The developer of the once grand Canoe Place Inn has threatened to demolish and replace the former Hamptons hot spot with a restaurant or houses, if the Southampton Town Board fails to quickly approve 40 nearby town homes and a remodeling of the hotel.
Gregg Rechler, managing partner of R Squared LLC, said his partners have "deal fatigue" after purchasing the Hampton Bays hotel in 2004 and later 7 acres on the east side of the Shinnecock Canal.
"Quite frankly, we've gone as far as we can," Rechler said in an interview. "If we can't have it wrapped up in the near future, shovels in the ground on both projects simultaneously, we have no choice."
The east side of the canal is home to the popular restaurant Tide Runners, and the planned location of the town homes and a wastewater treatment plant.
Rechler said if the plan for those town homes is scuttled, a motel could be built there.
The Canoe Place Inn project has been contested in Southampton since Rechler and his cousin Mitchell Rechler unveiled plans to demolish the inn in 2005. After years of meeting with community leaders, they have support from the historic preservation community, which wanted to protect the building that was a favorite of former New York Gov. Al Smith and hosted lively dinners for the likes of Albert Einstein and Lucille Ball. In recent years, the now-dilapidated building was a series of nightclubs.
But the focus of opposition has turned to the east side of the Shinnecock Canal, where the Rechlers said they need to build the town homes to make the Canoe Place Inn financially feasible.
Some residents, though, say they're fine with the status quo.
"The consensus is the plan is overzealous and dense for this neck of the woods," said Scott Bolster, a resident of Shinnecock Hills, which sits above where the 40 town homes and the nitrogen-reducing wastewater site would be. "I don't think the project fits the community."
The development was endorsed by five local civic associations earlier this year. But two of those groups have switched their positions to neutral.
The Hampton Bays Beautification Association, in a statement posted on its website in September, said that many members "like the idea of the revitalization of the Canoe Place Inn. However, many members have expressed their concerns and opposition" to the town houses.
The Southampton Town Board is scheduled to hold its next public hearing on the plan on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m.
Marie Mulcahy, 85, a founder of the beautification committee, said she supports saving the Canoe Place Inn but understands concerns about the density.
The Canoe Place Inn "is important," she said. "It would be our own place for a catering hall, parties and weddings."
Mulcahy helped hash out the plan with Rechler and other community leaders at meetings every few months at the Hampton Bays Diner. She thought the number of units could be reduced.