Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera said her fellow Southampton Town Board members have been “kicking the can down the road long enough” when it comes to the fate of the Bel-Aire Cove Motel in Hampton Bays.
But on January 22, she failed to gain any support from the board for her proposal to buy the property with Community Preservation Fund money, despite public backing at multiple meetings on the topic.
Preston Scalera thanked the public for speaking out at numerous hearings, “even though it fell on deaf ears,” she said.
“I’m listening,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said in response. He had originally suggested using $1.06 million in taxpayer dollars to clean up the property and put it back on the market, following a request from the public to do something after multiple complaints and code violations for overcrowding, bedbugs, and missing smoke detectors during an October 2017 raid.
Looking to keep the motel on the tax roll and boost tourism, Schneiderman’s original proposal was to convert the property into a 22-unit boutique hotel. He also suggested replacing it with 10 luxury condominiums. Preston Scalera asked for a public hearing to acquire the lot with a CPF purchase after listening to concerned residents worried about the effects of the motel or future hotel on Penny Pond. Some sent letters to the town asking for redevelopment, siting the need for economic growth in Hampton Bays, while others called for razing the building and preserving the parcel, or turning it into a local park.
“The only elected official that listened and tried to get to the relevant facts and law was Councilperson Scalera,” Hampton Bays resident Gale Lombardi said. “This process has been the poster child for institutional corruption — from the original walk-on resolution to purchase the Bel-Aire property for redevelopment back in August. It’s a systemic failure for the government to provide governance . . . yet again failing the residents of the Bel-Aire Cove Motel.”
Schneiderman suggested tabling Preston Scalera’s proposal to consider a third solution— this time, the implementation of an urban renewal plan to restore it as a hotel or resort. Preston Scalera said “It doesn’t make any sense to keep dragging it along,” before calling her resolution to a vote.
The supervisor said it would have been more beneficial to table the resolution again, like the town did with his proposal to purchase the property, so community members could compare the potential plans. It could be revisited later, at which point another public hearing would need to be scheduled. A new public hearing to consider an urban renewal plan for the property is planned for February 26 at 6 PM.