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Decision looms on proposed 44-room hotel, restaurant in Southold

The Southold Zoning Board of Appeals is moving closer toward a decision on a special exception permit for a proposed 44-room hotel and 74-seat restaurant on Main Road in Southold.

Residents have raised concerns about the size of the proposal, how it may increase traffic and noise as well as environmental issues.

The project, called The Enclave, is located on a 6.75-acre parcel west of the intersection of Main Road and Town Harbor Lane that was once home to the Hedges bed and breakfast, which has been shuttered for nearly two decades. The parcel, which is zoned Hamlet Business, is located across from Southold 7-Eleven and stretches as far north as the Long Island Rail Road tracks.

The proposal calls for repurposing the former B&B into a restaurant and constructing a two-story, 61,000-square-foot L-shaped hotel that would be set back from the road. The main hotel would have 40 rooms and four detached 594-square-foot cottages. At a public hearing before the ZBA in November, architect Andrew Giambertone said the hotel will “feature interior lounge spaces, a reception lobby, a small coffee shop and an exterior pool and terrace,” according to the hearing’s minutes.

The hotel will host between eight and 12 special events per year, according to the plans, which could include weddings and fundraising events. Those events would be held in an outdoor space between the hotel and restaurant, according to the plan.

The ZBA is accepting comments through Monday, Dec. 9, on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is available in full on the town website. The applicants must receive a special exception permit before the project can proceed to the Planning Board. The DEIS was originally submitted in April, reviewed by the ZBA and revised by the applicant. The ZBA accepted the 152-page DEIS in October.

“We’ve been living with this DEIS for quite a while and pouring over it,” ZBA chairperson Leslie Weisman said at the public hearing.

The applicants first presented their plan in March 2017 at a Planning Board meeting. Planning Board members at the time said they needed to wait for a ZBA ruling.

That process is nearing its end nearly three years later. Once the comment period ends, the applicant will have a chance to respond to concerns raised in a Final Environmental Impact Statement, which will include a State Environmental Quality Review Act finding, Ms. Weisman said. That document will be publicly available for a minimum of 30 days once the ZBA accepts it and deems it complete. The ZBA will issue a Statement of Findings and the town will then decide on the special exception permit.

Mr. Giambertone said he partnered with Jonathan Tibett of Southold on the project. Mr. Tibett recently completed the restoration of Rothman’s Department Store into what is now known as Einstein Square. He partnered with Glenn Heidtmann Jr. on that project.

“Together, John and I want to take the opportunity to do something relatively unique in the world of development,” Mr. Giambertone said at the November meeting.

Several speakers at the public hearing raised concerns.

“This is a massive project for a little quaint North Fork town,” said Joyce Barry of New Suffolk, who used to own The Farmer’s House Bed and Breakfast in Cutchogue.

Lauren Barry purchased a home 2 1/2 years ago on Main Road that would be directly next to the entrance for the hotel. She said there’s not a suitable buffer between the proposed driveway and her property. She also expressed concern about the increase in traffic and groundwater use and the added nitrogen leached back into the groundwater.

“I think the overall problem is they came up with this plan, and they just slapped it on the site and then they did the environmental impact study,” Ms. Barry said in an interview. “So it’s like they’re trying to validate their design and they’re pulling information from whatever sources they can find that are mostly outdated so they can say this is OK when it’s really not.”

The DEIS includes a traffic impact study and acoustic report. A sound engineer and traffic engineer on the project both spoke at the November public hearing. The engineers both said their reports showed no significant impact for traffic or noise.

Ron Hill of Engineering Associates in Westhampton Beach said they collected data in July 2018 for the traffic study. The report included an analysis for a Saturday special event “of about 250 people.” Valet parking would be used for special events to accommodate peak parking demand, he said.

Anne Murray of East Marion was skeptical about traffic and felt the study did not accurately account for the potential increase.

“Traffic is the No. 1 issue on the North Fork next to affordable housing,” she said. “I think we have to think very seriously about putting a project in this location at this density.”

Other speakers at the public hearing questioned if there is enough of a workforce to support the project as businesses face a struggle to find enough workers for positions like servers. Some felt affordable housing is the more pertinent need. Around 2002, a 27-unit 55-and-over condominium project called Southwold Manor was proposed for the property and never came to fruition. The land was subsequently sold.

“We don’t need this huge development,” said Marilyn Marx of Southold. “I don’t necessarily disagree with a small hotel, but this is a massive hotel. It’s going to bring a huge amount of people.”

Bryan Brady of Laurel, who’s the general manager of The Preston House & Hotel in Riverhead, said he supported the project.

“I understand the concerns of the neighbors but I know this group and I know this group well and they will do everything to accommodate any worries,” he said.

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