Board approves hotel moratorium: Unanimous vote overrides county recommendation

The Southold Town Board unanimously adopted a 12-month moratorium on hotel development at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

The law will take effect “upon filing with the Secretary of State,” according to the resolution on the meeting agenda. Town Board member Jill Doherty said that process usually takes about two weeks. Once filed, the moratorium will halt the application process for any “new construction of a resort, hotel or motel” for 12 months.  

The unanimous decision to approve a 12-month moratorium overrides the Suffolk County Planning Commission’s recommendation for a six-month development pause, according to a June 5 report. 

“The town has noted that they are in the process of a comprehensive zoning update that should be complete by March 2025,” its report states. “The commission believes it is important that the town update the commission on its progress within the first three months and after the six months to discuss the need for an extension, so that the town can end this moratorium at the appropriate time that allows suitable development to continue.”

Town Supervisor Al Krupski said the board is committed to hitting the March 2025 deadline on the comprehensive zoning update. 

Southold officials hired consultants ZoneCo LLC and Hardesty & Hanover to take inventory of all allowable land uses outlined within the town’s 19 current zoning districts and provide guidance to help officials implement the comprehensive plan’s 13 specific goals — which range from land preservation to affordable housing development. 

The zoning review will identify at what density and where hotels are currently permitted. Town officials will then reassess where new development should be allowed, the number of rooms permitted per acre of land and whether there should be a cap on the size of any given hotel within the town.

After voting to approve this new measure, Mr. Krupski gave a brief update on the zoning review process and encouraged community participation.

“The consultant has not issued any recommendations now for a change [in land use],” he said. “If there’s any recommendations made for changes in land use, we really do welcome public comment on any of those because I think that’s when it’s going to be very impactful if changes are made … or if any zones are going to be eliminated, I haven’t heard that yet, but it certainly is possible.”

There were roughly 20 residents in attendance Tuesday night, six of whom offered public comments, mostly in favor of the year-long moratorium.

John C. Armentano of Farrell Fritz law firm addressing Southold Town Board at June 18 public hearing on a town wide hotel development moratorium. (Melissa Azofeifa photo)

John Armentano of Farrell Fritz law firm, which represents 9025 Main St LLC, owners of the proposed Mattituck Hotel — one of several applications for hotel development or expansion currently before the town — urged the board to consider excluding pending applications for redevelopment from the moratorium. “There really is no other viable use for the property,” he said. “I know there’s discussion for new development, but I think reuse and redevelopment has its own place and possibly may be excluded from this moratorium.”

The original proposal for the two-story Mattituck Hotel at the former Capital One building on Main Road, which is owned by the Cardinale family, was submitted in 2021 and called for 121 rooms, a 275-seat restaurant and a 300-seat catering facility, along with indoor and outdoor pools.

According to the latest iteration of the proposal, submitted to the Planning Board June 6, the hotel would have 81 rooms, with a restaurant and catering facility totaling 100,821 square feet, as well as three 1,200-square-foot workforce housing and maintenance buildings, totaling 11.8 acres. If the project doesn’t secure final site plan approval before the moratorium goes into effect, the application process will be halted.

Jennifer Hartnagel, director of conservation advocacy at Group for the East End, was among those in the community — along with Anne Murray, land use coordinator for the North Fork Environmental Council, and Charles Gueli, representing the North Fork Civics Coalition — who called for a broader moratorium suspending all new commercial development within the town. Ms. Hartnagel argued against the exemption for redevelopment applications.

“That would completely undermine the purpose of what you’re trying to achieve here,” she said. “That site is a complete teardown; it’s not an innocuous reuse of the site.”

The recently renovated Silver Sands hotel, owned by Alexander Perros, also has application before the town, seeking to convert an existing accessory boat house on the property into a restaurant.

The moratorium will not affect that application as the bill includes an exception for “existing, permitted hotels, motels and resorts requesting relief and/or permits for additions, modifications, or alterations or relief for accessory structures or uses,” town attorney Paul DeChance told The Suffolk Times in April.

The Enclaves, a luxury hotel proposed in town, will also remain unaffected, as the moratorium does not include projects that have received final site plan approval, which that development secured from the Planning Board on Jan. 8.

Although she’s was pleased the board passed the hotel moratorium, Ms. Murray said a broader, townwide development pause remains “crucial at this time.”

“I want the board to think about what this place is going to look like 30 years from now,” Ms. Murray said. “There’s so much land left that’s open and it’s not going to be there in 30 years unless they do something now.” 

Town Board member Greg Doroski said the moratorium is a “pretty significant tool” and argued that a broad commercial moratorium could have a “really detrimental” impact on the overall local economy.

“I think there’s a lot of legitimate concern about the pace of development in Southold Town,” he said. “I think this moratorium as we’ve crafted it, really addresses a threat that our community is facing.”