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Suffolk Public Works Committee OKs transfer of land in Hampton Bays to developer

A view of Shinnecock canal by Meschutt Beach

A view of Shinnecock canal by Meschutt Beach in Hampton Bays. Credit: randee daddona

Suffolk County would transfer almost an acre of land along the Shinnecock Canal to Southampton Town, which would give a portion of the property to the developer of the Canoe Place Inn and nearby town homes, according to a memorandum of understanding that will be voted on by the legislature next Wednesday.

In exchange, the developer would pay the costs of highway improvements near the project and enhanced public access to the waterfront, according to county officials.

The proposed memorandum of understanding between Suffolk, Southampton and R Squared, the Plainview company owned by cousins Gregg and Mitchell Rechler, was unanimously passed by the legislature's Public Works Committee on Monday. But committee chairman Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said he wanted to evaluate the arrangement further by walking the Hampton Bays project.

The memorandum has to be approved by the Southampton Town Board.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst told the committee the deal would secure public access to the canal and a viewing dock along the canal, with five parking spaces for the public.

"There will be access to a 250-foot public dock. People at no expense can go there, fish, bring their picnic basket," she said.

The town board in January approved the plan that includes the restoration of the historic Canoe Place Inn on one side of the canal and the construction of 37 town homes on the other. A lawsuit filed by some residents to block the project is pending in State Supreme Court.

About a dozen residents near the planned town home project and inn rehabilitation opposed the plan at the county's committee meeting in Hauppauge Tuesday, arguing that the benefits of the roadwork would mostly go to the developer and not the public.

A number of residents came to support the deal, saying that the improvements where Montauk Highway meets Newtown Road on the west side of the canal and North Road on the east side are needed.

Bill Hillman, the county's chief engineer for highways, said the estimated value of the highway improvements was $1.85 million. He said the county estimated the value of the land, which is in two separate parcels, at about $1.5 million, he said.

Opponents of the plan said there was little good coming to the county or town from the land transfer.

"Five parking spaces is not much of a public benefit, and the public provided the land," said Helen Dale Nicholl, who lives less than a mile from the proposed development.

Suffolk is not allowed to give away land to a private entity without fair compensation, according to George Nolan, the legislature's general counsel.

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