Lines were drawn between Hampton Bays residents on Tuesday afternoon as they stood to comment during a scoping hearing held on a and adjoining properties, which requires a change of zone action by the Southampton Town Board.
While the hearing was meant to obtain feedback on an environmental study for the project, residents took the opportunity to voice their thoughts on the proposal in general.
Critics argued that the developers of the proposal, cousins Gregg and Mitchell Rechler, are "bribing" the public by agreeing to restore Canoe Place Inn and purchase Pine Barrens credits through the town's so they can build 40 townhouses on the canal. Those in support said there is a clear public benefit that will result from the project.
Anne Wilding, of Hampton Bays, argued against the plan and said, “Zoning regulations must be observed. It bothers me see that they will be waived for some kind of public benefit. It sounds to me like a bribe."
Fellow resident Marilynda Vianna agreed saying, "The Rechlers will say, ‘Oh, we’re going to renovate the CPI’ — well, that brings to mind the song from the show 'Chicago,' the old ‘Razzle Dazzle.'"
She added, "They talk the talk, they don't walk the walk. No more density in Hampton Bays."
Others questioned the Rechlers business plan, calling it "flawed," saying it is destined to fail."
Larry Fasciano said, "What's going to happen to CPI when it goes off the tax rolls and out of our pockets? I don't see how it can survive when all the restaurants in Hampton Bays close for the winter. It's a white elephant."
Others like, Mary Fox argued that a loss of public canal access and will be "very disappointing"
Fox recalled that as a child she would stand on the canal and watch the fishing boats come in.
"There is a history there too," she said.
Also brought up during the meeting was sewage treatment.
Jennifer Hartnagle, of the Group for the East End, asked the Town Board to take a closer look at the sewage treatment plan that is slated to be built on the east side of the canal as did several other residents.
And while resident after resident stood to criticize the proposal, Brenda Berntstein, the head of the , rose to support it, saying that there are hundreds of residents who she has spoken to who favor the project. Her son, she said, even .
"The vast majority of people want this. And yes, no one wants townhouses built on the canal, but my guess is that half of you didn't want your neighbors to build their houses."
She also protested against comments about the Rechlers' business plan.
"They don't tell you how to run your business," she said, adding that the Rechlers have sat in countless meetings with residents to work out a plan.
When the Rechlers first proposed their project, it included a demolition of Canoe Place Inn, which was built in the 1920s. However Gregg Rechler said that since he and his cousin resolved to save CPI, he has fallen in love with the building.
He said, "I really think it is going to be something special for everyone to use and enjoy. It will be come a labor of love. I am very excited about it."
Also pleased with the project was Dr. Bruce King, who heads the Hampton Bays Civic Association, but prefaced his statements on Tuesday, saying that he is speaking as a resident not as a leader.
"Call me a helpless romantic, but I like the old Canoe Place Inn. I was there for my sister's wedding. Those of you who don't want what is being proposed, then take out your checkbook and buy it."
The Town Board left the hearing open for written comment for 10 days.
What do you think of the proposal? Comment below or answer the poll questions.
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