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Sep 11, 2013 12:37 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Rechler Reps Push For Rezoning Of Canal Property As Hampton Bays Residents Raise Opposition

Sep 13, 2013 10:56 AM

Facing mounting opposition to their plans, representatives of the would-be developers of a 40-unit townhouse complex on the east side of the Shinnecock Canal on Tuesday painted a threatening picture of what could be built on the land if its owners are not granted a zoning change by Southampton Town.

If the townhouses are not approved, as part of a three-lot development that would also include the construction of a hotel and catering hall on the Canoe Place Inn property directly across the canal, the developers—Gregg and Mitchell Rechler—could instead build restaurants or hotels on the east side of the canal.

Holding up an artist’s rendering of an imposing stucco building with the word “restaurant” emblazoned across its front, which drew some gasps and a few guffaws from the audience, project spokesman Jim Morgo warned that such a use of the land posed more of a nuisance threat to neighbors than current plans to install an underground wastewater treatment plant on the site. The plant would service the townhouses that would overlook the canal.

“We have been told that if the [zone change] is not approved, everything will remain as it is,” Mr. Morgo said. “That is not the case. The Rechlers will build what is permitted as of right.”

Mr. Morgo said that current zoning would allow, with only Planning Board site-plan review, a variety of commercial developments, including a 25-unit motel on the two eastern properties, or a pair of restaurants. The land is already home to two restaurants—Tide Runners and 1 North Steakhouse—while the easternmost property is currently undeveloped.

Mr. Morgo and other representatives said that if the development plans are approved by the Town Board, the wastewater treatment system would be barely visible and not create any noise or traffic. The system, which would take in wastewater from the townhouses and treat it to remove nitrogen before releasing the water into a series of leaching wells to filter back into groundwater, would be largely underground. Just a 300-square-foot shed would be visible on the property, 30 percent of which would be cleared of trees and landscaped to make way for the leaching wells.

Solid waste from the townhouses would be contained in five air-tight septic tanks on the residential property and pumped out regularly. They also said the high-tech system proposed in the zone change application would be many times more environmentally friendly than the basic septic systems that would be allowed for the as-of-right development of the property.

Much of the growing opposition to the project is coming from Hampton Bays residents who live in the hillside neighborhood that stretches east from the proposed wastewater treatment lot. Those residents have said they fear smells will waft from the property—Rechlers’ representatives have said the smells would be largely contained underground—and that the proximity of the wastewater treatment facility will hurt their property values.

“There is simply no way to put lipstick on this pig,” said neighbor Scott Bolster. “None of us have any control over the stigma associated by the word ‘sewage,’ or when it is associated with their community.”

“A town council has no more important role than the trust given them in deciding issues surrounding changes in zoning,” added Dale Nichol, another resident.

Others have said that the extent of the development proposed on the canal is simply too much and outweighs the main benefit associated with the project: The historically-minded redevelopment of the Canoe Place Inn on the west side of the waterway. The Rechlers are seeking Town Board approval of a proposed Maritime Planned Development District that would span both sides of the canal.

On Tuesday, critics submitted two petitions, which they said contained the signatures of more than 2,000 local residents, who oppose the townhouses.

The proposed project—which is technically two separate projects—calls for the complete renovation and restoration of the Canoe Place Inn to its 1920s-era self, featuring 20 hotel rooms, a catering hall and a 210-seat indoor-outdoor restaurant, as well as the townhouse units across the canal. In 2006, the Rechlers had proposed demolishing the crumbling inn and building 75 timeshares on the property, but that plan was rejected by the community and gave birth to a movement to save the CPI.

But now some of those who originally stood in support of the Rechlers and their plans to resurrect the CPI, if they were allowed to do a profitable residential development on the east side of the canal, are criticizing the scope of the proposal. They also are displeased with the threats of what could be built on the property.

Members of the Hampton Bays Beautification Association (HBBA), which was a co-signer of a letter in support of the project that ran as a full-page ad in last week’s edition of The Press, said on Tuesday that a majority of its membership does not, in fact, support the project.

“The members are very concerned—they want to restore the CPI—but they are very concerned about what is happening on the east side of the canal,” said Maud Kramer, the former president of the HBBA, one of the groups that led the charge to push the Rechlers to refurbish the inn. “Nine buildings, eight- and 10-foot walls surrounding the property, 60-percent lot coverage, the landscape plan is minimal, there’s not enough property left to hide the buildings.”

“As details of this proposal have emerged, more and more people are saying it would be nice to restore the CPI, but it’s not worth giving up the canal,” added Barbara Pierce, nodding to the loss of public access to the canal though the developers have offered to keep a floating boardwalk in the area. “There’s steps from Montauk Highway, but there’s no way to get there, there’s nowhere to park. This is not real public access.

“If the developers don’t want to consider other options, why not go ahead and build the restaurants,” she continued.

Other residents pointed to the tax revenue and jobs the CPI development and construction of the townhouses would generate as a more important consideration in support of allowing the development to go forward.

“I have to take in someone to help me pay my bills,” one elderly resident said. “[Hampton Bays Schools Superintendent] Lars Clemensen said to tell them that we have the least money spent on students and we still have the highest taxes in Southampton Town. And, dear God, the jobs that are going to come in will make us all proud.”

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said she and Councilwoman Christine Scalera would be meeting with the developers in private on Wednesday to discuss the scope of the project. But the supervisor also reminded residents that the board was looking at the impacts of the project in the light of what else could be done with the property.

“I hope everybody appreciates how serious we take our responsibility here—none of us have made up our minds,” she said.

The board adjourned the public hearing until Tuesday, October 22.

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I'd like to understand the reasoning of Hampton Bays Chamber of Commerce that the Rechler Hospitality Development will re energize business in their hamlet without self investment by these businesses, from what they offer to how their storefronts look. How the Chamber believes that folks who can afford the new inn and townhouses will not instead choose traveling east to Southampton Village....their Historical Museum and buildings programmed marvelously by Tom Edmonds. It might be best for the Chamber ...more
By blue moon (7), Southampton on Sep 12, 13 4:46 PM
2 members liked this comment
This is waterfront. They're not making any more.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Sep 12, 13 11:59 PM
2 members liked this comment
Trying to instill fear to the opposition by discussing as-of-right possibilities is not a respectful method of communication. Intimidation is for bullies. I would not think this method would persuade opposition to change their minds or be silenced. Good for all the opposition who spoke up at the meeting- I believe 20 plus people spoke and more letters and petitions were submitted to the SH Board members.....only 4 people spoke in favor.

Did anyone find it interesting that there was ...more
By Ccs1 (9), Hampton Bays on Sep 12, 13 8:11 PM
3 members liked this comment
Let me clarify-at the recent TB meeting the Rechler representatives focused part/most of their presentation on the Nitrex system and if they didn't put the Nitrex system on the "Eastern Property" they would go with "as of right". They presented renderings which were inconsistent and admitted that the renderings were a quick attempt to satisfy questions about "as of right " possibilities. The representatives were trying to use intimidation-to scare the public, specially the majority of the audience ...more
By Ccs1 (9), Hampton Bays on Sep 14, 13 7:37 AM
2 members liked this comment
The method of presentation was to answer fears with facts and concerns with explanations.
By PQ1 (167), hampton bays on Sep 14, 13 9:26 AM
I understand your point of view.

Please provide the source which you are referring to that the people who are in opposition of the Nitrex system, and in large, the density of the proposal, are afraid?

I believe, based on their vocalization, that they are not ones to succumb to "threats" and "fears" of "as of right".
By Ccs1 (9), Hampton Bays on Sep 14, 13 10:40 AM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you for understanding my point of view.
I have nothing else to provide at this time.
By PQ1 (167), hampton bays on Sep 14, 13 11:25 AM
Trying to instill information is not intimidation.
By PQ1 (167), hampton bays on Sep 12, 13 10:41 PM
2 members liked this comment
Who are the Johnny-come-latelies who have all the answers they need to oppose what is really a revitalization of the canal area?
By VOS (1241), WHB on Sep 12, 13 11:58 PM
2 members liked this comment
threatening people with building restaurants or hotels?.
that is what it is zoned for.
If they want the businesses to thrive, it would be in their best interest to make them attractive, with proper landscaping and signage, which must conform to Southampton Town codes. With imaginative food,and views of the canal. Sounds good to me.
it's not as "threatening" as this article makes it out to be.
it would be an updated version of what you have now.
More options for tourists and ...more
By ADAMSG (53), EAST QUOGUE on Sep 13, 13 8:18 AM
I agree with AdamSG - go ahead and "threaten" to do your as of right, doesn't scare me. It's what I've been claling for all along.

The sketch they showed of a "restaurant" is ridiculous and would never be constructed in that manner (and certainly not that close to the road). You have restaurants there already, and the community likes them and supports them. Do the Rechler's really believe that will scare people into preferring a STP and the absurd amount of condos?

The Rechler's ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 13, 13 9:23 AM
4 members liked this comment
Right on: "call their bluff."

BUT -- Isn't this the same crowd which got its way at the new business park at the WH air base, including a hotel smack dab on the CR from WHB to Riverhead?

Check out their Town Board cheering section:

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 13, 13 4:04 PM
A hotel on a highway at an airport surrounded by commercial and light industrial properties? Sounds like someone is doing the right thing to me.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Sep 13, 13 7:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
See comment below.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 16, 13 10:50 AM
If ever there was a place in Hampton Bays that the Town should have purchased for preservation - how could we have let the canal fall into the hands of private investors? Sad days in Hampton Bays...we the people lose again. The only place in Town loved by all, enjoyed by anyone who can afford a fishing pole-young, old, rich and poor.
By terriann1 (6), Southampton on Sep 13, 13 10:38 AM
2 members liked this comment
You can fish along vast portions of the western side of the canal (town road) as well as at the mouth of the canal on the peconic side (east = county, west = town). Futhermore, it didn't "fall into the hands" of developers, it was probably always owned privately and the Town can't take that away from them. The existing zoning allows for restaurants which are basically public access points to the canal
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 13, 13 12:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
The town bought and owns the park on the west side of the canal so that it could be preserved and enjoyed exactly as you say.
By PQ1 (167), hampton bays on Sep 13, 13 8:10 PM
Typical developer comeback, "It could be worse." Their first impulse is always to pull out the old scare tactics.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Sep 13, 13 2:55 PM
2 members liked this comment
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Sep 13, 13 2:56 PM
3 members liked this comment
"...or a pair of restaurants."

If they had one iota of respect for our home, that's what they would do in good taste. Probably not enough money in it to slake their lust, however...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 13, 13 3:35 PM
The Rechlers are savy real estate developers. They knew what they could get out of the properties prior to purchase. Let them build "as of right" which will still provide them with plenty of profit. The angling now is just to squeeze more out of the property, however there is "no community benefit" to over developing the property. As of right or they could just sell it and go somewhere else in Suffolk and try to strong arm there way into pofits above and beyond what is expected. HB is already over ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Sep 14, 13 7:51 AM
5 members liked this comment
A property owner is never guaranteed a change in zoning. Let them build "as of right", these speculators have , hopefully, speculated incorrectly!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Sep 16, 13 7:04 AM
1 member liked this comment
The Rechlers need to move on to another town.
By joan s (53), hampton bays on Sep 16, 13 9:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
Why? they're land owners just like the rest of us
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 16, 13 9:36 AM
property owners have rights
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 16, 13 10:14 AM
No argument there - but the sentiment for them to "move on to another town" is silly.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 16, 13 10:34 AM
1 member liked this comment
The underlying problem is that the Town Board does not seem to have the guts to impose limits at times IMO. See the photo gallery link above and note the Rechler cheering section for the WH air base business park. No quarrel with the park, but permitting the hotel to go higher than code, and to sit right on the Riverhead road as a billboard for permissiveness, was a tell about the Board. The site has plenty of room for the hotel's vertical mass to have been set back more.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 16, 13 10:46 AM
PS and as Nature said above, here the Town Board should call the Rechlers' bluff.

The November Ejection is about six weeks away . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 16, 13 10:49 AM
Disagree. The roadside in front of the airport is a perfect location for a hotel; that's where hotels are located all over the country. The height could be doubled and still not be out of place. The landscaping around a new hotel would be the best thing to happen to that area since the first runway was cleared. Looks like solid thinking by all the decision makers to me.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Sep 16, 13 11:53 PM
Doubtful that most would agree with your new look for The East End, but this issue (WH hotel) is off-topic here so let's just agree to disagree.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 17, 13 6:33 AM
Something needs to happen in Hampton bays. Starting to look and feel like a crappy town. We got run down land empty buildings... something has to give.
By bigblue84 (89), Hampton Bays on Feb 6, 14 5:32 PM