Residents have turned out in favor of an in-depth waterfront resort revitalization plan to be applied to the Bel-Aire Cove Motel property in Hampton Bays.
If approved, Southampton Town would be able to aid in the transformation of the property from its 20-unit rental motel to either a 22-unit boutique hotel or 12-unit seasonal resort with townhouse-style units. The motel sits on a 6560-square-foot parcel, where 1750 square feet is being used as two-story housing and office space. It is considered nonconforming under the zoning code because it is used for apartments, where they are not technically allowed.
“Years ago, the goal of the town was to get rid of the bars and the clubs and the traffic, which the town succeeded in doing, but the residual effect is what we’re dealing with right now,” said resident Donna Thiele, who gave a thumbs up while saying after carefully reading the plan she thinks the board did a “nice job” on its revitalization plan. “I’ve seen a slow deterioration of Hampton Bays to the point that tourists have no reason to go there,” she said on February 26 when the board discussed the matter.
Thiele said that in the 40-home development where she lives, five families have moved out in the last four years once their oldest child started going to school.
“The reason they moved to East Quogue and Westhampton is because they felt the schools and the downtowns in those locations were better,” she said. “The school has taken the biggest hit.”
She said she has also heard from friends who are real estate agents who have told her that while her clients may like the houses she shows them in Hampton Bays, they are not interested in living there and ask to look in neighboring hamlets instead.
Vincent Moore, a 22-year member of the Fire Department of New York, who has been a captain in the South Bronx and served 11 years in Harlem, said he has worked in tough areas and he knows what blight looks like. Living four houses from the motel, he said he’s not blind to what goes on there. He also believes the rest of the neighborhood is in “pristine” condition. Moore said his wife, a physical therapist, has done homecare at Bel-Aire Cove and can attest to the conditions.
“I know what’s going on at the end of the block,” he said. “It’s been going on for 20 years under your noses, and it’s time it changes. I don’t care what you do with it, you just have to do something.”
Thiele agreed, adding more support is needed now that the Community Preservation Fund purchase plan is off the table.
“The finger-pointing and blaming must end here,” she said. “We need to come together like Sag Harbor residents did for the movie theater. Other towns on Long Island such as Patchogue, Bay Shore, and even Riverhead have managed to rebuild and are thriving. There’s no reason why Hampton Bays can’t be the next great place to come and visit.”
While there was a resolution in place at the February 26 Town Board meeting, it could not be voted on pending necessary comment from the Southampton Town Planning Board and Suffolk County Planning Commission. The public hearing was closed, but the record kept open to receive community remarks. It will be back on the agenda to be voted on at the March 13 town board meeting at 1 PM.