A developer proposed building a residential development and private marina at the site of an abandoned oyster farm in East Marion at a public hearing on Tuesday.
Edward Butt, an architect representing property owner FTKS Holdings LLC, asked the Town Board for the opportunity to present plans for development that “makes sense for everyone involved, including the Town of Southold” at a future work session.
The group is “still in the process of analyzing the zoning that’s being proposed,” he said, and emphasized they’re “trying to create a communication between ourselves and some of the community boards, specifically the East Marion Community Association.”
“It’s our desire not to come in and try and pretend that we’re steamrolling through this or trying to create something other than what was previously proposed,” he said. “In fact, we’re trying to create a residential development here, with a private marina and with public access at least for the beach, or a portion of the beach that is there with some other potential public access on the Shipyard Lane site.”
Mr. Butt suggested there may be boat taxis available for residents to mitigate street traffic as well. “We’re looking at different ways to cut down on traffic to keep the area private and quiet, which I think is to the benefit of the community,” he said.
FTKS Holdings LLC purchased the property for $6 million in mid-October, according to real estate records. An attorney representing the group originally pitched an 80-unit condominium with affordable housing to the Town Board at a work session in November.
At the time, the town had already started discussions about split-zoning the property. The 18-3-acre parcel on Shipyard Lane is currently zoned Marine-II, which could allow “a wide range of water-dependent and water-related uses” such as commercial marinas, boatyards, restaurants, hotels and ferries.
Town Supervisor Scott Russell has said previously that the zoning could allow for “over 120 rooms, restaurants, an amphitheater and a marina on the entire property.”
The public hearing on Tuesday was to rezone the property as a mix of RR, or resort residential, and R-80, or residential two-acre zoning that prioritizes single family units. RR still allows for some commercial development, including a small hotel, but development potential is much less intensive than under MII.
The town reviewed reports and recommendations on the potential changes, including SEQRA and Local Waterfront Revitalization Program recommendations from the town planning department and Suffolk County Planning Commission.
There was a letter of support from the county planning commission and at least one resident on file at the start of the public hearing, which has been held open another two weeks for written comment.
Howard Weisler, president of the Cleaves Point condominium community, thanked the Town Board and planning department for their “tireless efforts” to tackle zoning at the controversial property. Cleaves Point is a residential condominium in East Marion across from the Oki-Do parcel.
Mr. Weisler said the community supports the split-zoning, even though RR would not be their “first choice for the property.” He outlined several requests, however, for the future of the property — including a significant buffer around the parcel on all sides except the south; entry from both Shipyard Lane and Gillette Drive; and minimized intensity.
The community does not object to “non-commercial recreational boat docking facilities that may be used by single-family home owners or hotel guests,” but would take issue with affordable housing, wind turbines, wineries, free-standing restaurants, conference facilities and tourist camps on the site.
“We ask that the Town Board ensure the present property owner maintain and immediately secure the property, as it has been in disrepair and a … nuisance for many years,” he said.
Ellen Zimmerman, president of the East Marion Community Association, similarly thanked the Town Board for their efforts to reduce potential intensity on the property and said the group supports the rezoning of the parcel.
“This is a necessary step to ensure the preservation of the character of the neighborhood surrounding this property and of East Marion in general,” she said. “It was the misconceived proposal to construct a grandiose spa on this site that included a 114-room transit motel, 72-seat restaurant, 99-seat cafeteria and 10-seat bar that spurred the organization of the East Marion Community Association in 2007. We will continue to protect East Marion’s real character and agricultural heritage and enhance the community life of our hamlet.”
A resident who lives within walking distance of the parcel, however, said she’s concerned about vague code language on RR zoning.
“When I read what RR actually says, it’s very very amorphous and this really really worries me,” she said. “It seems that there are only two things that are really prohibited and that is a winery or loud music that could be heard over the borders of the property.”
Mr. Russell responded that RR is “fairly restrictive,” operating based on bulk schedule.
“It would require 4,000 square feet of land for every one room you want or 6,000 square feet of land for every room you want if you don’t have access to a sewer system and public water,” he said, pointing out that segments of the land to be zoned RR are not buildable. “Under the zoning that’s proposed, based on the lot yield or buildable portion of that parcel … our calculations were if you had public sewer and public water, you would be allowed to build up to 44 rooms” or 29 rooms without public sewer and public water.
Jennifer Hartnagel, speaking for Group for the East End, also expressed thanks for the zone change and concern about RR. While the current MII district could result in “disastrous development applications,” the environmental group remains “concerned that whatever reduction that you are taking away from the back is not going to be enough to mitigate or negate what could take place on that front portion.”
“You could have up to 40-something units in a hotel there,” she said. “It could be a mini-Enclaves east and it’s likely to happen. The site is very constrained, it’s surrounded by the residential uses, it’s a narrow street and it leads down to Route 25A, it’s a serious traffic issue there. So unfortunately when you look at the uses permitted in the RR zoning versus the MII, some of the more intensive uses like that hotel are still there.”
Additionally, some maritime uses of a working waterfront are not permitted in RR, she said. “I know it’s a give and take here, but are you really gaining anything with the RR zoning?”
Mr. Russell said the idea that a hotel like the Enclaves could be built there is “a scare tactic,” and any potential hotel there would need access to public sewer to maximize development.
“That’s a big if. Good luck finding it,” he said. “Secondly, if you’re going to maximize at 44, you’ve given up all other uses because you’ve consumed all of the bulk schedule … It’s nowhere near what is being permitted at the Enclaves. It just doesn’t have the zoning to accommodate those uses.”
“I’m not saying that the RR is worse than the MII, I’m saying that the RR might not be the best that you could create for this site,” Ms. Hartnagel responded. “That’s just my point, please be aware this could be problematic. That’s our point.”
At least two residents also asked the town to consider the value of maintaining a working waterfront on the property.
Someone who described themselves as a marine contractor argued that there are “only a few parcels of land in the entire Town of Southold that you can promote and develop a working waterfront.”
“The clamming and oyster businesses are being chased out. Look at Greenport,” he said. “I’m in the business of waterfront business, and I can tell you I’m being chased … and I’m not the only marine contractor. There’s several. I think that these are people that are part of the constitution in Southold Town.”
“We need to maintain and preserve our recreational and commercial marine industry. Our working waterfront properties, I would suggest, are just as important as our aquaculture, farms and open spaces,” added Patrick Brennan, a Greenport resident.