When Hampton Bays activist Richard Casabianca heard about the first proposal, he didn't just say no. He said, "Hell, no."
Five years ago developers wanted to raze the historic Canoe Place Inn, described by Casabianca as "the Town of Southampton's most significant heritage asset," and build a 75 unit private residence club. The plan was shelved in the face of ardent community opposition.
Last Friday afternoon Gregg and Mitchell Rechler were back before the town board with a new idea, one Casabianca said "is more than fine with me."
The Rechlers want to build 40 town homes on acreage they own across the Shinnecock Canal. In exchange for a density increase (current zoning would allow 33 town homes on the site, which currently hosts two restaurants, a marine shop and a house) the applicants will restore the Inn to its former glory and undertake an extensive overhaul of the property. The ultimate goal is the creation of a catering hall with guest lodging and a taproom. Cottages on the site – they're currently hidden from view amidst overgrown vegetation -- will be refurbished and used as extended stay lodgings. The Rechlers also propose making a cash donation to be used for the acquisition of open space in Hampton Bays.
Friday's outing was what's known as a "presubmission work session" on the proposal. Such an unveiling and discussion of a plan is required when applicants seek change of zone status to a Planned Development District.
The new plan is the result of "a strong desire to be part of the Hampton Bays fabric," Gregg Rechler offered. Meetings with community members and organizations led to "real refinement" of development plans for the sites. Listing benefits to the town, he proposed a covenant that CPI never be used for anything other than the planned utility and that no nightclub activities take place while the application is pending.
Following a presentation of the plan, including input from the architect charged with the historic renovation, community and board members offered some comments and expressed minor concerns.
Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilman Chris Nuzzi both wanted to know about proposed public elements. A dock along the eastern property will be accessible to the public, though the supervisor noted a need for public parking without which there would be no way to access the dock.
Councilwoman Bridget Fleming worried the developer could build the townhouses, then abandon the CPI restoration. "It's all one package," Rechler assured.
A handful of community members weighed in, with predominantly positive comments. There was a concern about a proposed wastewater treatment system proposed for an inland portion of the eastern property. Rechler noted the system replaces cesspools located right next to the canal.
Speaking to the affection hamlet residents have for CPI, Marie Mulcahy reported the Hampton Bays Beautification Association hosted its first garden party on the patio. "I love this place, I think it's going to be great for our community."
Casabianca told The Independent his grandmother celebrated her 16th birthday at the Canoe Place Inn. He'd like to take her to a new CPI for lunch. She's 89.