Southampton Town’s venture into the real estate business has residents up in arms.
A resolution to purchase and resell the Hampton Bays Bel-Aire Cove Motel was shelved during an October 23 town board meeting when residents poured in to question the town’s motive. The purchase of 20 Shinnecock Road, which would cost $1,060,000, was first brought up in September when eyebrows were raised over the prospect the town undertaking the purchase through its community development program and auctioning it off for redevelopment. Many at the Tuesday meeting asked instead for the property to be acquired using the Community Preservation Fund.
“I don’t believe taxpayers should be paying the funds for this property,” Hampton Bays resident Anthony Cenzoprano said. “The owner should sell it on his own, and maybe then the town should step in and say it will help with all the permits to whoever buys it, but not to bail him out for doing the wrong kind of things, for accumulating summonses. I would also like to see a little more transparency with what’s going on here.”
Supervisor Jay Schneiderman originally said the town’s plan was to buy through a community development application, although town attorney Kara Bak said she believed the property could be acquired under a town law that allows land to be purchased for a public purpose. Regardless, Schneiderman said he’d like to convert the one-story, 22-unit motel, two-story manager’s house, and pool along Penny Pond into a town-approved plan, mentioning the potential for luxury condos.
“The idea would be to acquire it and work with the community on a redevelopment plan and then secure the permits from the planning board, building department, health department, whatever necessary, and then auction it off to the highest bidder,” Schneiderman said.
Most didn’t understand why the town hasn’t pressured the owners, who also run the Ocean View Terrace Motel in Hampton Bays, to clean up the property and pay their fines accumulated over the last nearly five years.
“I believe this is a sweetheart deal and it should have further scrutiny,” Cenzoprano said. “The owners own and operate the Ocean View Terrace Motel in Hampton Bays without any problems, so that goes to show that they can certainly run the business in the correct way. I’m totally against this.”
Hampton Bays residents Donna Thiele, Ray D’Angelo and Gayle Lombardo were among the many calling for preservation. Others even asked for affordable housing if the property were to be redeveloped.
“It’s a safety issue,” D’Angelo said. “Look at this with some urgency.”
Maria Hults, speaking on behalf of the Hampton Bays Civic Association, thanked the town for addressing the future of the property, but the organization also called for CPF use, citing water mitigation purposes since the parcel is adjacent to Shinnecock Bay.
“Studies have documented that the motel is directly polluting the bay with fecal matter,” she said. “If ever there was a property that fits the requirement for CPF purchase in the highest-level target area, this would be it. The motel itself received multiple code violations for unsafe and unsanitary living conditions, its use has morphed into permanent residential versus a temporary, motel usage. At the initial public hearing held on September 25, concerns were raised regarding the fate of the current motel residents, rewarding a property owner who is in violation of multiple codes. There’s a precedent set if the town assumes the role of a real estate agent.”
Hults also pointed to the Tiana Bay Motel that used to be nearby, which was made passive park wetland through the CPF.
“All I see right now is blight and it’s just getting worse,” Thiele said. “Every day that nothing gets done is more and more disappointing. Do something. I don’t care what it is anymore. Just do something.”