand why it is RWB when it is not waterfront! This makes little sense, RB if there were such a thing, but RWB is ridiculous!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 18, 10 7:35 PM
Southampton Town Code Section 315-1J:

"Along the Shinnecock Canal is a mostly developed area zoned as Resort Waterfront Business (RWB). RWB uses are intended to complement their proximity to the canal, and the types of uses permitted in the RWB Zoning District are a reflection of the resort tourism economy that the Town of Southampton is known for. Public access to the water is a critical part of the Town's culture and economy. In recent years, however, there has been a growing trend by ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 18, 10 10:22 PM
Wendy's is a defined as a fast food establishment. Fast food establishments are not permitted uses in RWB. Furthermore, no fast food burger joint would open a store without having a drive-thru, which requires a special permit. The Town Board would have to issue said special permit. Additionally, it would be fiscally stupid to use that whole big site for a Wendy's

Tiderunners has a small footprint on the site and isn't open during the winter. While a good number of the condo units will ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 18, 10 10:31 PM
Not all worked up. It still isn't waterfront, so it is odd that it is spot zoned as RWB. All the other properties on that side of the street are residentially zoned. I think it would have made more sense if the CPI had been zoned Motel from the get go as that was it's use at the time zoning came into affect. It may have prevented its use as a low brow club for all these years as well.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 19, 10 4:57 PM
That a tempting offer to find a compliant private STP for a lobster dinner. I thought the average amount of water was 600 gal per day. Of course they will pump the treated water into the bay and it will be flushed into the ocean as the tide goes out. I am no fan of STPs and was curious what your take on it was. I know the town operated STP in Riverhead routinely gets more than it can handle and then it pumps untreated waste right into the Peconic River. Then everyone is surprised when Brown or Red ...more
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 19, 10 5:04 PM