Southampton Town may walk away from redeveloping the Hampton Bays Bel-Aire Cove Motel.
With advice from town attorney James Burke, the board postponed making a decision until its November 27 meeting, citing the State Environmental Quality Review Act, and the possibility of having to do an environmental impact study because the town is looking to purchase and renovate the parcel. Many community members in previous meetings have questioned the town’s motive getting into the real estate business, and rewarding a land owner who has been the subject of multiple code enforcement violations over the years.
“The town is negotiating against itself, and the land owner is getting a gift from God,” Hampton Bays resident Thomas McSherry said during a November 13 town board meeting. “The poorly behaved get rewarded. This owner is the poster boy for bad behavior and we’re throwing money in his lap,” he said.
The motel, which has operated as a year-round residence, was found to have several units with bedbugs, electrical violations, missing smoke detectors, overcrowding, and property maintenance issues during a code enforcement raid in October 2017.
In a first-of-its-kind proposal, the town is looking to purchase the property for $1,060,000, raze the motel, and ready the property for redevelopment for potential luxury condominiums. Under the proposal, Southampton would secure all necessary construction permits — including for an advanced on-site wastewater treatment system because the property is along a canal leading to Shinnecock Bay.
Jay Anthony, who has lived in Hampton Bays for the last year and a half, said he’s worried about an increase in traffic because of a condo build, the burden additional students may place on the school district, and the fact that the bay water continues to become polluted as a result of the structure.
“I don’t see why we would take town money that could be redistributed back to lower the taxes or go toward something else useful when there’s another fund where the property could be kept open,” he said, referring to the Community Preservation Fund. “It just seems to me that open space is at such a premium around here, especially in Hampton Bays.”
Many at the November 13 meeting continued the call from previous meetings that the property should be purchased using CPF money. Kevin McAllister, of the nonprofit organization Defend H2O, which works to protect and restore the environmental quality of groundwater, surface waters, wetlands, and beaches on and around Long Island, was one of them.
“Don’t put additional, real property in harm’s way — you need to account for sea level rise,” he said. “Acquire the property, but examine fully how to utilize the property taking into account environmental factors. We could add rain gardens to deal with storm water runoff. I advise against redevelopment.”
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman ruled out that option following the meeting, and said if it wasn’t feasible to develop the property into condos, he would leave the property available for another 22-unit motel — this time, two stories and 11 units on each floor. Depending on the result of the SEQRA review, he said the board may walk away from the project altogether. The issue will be brought up again at the November 27 town board meeting at 6 PM.