The Huntington Town Board paved the way for developers to build an 80-room Hampton Inn & Suites on Main Street, a proposal that opponents say does not belong in the downtown area.
The board on Tuesday approved a certificate of approval to construct an addition to the old town hall on Main Street and Stewart Avenue, where the rooms will be located. The town’s Historic Preservation Commission previously approved locating the hotel in the historic overlay district and also signed off on the latest renderings of the project.
“Now that this is passed the developers can go get their building permits,” town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said after the town board meeting. “What came in front of us today was about design, it had nothing to do with parking, it was the look of the building.”
Some residents stayed for hours to speak during the public comment session of the meeting. Many carried signs of protest, such as "PRESERVE Huntington Village, NO!!! HAMPTON INN." They accused town officials of promising a 55-room boutique hotel then allowing a Hampton Inn with more rooms and inadequate parking at the last minute. They also said they were worried the hotel would not fit into the character of the neighborhood.
Lupinacci said the hotel proposal had gone through several town approval processes before Tuesday’s meeting, including the zoning board for parking variances, the historic preservation commission for the exterior of the building and the town board for more rooms.
“There were several public hearings during the process, including the increase in rooms,” Lupinacci said.
Town officials in April 2019 announced a public hearing to expand the rooms from 55 to 80, which was approved later that year. In August 2019, the town agreed to license parking spaces at town hall to the hotel on weekends.
Huntington resident David Benson said he would feel better if the town stuck with the original, smaller plan.
“If they had gone with the original 55 rooms and did the right kind of exterior design and they didn’t sign up with Hampton Inn maybe I could live with it,” Benson said. “Hampton Inn is just the wrong image for Huntington."
Developers Rosario C. Cassata and George Tsunis said last month they signed a franchise agreement with Hilton to have the former town hall building on Main Street and Stewart Avenue carry the Hampton Inn name.
After Tuesday’s meeting Tsunis said a Hampton Inn was not the original intent, but the zoning board, concerned about limited parking, approved a parking variance application with the condition that there would be no bar or restaurant.
“So we were left with just rooms,” he said. “But it will look very boutique-like, it will be gorgeous. We’re not sparing any expense to make this hotel special and one of a kind on Long Island.”
He said the 1910 old town hall will be restored and serve as the lobby and breakfast room. He said he took inspiration for the design from a Hampton Inn in the historic district in Columbia, South Carolina.
The $24 million project was awarded $2.8 million in tax breaks by the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency last month.
The tax breaks include $1.8 million off property taxes for 15 years, or a savings of 33%.