The Town of Southold is considering a yearlong moratorium on...

The Town of Southold is considering a yearlong moratorium on new hotel construction. A pending application for development of a hotel on this former Mattituck bank property would be impacted by such a measure, according to town officials. Credit: Randee Daddona

Southold officials are considering a yearlong moratorium on the construction of new hotels as development pressures intensify and the North Fork's popularity as a tourism hot spot endures.

Town officials say the freeze would help balance the interests of residents and tourism-focused enterprises while a zoning overhaul is completed, but some residents say it doesn’t go far enough toward limiting development. 

The town board voted 6-0 on Tuesday to set a June 18 public hearing on the moratorium proposal. It would put a pause on the processing and approving of applications for new hotels, according to the legislation.

Hotels with final site plan approval, like the luxury 44-room development The Enclaves, or existing hotels seeking additions wouldn't be impacted, town attorney Paul DeChance said Tuesday.

“The goal was not to frustrate already existing and approved developments,” he added in an interview.

If enacted, town planners will take a “deep dive” into where hotels can be built and how many hotel rooms could be allowed under current town code and how the code might be modified under zoning changes, according to Southold officials. They said the aim is to strike a better balance between the economics of tourism and the needs of residents. 

The town has one pending application for a new hotel, according to town planning director Heather Lanza. She said two other new hotel concepts have been floated and are in “pre-submission,” with no applications filed yet.

The planning official identified those “pre-submission” concepts as interest from Peconic Bay Vineyards in building a new 40-room hotel at its Cutchogue property and interest from Brick Cove Marina in Greenport in building a new 35-room hotel on its property.

The pending application that would be impacted by the proposed moratorium is a 121-room hotel a developer pitched for a former bank property in Mattituck.

D’Wayne Prieto, the developer behind it, said in an interview that a moratorium could be useful to clear up contradictions in town code that are confusing for developers. But he said the Mattituck hotel application should be exempt, and a halt would be “painful” and “unfair” after a town process that already has lasted four years.

Prieto added that based on community feedback, he plans to submit a scaled-back plan for an 81-room hotel that would reuse the existing bank building.

“We want to be good neighbors,” the developer said.

Two pending applications for expansions at Hotel Moraine and Silver Sands Motel, both in Greenport, would be exempt from the proposed moratorium because they are existing hotels, town officials confirmed.

The North Fork accounts for about 4% of tourism on Long Island, according to the data firm Zartico.

In 2022, Southold approved a $183,500 contract with a Cincinnati-based firm to re-evaluate its zoning code, a project expected to be completed in March 2025.

Residents, civic and environmental groups packed a meeting the town held last week, urging the board to go beyond putting a pause on hotel construction and instead enact a moratorium on all commercial development while the zoning project is underway.

“I feel lately like the scale is tipping to favoring nonresidents,” Catherine Harper, 71, of Mattituck, told town officials at that meeting. “We need that like Niagara Falls needs more water.”

At the proceeding, town officials balked at a broader moratorium on commercial development and said that could lead to a “flood” of appeal requests and applications when such a measure would expire.

Southold must seek input from the Suffolk County Planning Commission before voting on the proposed moratorium. If the request is denied, Southold could override the decision with a five vote supermajority. 


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