There is a saying in Southold these days – No Left Turn.
That is because traffic in the tiny hamlet, population about 7,000, is crowded with vineyards, popular restaurants and gift shops that can cause miles-long traffic jams. There is, according to many residents, great difficulty in making left turns off Main Street.
Now, a project is taking shape that some say will make life better for Southold, while others take a different view of the plan.
The Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency has approved a $2.7 million tax break for an upscale, 40-room hotel that is to include a 74-seat restaurant, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a spa and four detached cottages. It is to be built by the developer, Enclave Southold LLC, at the former Hedges bed-and-breakfast inn on Main Street, a building town historian Amy Folk says dates back to 1858.
Construction is expected to take about two years and to begin sometime this fall.
The $4.9 million complex, to be called the Enclave would, according to the developers, fill the need for a luxury hotel on the North Fork, which is populated by smaller hotels and motels and bed-and-breakfasts.
Edward Glackin, one of three partners involved in the project, declined to say whether he thought the project was out of character with much of low-key Southold, Long Island’s smallest town in terms of population.
He said only that the project “has gone through a vigorous review” by the town and the state Department of Transportation, and referred to an IDA press release.
The IDA voted on October 3, 7 to 0, to approve the project.
Kelly Murphy, the IDA’s acting executive director, said in a statement that the project, “checks all of the boxes; it will satisfy a growing need for quality hospitality options on the North Fork, significantly increase tax revenue and create jobs while keeping up with the aesthetic of the surroundings area.”
The IDA said that the historic Hedges bed-and-breakfast, which was purchased by Jonathan Tibett, an Enclave principal, will be made into the 74-seat restaurant that is to be operated in conjunction with the hotel.
In a statement, Glackin said the developers are “incredibly thankful” for the IDA’s support. He told the Press in an interview that the developers had been in discussions with the town over the project since 2015.
Scott Russell, the supervisor of Southold town, whose population is about 24,000, said that while he is all for progress in the township, he acknowledges that the project “is a little out of character” with the largely bucolic area.
Russell said a zoning change is not needed because the property is already zoned for a hotel.
He is not, however, happy with the IDA’s tax break.
“It’s unnecessary and unfair,” Russell said,. “In Southold town, tourism is so hot, no businesses being built need incentives.”
He called that the IDA’s action “a gratuitous gift.”
In its announcement, however, the IDA noted that the project will create 51 new jobs over the first two years and will have an annual payroll of $2.3 million. In addition, the IDA said, the project will bring in more than $1.27 million in additional tax revenue to the town over the course of 15 years.
Joan Bischoff Van Heemskerck,, a real-estate broker for Town and Country, which serves the North Fork, said the demographics of Southold have been changing over the last decade or so.
“I have a lot of people who have moved here’ from New York City “and after they get here, they want to shut the door behind them.” As a result, he said, there is opposition to the project from those who feel the own, and the small hamlet, are already over-crowded.
On the whole, he said he project “is a good thing.” But, he added, “I do understand the concerns of some of the people.”
A number of restaurant owners and other retailers declined to comment for the record, fearing they might upset customers one way or another. Southold is a tightly-knit community, where just about everyone knows everyone else.
But one who did agree to speak is among the best known in the town – Pindar Damianos, general manager of the 400-acre vineyard in Peconic. His father, Dr. Herodotus “Dan” Damianos, helped pioneer the winemaking industry on Long Island.
Pindar Damianos was of two minds: “As a business owner, I know tourism is important to the East End.” He said. “But as a resident in a small town, I don’t think I want a hotel in the middle of town. As a resident, I know the area is already crowded.”
Damianos noted that he is also a Southold fire chief, and that he thinks of safety in the township.
“I guess that means I’m in the middle,” he said.