Developers billed a proposed 44-room hotel and 74-seat restaurant as a way to create jobs and economic growth during a recent Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals hearing, while some residents criticized it as out of character with the community.
The architect, attorney and others involved in Jonathan Tibett’s proposed Enclaves Hotel and Restaurant are seeking a special exception use permit from the board. The hearing on Thursday, Oct. 14, went on more than three hours before a crowded room with about 80 also watching virtually via Zoom.
The proposed hotel and restaurant would replace the former Hedges bed and breakfast on the north side of Main Road in Southold, near Town Harbor Lane. The Enclaves is an as-of-right-development, a permitted use that does not require variances, but hotels and restaurants also require special use exceptions.
David Altman, an attorney in Melville representing the project, said it conforms with bulk, set-back and other building requirements under the zoning code.
“That’s rather important,” Altman said, noting it would be on a 6.75-acre site with a setback 84% greater than required and more landscaping than needed. “Those are certain elements that the applicant has carefully and thoughtfully added to the project. We are less than half of what otherwise would be permissible.”
He said the property, which includes four cottages, would host no outdoor events or outdoor amplified music and would have an on-site sewage treatment plant. “This project applies to all applicable zoning codes,” said architect Andrew V. Giambertone of the Huntington-based firm Andrew V. Giambertone and Associates.
The project had undergone a 3.5-year-long review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act with more than 300 comments before the board issued a 53-page positive finding, which mean there is the potential for adverse impacts.
In response to feedback, a wooden fence was added for visual and noise mitigation and fish were eliminated from a proposed pond that would now be purely decorative.
Still, some residents said the original traffic study, showing little impact, was outdated, because it was done in 2018 before the pandemic, but the developers pointed to a follow-up study in August of 2020 confirming earlier findings.
East Marion resident Anne Murray called the project, which already prompted a petition in opposition, an “example of the Hamptons creep” including traffic.
“Is this really what we want Southold to become?” she asked. “Respect the rural character of our community before it’s too late.”
She said she believed the project clashed with a comprehensive plan for Southold and was “out of character with the town.” Joe Finora, a resident of the Hobart Road community, said he was “troubled” by the plans. “This is a unique neighborhood,” he said, “One of the few with growing, young families.”
Paul Romanelli, a Cutchogue resident and owner of Suffolk Security Systems in Southold, however, said the hotel would boost the local economy and not clash with its character.
“There’s a need for more hotel space in this town. I have yet to find a traffic study, presented on final analysis, that was wrong,” Romanelli said. “This project is exactly in the area where it should be and it is hidden. You won’t see this hotel from the street. That’s important for everyone to realize.”
He pointed to Einstein Square at the former Rothman’s Department Store in Southold, where Tibbet was the developer, as a sign that commerce can mix with and be part of a community. While some residents worried about a 250-person event space, developers said hotels routinely have some space for events.
“There’s a track record here of improvement to our downtown that I think is critical to the analysis of this,” Romanelli said. “These types of projects help our areas not just with jobs, but helping our businesses grow.”
Others said commercial development is changing the region including coffee shops, restaurants, bars, furniture stores and a grocery store. Some talked about tourists, which others described as “transients.”
In an online chat during the hearing, Southold resident John Fischetti expressed concerns over a proposed shuttle to Founders Landing Park, which some suggested that could be included to give concessions.
Southold resident Angelina McKenna said what is good for guests may not be good for residents, suggesting the project would “negatively impact our charming and historical community.”
“This is a town which prides itself on its heritage and strong sense of community,” she said. “The surrounding area will be greatly affected by noise pollution and an invasion of transient people.”
Zoning Board chairperson Leslie Kanes Weisman said no decision would be made at the hearing, which would remain open for three weeks for comments from the public and applicant before closing on November 4. The board then has 52 days to issue a decision.
“We anticipate that we’re going to do it much sooner than that,” she said. “That’s the maximum amount of time.”