Southampton Town is nearing a decision on a developer's plan -- eight years in the making -- to redevelop properties on both sides of the Shinnecock Canal in Hampton Bays, including the site of the 92-year-old Canoe Place Inn.
Plainview-based R Squared Development LLC is asking the town for zoning changes that would allow it to build 37 luxury town houses on the east side of the waterway and rehabilitate the dilapidated inn on the west.
The Southampton Town Board held three public hearings in the fall on the proposal and has scheduled a vote for Jan. 13.
In 2006, R Squared, run by cousins Gregg and Mitchell Rechler, asked the town for permission to raze the inn and replace it with a timeshare-style resort. After Hampton Bays residents protested, the developers agreed to renovate the inn and operate it as a catering hall and restaurant, but proposed the town houses across the canal as part of the project.
The town houses would replace the sites of two restaurants, which have since closed or relocated.
The Rechlers have proposed a state-of-the-art wastewater-treatment system on the east side of the canal and an underground barrier designed to filter nitrogen pollution on the west. In December, they agreed to add a floating dock to provide public access to the canal.
"It's almost 10 years in the process," Gregg Rechler said in a Dec. 12 interview. "The second five years were really an interesting learning experience for us, because we really changed the application substantially around rehabilitating the Canoe Place Inn."
R Squared's plan has stirred up strong emotions in Hampton Bays. Some residents say it would bring economic life to their hamlet and preserve the Canoe Place Inn, or CPI, a community landmark that was built in 1922 and has been threatened with demolition over the years.
"This is going to be a renaissance for the town," Marie Mulcahy, who has lived in Hampton Bays for 46 years, said at a Dec. 9 hearing. "We have to think big."
Others say the town houses would forever change the character of the Shinnecock Canal -- a crossing considered the entranceway to the Hamptons -- and crowd more people into Hampton Bays, a community of 13,600 residents that is already the most densely populated part of Southampton.
"It's almost like a form of blackmail," Carolyn Ellis, also of Hampton Bays, said at the hearing. " 'I'll save CPI if you let me build town houses on the canal.' "
The Canoe Place Inn, which burned down in 1921 and was rebuilt the next year, was once a destination for figures like actress and comedian Lucille Ball and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It has housed nightclubs in more recent decades, but has stood vacant since the last establishment closed around 2010.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said in an interview that she supports the project because it would save the inn and benefit Hampton Bays economically.
"I am very much looking forward to voting in the affirmative," she said.