The Southampton Town Board tabled a proposal at its Tuesday meeting to buy and demolish an overcrowded Hampton Bays motel to make way for a condo development.
In August, Supervisor Jay Schneiderman announced a plan to buy the Bel-Aire Cove Motel on Shinnecock Road, raze the structure and secure plans to develop the parcel as luxury condominiums, a first-of-its-kind proposal for the town. Schneiderman said he then expected the town to sell the property to a developer and come out even or make a small profit from the plan. Any profits would go into a fund to create similar proposals, he said.
Several residents at a Tuesday public hearing said they would prefer the town use its Community Preservation Fund — money from a 2 percent tax on real estate transactions — to purchase and preserve the property.
“This other process seems very muddied,” Hampton Bays resident Gayle Lombardi said of the condo plan. “I implore the town board to move forward using CPF funds.”
Board members said sentiments like Lombardo's came as a surprise, given the property’s history and previous statements from community members.
Schneiderman said the dozen or so residents who opposed the project during two public hearings on the matter paled “in comparison to the hundreds of people who have told me to go forward with this.”
The board opted not to vote on a walk-on resolution authorizing the property's purchase because the audience had left and the resolution had not been publicly announced. The board will likely vote on the matter at its Nov. 13 meeting, Schneiderman said.
The owners of the motel property, which has been the subject of multiple code enforcement violations over the years, said they are willing to sell to Southampton Town for $1,060,000. The deal will be managed by the town's Community Development Agency, the creation of which officials said is pending the approval of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The motel must be vacated before the deal can close and, if needed, the town will notify its Housing and Community Development department or the Suffolk County Department of Social Services to assist in occupants' relocation, Schneiderman said.
Jag Jayaswal, whose family owns the property, said he began renting the motel's 19 rooms by the month about five years ago after the closure of several nearby nightclubs cooled the summer party scene in Hampton Bays. He collects between $600 and $750 per month for the rooms, which he said are mostly single occupancy with one family living there. He called the decision to operate the motel as apartments a "mistake," noting the code violations and the process of evicting tenants who haven't paid rent.
"I'm 78 years old; I got to the point where I said 'the heck with it,' " Jayaswal said.
He added he has not paid any fines for violations and hopes to have those fines forgiven as part of the deal. He also said he doesn't have a preference as to whether the property is purchased through a Community Development Agency or the town's Community Preservation Fund program.
"Once I get my check, I don't care," he said.
A majority of the five-member board said they plan to support the development proposal. Councilwoman Christine Scalera dissented over concerns the property wouldn’t sell and other issues.