Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman points out questions about code enforcement, high property taxes and downtown revitalization in a 2015 questionnaire crafted by the Concerned Citizens of Hampton Bays. KITTY MERRILL
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman used a 2015 Concerned Citizens of Hampton Bays campaign questionnaire to make his point. KITTY MERRILL
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneidrman discussed another potential vision of the Bel-Aire Cove Motel property in Hampton Bays. KITTY MERRILL
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman's latest idea would see the old Bel-Aire Cove Motel property divided along the line of the motel , with land to the east preserved and land to the west allocated for a revenue-producing park. KITTY MERRILL
The dilapidated bulkhead at the Bel-Aire Cove property in Hampton Bays could be fixed with money from the Community Preservation Fund, if Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman's latest idea is embraced. KITTY MERRILL
What if the controversial Bel-Aire Cove Motel property in Hampton Bays were split, with one side preserved as a passive park, as desired by community members, and the other side devoted to recreation and producing revenue for the town — as desired by Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman?
While an overwhelming majority of community members has lobbied passionately for demolishing the erstwhile motel and allowing the Shinnecock Road land to return to a natural state, Schneiderman continues to insist on finding a way to monetize the property purchased by the town for $1.06 million in 2019.
And, as an advisory committee convened by the Town Board gets ready to meet to discuss all possible scenarios for the use of the property, Schneiderman last week revealed another vision for the land at the tip of Penny Pond and made his case for the property’s development.
Interviewed in his office in Town Hall on April 19, the supervisor used a computer drawing tool to etch a line down the middle of the property on a huge screen depicting an aerial view of the 1.47-acre parcel.
The waterfront half of the property could be gifted to the Community Preservation Fund. CPF money could be used to demolish the motel, decommission the pool and repair the bulkhead.
And on the other side?
Miniature golf is one idea. “Miniature golf is only about a half acre,” he said, acknowledging there also would have to be room set aside for parking.
If CPF revenue is used to raze the building, on the other portion of the property, the western side, “you could do something,” Schneiderman said. Shuffleboard, bocci ball, were mentioned. So, too, were food trucks.
“How cool would it be to have a little clam bar?” the lawmaker mused. “You could build a little shack.”
Proponents of a park plan have suggested it could include a kayak launch. But Schneiderman pointed to a variety of road ends, not to mention the business next door, where kayaks can be rented and launched. He noted that people who live on the canal would prefer not to see the extra traffic of kayaks.
“One neighbor,” he said, “thinks we should just build three houses.”
A modest recreational use, Schneiderman observed, could give people something to do in Hampton Bays. If an entrepreneur leased the land for a concession, the town might make back the purchase price over time.
“If we create a park there, we don’t get the money back. We have to now maintain the park — mow the lawn, pick up the garbage, fix the bulkhead,” he said. “I want to do what the community wants, even if I think it’s not in the best interest of the community. But the community has to understand what the thinking was, why the Town Board thought it would help Hampton Bays. I felt like I didn’t get a chance to explain the alternative.”
Schneiderman’s been explaining the alternative since 2018, when he revealed his vision of buying, then selling the property to an investor to be developed as a boutique hotel.
He continues to insist a large group of community members has asked him not to take the property off the tax rolls. Pulling out a 2015 candidate questionnaire compiled by the Concerned Citizens of Hampton Bays, he said that group expressed concerns about Bel-Aire Cove.
“They said, ‘Do something there, but do not take it off the tax rolls.’ They wanted it contributing to the local economy. They seemed to understand the role that tourism could play.”
Going back further in the hamlet’s history, he recalled that during the 1980s, he said “little cottage-y hotels” were thriving. But so, too, were obstreperous share houses and nightclubs.
“They said, ‘Town! Enforce the code.’ And they actually created new codes and then enforced them. People wanted their peace. The community was so angry at the party scene,” he said.
Then, according to Schneiderman, the empty share houses became affordable houses for workers, and all the empty hotels became apartment buildings.
“There was no economic transition plan figuring out how to bring in family-friendly tourism. They solved one problem and created another one,” the supervisor said. “I recognized economic development was a key component in moving Hampton Bays forward.”
The urban renewal plan the town subsequently adopted at about the same time as it purchased the motel was, the lawmaker said, “a great success.”
“We were able to attract one proposal where somebody wants to spend over $7 million, build 12 units, half the density, no kids in the school, the town gets paid fully back, and we get $300,000 for a blight mitigation fund,” he said.
It moves everything farther from the water, and the developer is willing to provide public access. “That, by any standard, is a home run,” Schneiderman said.
“But,” he continued, “people were against it before they even heard the plan.”
Over 2,000 people signed a petition urging the Town Board to demolish the building and develop the property as a park. Schneiderman appeared skeptical of the petition. “They were told we were building high-density condos,” he said.
Both development proposals for the property — a quasi-motel use and senior condominiums — reduce the density from what the motel had. The two proposals for the land are not high-density, he said.
Speaking of the senior housing proposal, he said, “to me, that doesn’t comply with the urban renewal plan — it doesn’t help the tourism economy.” But the developer is gung-ho, the supervisor said, reporting, “He says he has 10,000 applicants.”
The lawmaker said he didn’t know if a petition demanding the property remain on the tax rolls would garner 2,000 signatures, “but it might.”
Confronting adamant objection to any development plan, the Town Board voted to convene a committee to look at all potential uses of the property. Schneiderman has said he’d abide by their recommendation.
“I’m open to possibilities,” he said. “I would like to see something that has a tourism component, because that’s what we purchased the property for. Something that would enhance the tourism experience,” he said.
Schneiderman feels opponents of the boutique hotel may have been misled. ‘When people actually hear me explain it, they go, ‘Oh. I agree with you.’”
One fine body…