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Residents at odds over Canoe Place Inn plan

Canoe Place Inn is located in Hampton Bays.

Canoe Place Inn is located in Hampton Bays. This photo was taken April 20, 2011. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Almost 100 years ago, the Canoe Place Inn hosted lively dinners for the likes of Albert Einstein and Lucille Ball.

This week, Hampton Bays residents were at odds during a public scoping session over a plan to restore and expand the now run-down historic property.

The application, drafted in February, was met Tuesday with enthusiastic support and adamant disapproval in a packed boardroom at Southampton Town Hall.

The project, led by property owners-developers Gregg and Mitchell Rechler, includes restoration of the Inn and 30 existing condominiums, as well as seven new units along the Shinnecock Canal. Because it would encompass two separate zoning districts on either side of the waterway, the project requires a Planned Development District designation -- a variance in zoning restrictions.

"We're privatizing whatever public space we have," said Marilynda Vianna, 60, a Hampton Bays resident.

Vianna also said the plan increases density in the area and would cause more pollution in the waterway.

Jim Voorhis, the environmental lawyer for the Canoe Place Inn proposal, said the construction would include a strategy for drainage, sanitation and landscaping. He said the environmental impact statement, which will be subject to a public hearing, would take into account public input in terms of preserving water resources.

Environmental advocate Jennifer Hartnagel, 30, from Group for the East End, said sanitary waste from the refurbished property could be two to four times what is typically permitted by law.

"It's almost counterproductive and counterintuitive to move along without taking an in-depth look at the water quality," she said.

Some Hampton Bays residents lamented the possible loss of restaurants such as Tide Runners that are within the proposed construction site, an area popular with boaters.

But Gregg Rechler said the new plans to create a bed-and-breakfast and event hall would provide a better place for the community to get together for gatherings or weddings.

Brenda Sinclair Berntson, an advocate of the plan and president of the Hampton Bays Historical & Preservation Society, said there is no large hall in the area for proms and weddings. Despite opposition at the meeting, she said most Hampton Bays residents are in favor of the plan for the Inn.

"The vast majority of people who I have never heard voice opinion want this," said Berntson, 54. "I was hoping we could preserve something."

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