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Village to allow bed-and-breakfasts to attract buyers of historic homes

Homeowners on a stretch of Route 25A in

Homeowners on a stretch of Route 25A in Head of the Harbor can apply to operate their houses as bed and breakfasts.  Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

A new law opening the way for bed-and-breakfasts in Head of the Harbor is aimed at attracting more buyers for the village’s historic homes, officials said.

The intent is to make “older, larger and historically interesting homes” less costly to own and to “assist in the economic viability of older houses that give this village its character,” Deputy Mayor Daniel White said at a March 20 village board meeting.

Trustees that night approved a law allowing homeowners along the village’s two-mile stretch of busy Route 25A to apply for permits to operate their houses as bed-and-breakfasts. More than a dozen homes appear to meet the geographic requirements, but only owner-occupied ones will be considered for the permit and no more than four bedrooms can be rented to guests.

Real estate website last week listed 18 village houses or lots for sale, with conditions slightly more difficult for sellers in Head of the Harbor than in Suffolk County overall: For-sale homes in the village sat on the market a median 146 days and sold at 97.59 percent of list price, versus a median 128 days and 97.88 percent of list price in the county.

The village has more than 100 structures and sites of local significance, many of which are eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, as 131 of its 535 homes were built before 1939, according to census figures.

Among them is the 10-bedroom, 8-bathroom 1850 Gothic Revival mansion near Route 25A and Three Sisters Road that prompted Mayor Douglas Dahlgard to propose the legislation last year.

The mansion’s former inhabitants include philanthropist Alice Throckmorton McLean, who in the 1920s added a servants’ wing in expectation of a visit from the Prince of Wales that never came.

After current owner Lance Mallamo, the former Suffolk County historian and Vanderbilt Museum director, put the home up for sale  in October for $929,000, Dahlgard said the home needed someone with “deep pockets” to renovate it back to its former glory. The home has not yet sold, according to a representative for the Daniel Gale Agency, which has the listing. Taxes are $22,970.

Mallamo, who now lives in Virginia, said in an interview that he did not initiate the legislation and had no intention of operating a bed-and-breakfast there himself. “I did not support” the law, he said. While several potential buyers have expressed interest in the home, none told him they were contemplating opening a bed-and-breakfast there either, he said.

While some residents have said bed-and-breakfasts are a poor fit for the village’s residential neighborhoods, Heather Turner, marketing director for Professional Association of Innkeepers International, said the businesses were unlikely to add much traffic or demand for services. But, she said, the village’s law could make them hard to operate at a profit.

“If you don’t have at least six rooms or more, it’s very hard to operate a bed-and-breakfast to actually make money,”  Turner said. Smaller operations typically have at least one owner with an outside source of income, she said.

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