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Canoe Place Inn restoration and townhome development approved for Hampton Bays

The Canoe Place Inn in Hampton Bays, seen

The Canoe Place Inn in Hampton Bays, seen here on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, has been vacant for the past several years. Credit: Randee Daddona

The Southampton Town Board Tuesday approved a developer's plan to restore the Canoe Place Inn on one side of the Shinnecock Canal and build a luxury townhome complex on the other.

The 5-0 vote caps years of fierce debate in Hampton Bays, where some residents championed the project as a chance for economic revival and others lambasted it as overdevelopment of the waterfront.

Plainview-based R Squared Development LLC, owned by cousins Gregg and Mitchell Rechler, in 2010 agreed to reopen the 93-year-old inn as a hotel and catering hall in exchange for the town board's permission to build 37 townhomes on 41/2 acres on the canal's eastern edge, at a site zoned for restaurants and other businesses.

Board members said Tuesday they supported the plan because it would preserve the inn, a Hampton Bays landmark with origins in the 1600s, and draw tourism to the largely blue-collar hamlet.

"It's been over seven years that this project has been, in some form or another, on my desk and part of an almost daily workload," said Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. "This is how important this project has been to me since the very beginning."

The Rechlers agreed to add a high-tech wastewater treatment system, underground barrier designed to trap nitrogen, and a floating dock with public parking -- features board members said helped win their support.

Opponents argued in recent years that the townhomes would add to the population and traffic in Hampton Bays, the most populous part of Southampton.

"It's very sad when elected officials do not reflect the consensus of their constituents," said Hope Sandrow of Shinnecock Hills, a hamlet near the east side of the canal.

Gregg Rechler said Tuesday his company plans to submit a detailed proposal to the planning board in the next few months.

In 2006, the Rechlers moved to demolish the Canoe Place Inn, considered by many residents to be an eyesore, and build a four-floor resort with 75 timeshare units. After Hampton Bays residents protested and Throne-Holst intervened, the developers agreed to renovate the inn but asked to build the townhomes in return.

The inn, which burned in 1921 and was rebuilt in 1922, had attracted high-profile guests such as Lucille Ball and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It operated as a nightclub in recent decades but has been vacant since 2010.

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