A pair of Southampton Town Board members, and a representative of the developers looking to renovate the Canoe Place Inn in Hampton Bays and build 40 townhouses on the east side of the Shinnecock Canal, met with neighbors on Sunday to discuss their concerns about the connected projects.
The informal meeting, which took place in the living room of one of the members of the group—now being called the Concerned Citizens of Shinnecock—was, for the most part, cordial, but did not quell the opposition to the plans being pushed by Gregg and Mitchell Rechler.
Those who live in the neighborhood just east of North Road, near a 2.68-acre plot of land that would house a wastewater treatment plant to service the townhouses, said they are most concerned about the damage such a facility would cause to their property values and the character of their community. Neighbors said they oppose any such facility, and do not care that the one pitched by the Rechlers would not be treating solid waste and, therefore, is not a sewage treatment plant.
“A treatment plant is a treatment plant,” said Dorothy Donahue, a longtime resident of the neighborhood, which consists of privately built streets and is accessible only by Old Canoe Road. “I’m concerned about my property value. That is my equity.”
Jim Morgo, a spokesman for the Rechlers, listened to concerns raised about the increased density the project would bring to Hampton Bays, the restrictions the townhouses would have on canal access, and the overall impact such a development would have on the surrounding neighborhoods.
Mr. Morgo, who said he cannot personally make any changes to the MPDD, lofted ideas for potential compromises. He asked if allowing neighbors to hook up to the new Nitrix system, or moving the wastewater facility elsewhere on the property, out of sight from the main road, would make the proposal any easier for the neighbors to digest.
Neighbors rejected that suggestion, and countered with their own recommendations, all of which had a similar theme: build fewer townhouses on the canal property.
A few members of the Concerned Citizens of Shinnecock said they took a look at a similar Nitrix system installed elsewhere in Suffolk County. Although the system was impressive, they said, it wasn’t enough to change their minds.
“It seems like a fantastic system,” said Pete Bernagozzi, one of the neighbors who saw the facility in action. “If we were shopping for one, that would be at the top of our list. But the bottom line is, we aren’t.”
When asked if the Rechlers would consider going back to the drawing board and coming up with a new proposal, Mr. Morgo said he couldn’t say for sure but that it was unlikely. He noted that, to date, they have spent about $1.6 million in consultant fees alone.
Although Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who attended the meeting with Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera, said she would like to see the Canoe Place Inn renovated to make Hampton Bays “a destination” again, she said the MPDD is still being weighed by herself and her fellow board members.
“The Town Board has not made up its mind on this,” she said. “This is not a done deal and it never has been.”
Mr. Morgo and Ms. Throne-Holst both urged the neighbors to contact the Town Board with any concerns they have about the proposal so they can negotiate with the developers. Ms. Scalera remained silent for most of the meeting.
Another hamlet group, the Hampton Bays Beautification Association, also weighed in on the MPDD this weekend, with its leadership deciding to rescind its endorsement of the project. Because of differing opinions throughout the group, the association had decided to take no stance.
“We’re trying to do what’s best for us and what’s best for the community,” said Maud Kramer, a member of the group and its former leader. “That’s why we decided to no longer endorse the project.” She opposes the MPDD.