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Mar 28, 2018 11:31 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Discussion Of Village Latch Application Continues Without George Benedict

Revised plans for the Village Latch in Southampton Village were presented to the Zoning Board of Appeals last week.
Mar 28, 2018 11:41 AM

New plans for a 23-unit condominium complex on the Village Latch Inn property were presented to the Southampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals last week—and one of the key figures behind the project has been removed from the official paperwork.

George Benedict, the father-in law of former Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley, is no longer listed on the Village Latch application, according to Water Mill-based attorney David J. Gilmartin, who represents the Beechwood Organization, which now owns the property, which covers about 5.5 acres off Hill Street.

Mr. Gilmartin said on Monday that he wasn’t aware of the details regarding Mr. Benedict’s departure from the application.

The Latch property is owned by the Beechwood Organization, which is seeking to change the certificate of occupancy of the property from a hotel use to a nonconforming condominium use.

“Mr. Benedict was a member in Beechwood Latch LLC,” Steven Dubb, a principal of the organization, said on Tuesday. “The principals of The Beechwood Organization formed a new entity that purchased the membership interest of George Benedict in Beechwood Latch LLC.

“The property was not sold. Just the membership interest of George Benedict. It was a private transaction,” he added.

Reached by phone, George Benedict declined to comment.

The property is currently zoned to allow only single-family homes on lots of a half acre or more. As a hotel, the property was preexisting and nonconforming; switching to condominiums would be a multi-family use, which is not allowed under the current zoning.

The application to convert the property was in a holding pattern from December through February, but modified plans were presented to the ZBA on Thursday, March 22.

Originally, the plans called for the Village Latch Inn building—formerly the “Grand Annex” to the historic Irving Hotel on Hill Street—and what is known as the Terry Cottage on the property to be preserved mostly intact, though they would be converted into five condominium units. A clubhouse and pool were proposed to be built toward the front of the property, and 19 new units would be built behind the historic homes. The total number of units was to be 24.

The new proposal seeks to move the pool and clubhouse toward the back of the property, construct a total of 23 units and continue to preserve the Latch building. The Terry Cottage, which is no longer part of the application, will be developed and renovated as a single-family home as a separate project.

The plans now call for six 110-feet-wide buildings to be constructed behind the Latch, with two units in each. On the east and west sides of the property, the buildings will be 35 feet from the property line. Ten of the units, Mr. Dubb said, are 3,500 square feet, while the others will be slightly smaller. All units will have three bedrooms.

ZBA member Mark Greenwald questioned the density of the project, comparing it to an adjacent property, Whitefield Condominiums. “Why would it be a good idea for this area to have roughly similar square footage as an area four times the size?” he asked, referring to Whitefield, saying it has 88,000 square feet of developed space on 16 acres, while Mr. Dubb and his team are proposing to construct 75,000 square feet on 4.5 acres. “What I’m talking about is what appears to be roughly four times the density,” he added.

Another concern Mr. Greenwald voiced was how gross floor area, or GFA, calculations would factor into what is allowed in the residential zone. Village officials are currently looking at reducing the allowable GFA so that property owners can develop 10 percent of the size of the lot plus an additional 1,500 square feet.

“If you have a half acre, the village doesn’t want you to have 3,500 square feet,” Mr. Greenwald said. “But, here, we’re going to have 70,000 square feet on 4.5 acres. There’s just something inconsistent about that.”

Patrick Fife, an attorney representing the homeowners at Whitefield, also said the density of the project is still an issue. While many changes requested by Whitefield residents were addressed in the new plans, he said, the density remains high.

Mr. Fife also said his clients have concerns about the number of bedrooms, saying 23 units could include between 70 and 90 bedrooms. Mr. Gilmartin said there will be a total of 66 bedrooms, with no bedrooms in the basement.

Ultimately, Mr. Gilmartin kept referring to a final impact statement that was put together, that noted the project will be beneficial to the village. “Applying the R-20 and making some sort of judgment is really unfair to the history and background of the property,” he told board members, referring to the half-acre residential zoning. He said each board member should analyze whether the development will be beneficial to the neighborhood.

The hearing was adjourned until the next meeting on April 26 at 6 p.m.

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Nothing is done without a good reason, and if the lawyer is saying he does not know the reason for this change he's not being forthright. There is no law saying anyone has to tell the truth to reporters, and client confidentiality is a central tenet of legal ethics, but I surmise something significant warranted this change.
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on Mar 28, 18 2:18 PM
By bigfresh (4596), north sea on Mar 28, 18 6:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
The new owners of the Village Latch are wretched carpet baggers who have big plans. Don't be fooled.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Mar 29, 18 7:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
Not allowed... Go with the zoning. They know they can make money as the purchased it, just need the change to make a big grab.
Why is it we don't go with existing zoning???
By knitter (1908), Southampton on Mar 29, 18 9:52 AM
1 member liked this comment
The word is someone has a subject to contract when the approvals are done. I believe they are supposed to disclose that but the laws don't apply to everyone in Southampton Village
By chief1 (2791), southampton on Mar 30, 18 8:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
Just say no to the density plan and let them operate it as a pop-up B&B until they reduce the density to half of what is proposed. No profit,then don't do it.
By Spendthrift (4), southampton on Apr 4, 18 3:35 PM
1 member liked this comment