Nearly six years after its draft environmental impact statement was deemed inadequate by the Southold Town Planning Board, the proposed Shizen Hotel Wellness Center and Spa, also known locally as the Oki-Do, is again making waves in East Marion.
Dr. Kazuko Tatsumura Hillyer, the owner of the bayfront property at the end of Shipyard Lane, filed a dredging permit application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Aug. 12.
But members of the Southold Town Planning Board, which has served as lead agency for the environmental review process, and the Board of Trustees said this week that they hadn’t been notified about the dredging permit application until after neighbors of the proposed spa received a public notice from the Army Corps.
Dr. Hillyer, a resident of New York City, first proposed building the holistic center on the 18.7-acre former oyster processing plant property along Gardiners Bay in 2003.
The proposal, which has been described as larger than any existing health spa on Long Island, includes 114 guest rooms, a 195-seat restaurant and bar and a second private restaurant with up to 99 additional seats, 27 spa suites, a pool, three gazebos, a gift shop and a man-made lake. A total of 28 buildings has been proposed for the site.
The site plan application also includes replacement of the existing bulkhead on the property and the dredging of a 16-slip private marina.
Town planning officials said Dr. Hillyer has not submitted a revised environmental impact study to the town since the initial document was rejected in 2008. They said the only contact they’ve had with Dr. Hillyer since November 2008 came in February 2013, after the town contacted her to say the site plan application would be withdrawn due to inactivity. She responded 10 days later to say she intended to continue the site plan process, officials said.
When reached via email last week, Dr. Hillyer, who holds a doctorate in oriental medicine from the International Academy of Education, said she was traveling and deferred comment to her attorney, Patricia Moore of Southold.
Ms. Moore said her client has been working with experts “for months” to prepare a revised DEIS, which she said will be submitted as soon as it is complete. She said the uses of the property have not changed from the original proposal.
Ms. Moore said Dr. Hillyer was the victim of a Ponzi scheme, which, coupled with the sluggish economy, delayed her plans for the property.
“But she’s ready now,” the attorney said.
Having not yet heard from Dr. Hillyer, the Southold Town Planning Board submitted a letter of opposition to the Army Corps of Engineers last Tuesday.
“The Planning Board respectfully requests that you suspend your review of the Oki-Do Ltd. permit application until the applicant completes the pending SEQRA process,” reads the letter from Planning Board chairman Donald Wilcenski. “Further, it is the position of this Board that the cumulative impact analysis required by State Environmental Quality Review cannot be adequately satisfied if the project is segmented.”
The notion that the developer might be looking to segment the project did not sit well with members of the East Marion Community Association, which had its roots in initial community opposition to the project. The EMCA launched a letter-writing campaign of its own last month in response to the notice from the Army Corps.
“We believe the applicant is attempting to circumvent a thorough environmental review of its intent — a proposed spa, motel, restaurant and marina — which should be completed under State Environmental Quality Review by the lead agency, the Southold Town Planning Board,” the community association wrote in a message on its website.
Ms. Moore said the dredging is something her client needs to do for the property regardless of the whether the hotel and spa plans move forward.
“It’s needed to try to preserve the condition of the property,” she said, adding that the parcel experienced some damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Town planner Heather Lanza said in 2008 that the decision to send the project’s draft environmental impact statement back to the developer for revision was based on observations of board members, feedback from community members and a 19-page review from a consultant at the Melville-based planning firm Nelson, Pope and Voorhis.
The consultant’s report called for more extensive traffic studies in the revised DEIS and expressed concern about the adequacy of on-site parking, method of construction, water supply and the operation and maintenance of the proposed man-made lake on the property. Dr. Hillyer purchased the land from Aqua Food Properties for $1.1 million in 1999.
East Marion Community Association president Robin Imandt said this week that she’d like to see a different plan for the property, which she agrees is in need of a significant cleanup.
“My wish is to see something more appropriate for the hamlet of East Marion,” she said. “The [former oyster processing plant] that’s there now is unsafe and needs to be knocked down. It’s a safety hazard.
“Speaking for myself, I’m not opposed to some type of aquaculture or a marina there, but what was proposed was way too big for that property,” Ms. Imandt said.