After years of speculation about its fate, it appears that the Canoe Place Inn in Hampton Bays may be preserved after all.
The developers who own the property—cousins Gregg and Mitchell Rechler of R Squared LLC in Melville—and who at one time had threatened to tear down the inn, submitted a revised application last week to the Southampton Town Board for a planned development district, or PDD. As part of that plan, they would restore the historic inn in exchange for permission to build 40 townhouses on land they also own on the eastern side of the Shinnecock Canal, almost directly across from the Canoe Place Inn property.
The cousins’ latest proposal, submitted on March 8, marks their second PDD application for the property, and centers around saving the inn—a vastly different concept from what was original conceived for the property.
The project has a lengthy history.
The Rechlers had submitted a similar application in 2007 to raze the inn and build 75 condominiums in its place. The plan inspired community outrage over the possible demolition of the inn, a structure that hamlet residents claim is the most historically significant building in Hampton Bays, if not in all of Southampton Town, even though it has never been recognized as an official landmark.
A series of building moratoriums—which prohibited any development in Hampton Bays—put the original PDD project on hold and eventually opened a dialogue between the developers and the community about the possible restoration of the structure. It also spurred the developers to file a lawsuit in 2008 against the town, which claimed that the moratorium interfered with their ability to use the property at their own discretion.
Things came to a head this past fall, when the cousins submitted an application for a demolition permit for the inn. That application was deemed incomplete in November, according to Clare Vail, the town’s principal planner for the property. Gregg Rechler said in a previous interview that he was pursing both the demolition of the building and the PDD process simultaneously.
In order to preserve the inn, the Rechlers must secure approval for the PDD from the Town Board. A PDD is a zoning tool that allows developers to circumvent the current zoning of a property in exchange for some form of public benefit. The cousins aim to use the special zoning to gain approval to build the townhouses on the eastern side of the canal—where restaurants North 1 Steakhouse and Tide Runners currently stand—in exchange for restoring the inn, constructing a walkway along the canal and purchasing an undetermined amount of open space.
The 60-page application states that the developers agreed to restore both the interior and exterior of the 88-year-old structure, transforming it into a catering hall. If the PDD is granted, the cousins would also drop the lawsuit regarding the building moratorium, according to the document.
The Rechlers’ say in their application that they plan to hire a private catering company to run a banquet hall in the renovated Canoe Place Inn. It was not immediately clear who would be contracted to run the facility.
“We wholeheartedly believe that our plans for these two properties are going to result in improved quality of life for Hampton Bays and be aesthetically pleasing,” wrote the cousins in a letter included in the application.
According to Jennifer Garvey, a spokeswoman for Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, the next step in the PDD application process is for the Rechlers to attend a pre-submission work session on Friday, April 8, with the Town Board. At the meeting, the cousins will explain their plans in detail.
“The planning staff has to review the replications, it’s a typical review,” Ms. Garvey said, adding that the progress of the application depends solely on the feedback the developers receive during next month’s work session.
The Rechlers have filed the application in the midst of the supervisor’s efforts to amend the legislation governing all PDD applications. According to Ms. Garvey, another public hearing will be held on those proposed law revisions—which aim to more clearly define criteria for projects that can be considered for PDDs—on Tuesday, March 22. She said she could not speculate as to whether the Town Board would vote on the amended law on that day.
“They’ve been making very small changes at this point,” Ms. Garvey said. “I think it’s getting closer.”
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