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Hamptons Life

Jun 20, 2015 10:37 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Residents Explore Options After Losing Summer Retreats On Dune Road

Fire destroyed the Sandpiper co-op on Dune Road in Westhampton Beach on April 15.    KYLE CAMPBELL
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Jun 21, 2015 9:34 AM

Dune Deck was purchased and demolished. The Sandpiper was leveled by a devastating fire. Both were on Dune Road in Westhampton Beach. The loss of these two longtime summer retreats changed the face of this waterfront road. It also forced residents to get creative with their summer plans.

"I think coupled with the Dune Deck being lost as well, it's had a negative effect," on Dune Road for the time being, said Maria Cunneen, a broker with Corcoran who had sold a number of properties at Sandpiper.

Dune Deck, a 69-unit co-op, was purchased by Discovery Land Company in March for $19 million and torn down earlier this month. The Arizona-based development company plans to build a high-end hotel and new restaurant in its stead. Discovery Land also plans to construct a resort community in East Quogue featuring 118 residential units and a private, 18-hole golf course on a combined 600 acres, the largest undeveloped property on the South Fork.

Not long after news broke about the Dune Deck sale, the Sandpiper, a 54-unit co-op, burned to the ground in April. The fast-moving fire destroyed the nearly 400-foot-long oceanside co-op, which was built in 1960.

No one was injured. Contractors in the building at the time of the fire were cleared out. There were no residents because the resort was still closed for the off-season.

"The cause of fire has been deemed undetermined, but it's still currently under investigation," Southampton Town Fire Marshal John Rankin said this week.

Aside from what was surely an upsetting loss of personal items for residents, those who wanted to spend time at the Sandpiper must have also felt the sting. "One poor guy had just gotten approval from the [co-op] board that morning," said Ms. Cunneen. "Four hours later, I'm calling up to tell him that the approval doesn't mean anything."

After discovering that their summer escape at the Sandpiper had gone up in smoke, residents scrambled to find somewhere else to live for the season. "When that first happened, there was such a huge influx of everybody looking for summer rentals," said Ms. Cunneen.

In fact, the incident brought some residents closer together. "There was a scurry of all the owners trying to find the right one, and there were groups of owners going in together for one house,” the broker said.

Others took a different route, like Jessica Salles, who'd purchased her apartment five years ago and renovated it. "It was like my little piece of heaven. It was a place I loved to go every weekend, so I was obviously really sad that it burned down," she said.

“But I kind of tried to see it in a positive way and say, ‘Well if I can’t go there every weekend, then I will use this opportunity to do something different.’ I try to do something different every weekend.” That will include renting a house on Fire Island for a small portion of the summer, and visiting friends. “Sometimes good things come from bad things,” Ms. Salles said.

Others are renting units at Sandpiper’s sister co-op, the Sandcastle. The two giants stood side by side, mirroring each other. All of Sandcastle’s units are filled this year. However, according to acting manager Billy Otten, one or two Sandcastle residents are renting their units to Sandpiper residents for the summer.

Both Mr. Otten and Ms. Cunneen referenced rumors that the Sandpiper is trying to rebuild, although it is unclear whether the same structure can be erected. Calls to former Sandpiper co-op board member Carrie Newman were referred to the current co-op president, who did not call back by press time.

However, the Westhampton Beach Village Building Department confirmed that the managers of the beachside complex have been talking to officials, although the village has not yet received an application. "I assume they do [have plans to return], but there is no application in at this time," said Paul Houlihan, Building and Zoning Administrator for Westhampton Beach, on Friday. He said he'd been contacted by several architectural firms a few weeks earlier, so he assumed that Sandpiper had put out a request for proposals and that architects were reviewing the village code as they drew up plans.

The property is "in a tough environmental zone," lying within a coastal erosion hazard area along with dunes and the flood plain, said Mr. Houlihan. A survey will be necessary and variances may be needed. The bigger obstacle will be with the Suffolk County Board of Health regarding the co-op's sewage treatment system. When the original building was erected 55 years ago, regulations were much more relaxed, and the co-op had cesspools, Mr. Houlihan said. As a multi-family use, the resort will need a sewage treatment system this time around.

"It'll be a lot of navigating and planning, and we’ll see. Can they fit everything back that they had? I'm not sure. But they'll certainly be able to rebuild," said Mr. Houlihan.

What also remains to be seen is how these changes on Dune Road will affect the village’s housing market in the long term. "I think it'll be felt more toward the end of the season and the early part of next year, because there will be more people looking for inventory,” said Ms. Cunneen. “Right now, there are more sellers coming to market.”

In the meantime, the former residents, some of whom have owned units at the Sandpiper since its inception, are eager for its return, as well as the return of their makeshift seasonal family.

“We’re sticking together and helping each other,” said Ms. Salles. “It’s a nice community of people.”

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Westhampton is dead. No oceanfront restaurants. 4 or 5 in the Village. No place for anyone under 85 to go. No one spending money. Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
By The Real World (352), southampton on Jun 22, 15 2:56 PM
LOL - no place for anyone under 85.
Losing Salt Water Grill was sad. It was such a nice setting. Not much left out there. And I agree, the town is pretty much a no-go zone.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Jun 22, 15 5:07 PM
Westhampton is far from dead thanks to The Hampton Synagogue and the jewish oasis they created in westhamoton.
By Summer Resident (223), Southampton N.Y. on Jul 7, 15 2:06 AM
ugh so true.
By CorVaa (5), on Jul 13, 15 4:42 PM
It's a great beachy village, and has seen far better days and decades. It used to be super quaint. Now it's somewhat superficial. The best thing about it was the bowling alley, Mad Hatters and Marakesh back in the day. Movie theatre still has a good draw of performers though.

Unfortunately, like everything good out east, the developers have set their sights on yet another money making venture. Board of Health approvals are going to be.huge eye opener for the new investors. It will be ...more
By Harbor Master (105), Sag Harbor on Jun 23, 15 7:12 PM
In another 10 years this will be nothing more than a community of rich second home owners and the recent immigrant working class here to support them. Nobody in their 20's or 30's unless you're a teacher, cop, lawyer, or doctor wants to stay here year round. They don't want to live with their parents or pay 1500 to live in someones basement. Throw in nothing for them to do, no jobs, and it's a grim future.
By lirider (263), Westhampton Beach on Jun 24, 15 12:09 AM