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Trustees pump brakes on permits for East Marion spa center


East Marion residents packed Wednesday night’s Board of Trustees meeting to oppose a 28-building spa and wellness center first proposed in 2003 — and Board President John Bredemeyer noted discrepancies in the proposal itself, putting any approval for certain permits the project needs on hold until a later date.

A majority of the seats in the Southold Town Hall meeting room were occupied when the last agenda item during Wednesday evening’s public hearing was called: a wetland permit and coastal erosion permit for the proposed hotel, wellness center and spa — locally known as the Oki-Do.

The audience, almost entirely comprised of East Marion residents, all felt similarly about the project: it doesn’t belong in their hamlet.

“In essence, that’s building an attractive nuisance,”said Mark Solomon, a resident of Cleaves Point, a condo association located directly across the street from the proposal. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

The proposed wellness center, officially called the Shizen Hotel Wellness Center and Spa, sits on the 18.7-acre lot at the east end of Shipyard Lane, which previously housed an oyster processing plant but is now in disrepair. The proposal comprises 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, The Suffolk Times reported in September 2014.

The permit which was the topic of Wednesday night’s hearing calls for replacing the existing bulkhead on the property along Gardiners Bay and dredging of a 16-slip private marina.

Dr. Kazuko Tatsumura Hillyer, who owns the land the proposed wellness center will be placed on, is asking the Board of Trustees for wetland and coastal erosion permits. Those are required because the developer is seeking to replace over 1,000 feet of existing bulkheading and install a 505-linear-foot rock revetment, as well as dredge the existing channel between the boat basin and Gardiners Bay and remove over 4,000 cubic yards of sediment.

Trustee president John Bredemeyer said the board noticed many discrepancies in the proposal and had concerns with the restrictions concerning the replacement of the bulkhead, the size of the floating docks and whether or not the boat basin would be closed off.

He also raised concern about the proposal’s call for rock revetments, which he felt might not be as sturdy as some other options when it came to protecting the land from erosion.

According to David Kennedy, the architect of the project, the plans have since received permits from the Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He added that the revetments were part of the permits approved by the state and federal entities.

The community members in attendance also shared Mr. Bredemeyer’s concerns, as well as worried about what would happen to potentially contaminated soil that currently covers a large portion of the property.

“They are now involved with working on more than five acres of the 18 acre site … there has to be some concern from the board, from the planning, from the resolution, on what happens,” Mr. Solomon said. “How do they know what soil is contaminated? What are they going to do if they put good soil on top of contaminated soil to dry it out and the use of it? I think that’s a major issue that needs concern from the board and the experts.”

Dr. Hillyer’s lawyer, Patricia Moore of Southold, said that the proposed actions are for the “protection and preservation of the property.” 

Many community members questioned the true intent of the work mentioned in the permits.

“Where has the owner been the last 16 years?” David Dubin, the lawyer representing Cleaves Point, said, being met with applause from the packed room. “What do new docks and dredging have to do with preservation?”

Dr. Hillyer purchased the land for $1.1 million in 1999 and first proposed building the holistic center in 2003, and in 2008 town planning officials rejected it.

Then, in August 2014 she submitted a dredging permit application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. At the time she didn’t contact the Southold Town Planning Board, however, so they submitted a letter of opposition to the Army Corps of Engineers.

East Marion resident and Cleaves Point president Howard Weisler said some of his biggest concerns were in regards to the impacts this project would have on the surrounding water and beaches, especially in regards to the proposed bulkhead and jetties, and potential flooding for the shipyard. He added that he was aggravated that no studies had been done in response to the community’s concerns.

Mr. Bredemeyer said that due to numerous discrepancies in the proposal and under the guidance of counsel, the board wasn’t able to take action on the permits and therefore tabled the discussion. A second public hearing will be held at a later date.

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Photo Caption: David Dubin speaking on behalf of Cleaves Point residents at Wednesday night’s meeting. (Credit: Nicole Smith)