As winds blew at tremendous speeds outside, so did differences of opinion inside Southampton Town Hall last Thursday as residents of the hamlet of Bridgehampton discussed the development of a new hotel and spa on the corner of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike —Â a gateway area of the hamlet.
The proposed resort has been discussed among members of the community for a number of years; this week, it wasÂ discussed during a planning board meeting where residents and interested parties had a chance to speak on the matter during a public hearing.Â
The Bulls Head Inn would feature a 22-room hotel and restaurant with wellness center and conference center capabilities. The inn would also have spa-like amenities like quiet rooms, a pool and a workout gym.
Richard Van de Kieft of the Raynor Group, who represents the applicant, and owner Bill Campell, described the project as a “retreat destination with overnight accommodations.” The current facility, according to Van de Kieft, needs to be “restored” and “rehabilitated,”and the applicant would need to make some major repairs to bring the historic structure up to current health and safety requirements, including adding an elevator and some improvements to the stairs. The developers also intend to meet LEED standards, which will require green building techniques.
The project would not only rehabilitate the current structure, the historic Judge Abraham Rose House, but also add four two-story cottages of just over 1500 square feetÂ on the property. Â
Residents of Bridgehampton showed up on Thursday en masse to show both support, and discontent with the project.
The first speaker was James Levoci, a neighbor to the property. Levoci argued that the property is “not commercial and never was,” he then asked the members of the planning board, “how many of you would like to live next to a parking lot?”
Levoci also asked the planning board to investigate the zoning of the area and the “pre-existing, non-conforming”Â status of some of the structures.Â
“You have a covenant with me,” said Levoci to the planning board. “If I purchased a piece of residential property then there is a covenant…the town has the responsibility to the taxpayer to uphold that covenant.”
He also said that if the project was approved, it would be similar to the town saying, “It’s okay to come in and devalue someone’s property.”
More arguments from Levoci included the traffic flow, parking and, because of the 24-hour operation, “people coming and going at all hours.” Lastly, Levoci suggested that the applicant “just build five houses,”Â rather than the proposed hotel.
Another Bridgehampton resident, Bill Thayer, offered an different opinion.
“Contrary to the other speaker, I think it is a beautiful building that will compliment the Hopping House [a dilapidated building across the street].”
“We are the gateway to the Hamptons,” said Thayer, adding that this would help improve the overall look of the hamlet.
He added that the project would be a “wonderful site” and it has an “overall aesthetic beauty,”Â to it.
Thayer argued that this has always been a commercial area of the hamlet.
“Is it commercial? You bet,” he said, “what is wrong with making money? This is the commercial end of Bridgehampton – always was and always has been. We are trying to beautify this section of town and make it come back to life in a way that everyone will appreciate.”
But Chairman of the Bridgehampton Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC), Fred Cammann, agreed with Lovoci, saying CAC members did look favorably on the proposal.Â
“The CAC has always resisted commercial zoning of its current boundaries,”Â he said.
He continued that the new buildings would be damaging to the existing property owners, and maintained that the project would require some “down zoning” and the “community should be vigilant in preserving values, not allowing projects which would decrease values.”
Further, Cammann, argues that the construction of the four cottages on the eastern side of the property would be used as commercial structures in that they would be additional hotel rooms. He said the commercial structures “will affect the adjacent neighbors.”
“Such a change … is damaging to existing property owners of these residential properties and should not be allowed.”
“Somebody wants to take on this project that would only support the efforts across the street at the Nathanial Rogers house,” Sherry Dobbin, also a Bridgehampton resident, countered after Cammann spoke.
She said the project may seem overwhelming, but in fact it “there are only 22 rooms.”
“No one wants to live next to a parking lot, but there has been a lot of detail in the landscaping,” she added.
Planning board Chairperson, Dennis Finnerty, closed the hearing with a short 10 day written comment period, due to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) deadline beginning on Thursday February 12.
“There is quite a bit of correspondence,” on the matter, according to Finnerty.