During a Southold Town Board work session last Tuesday, the board discussed the possibility of enacting a moratorium on expansion of existing hotels and construction of new ones within Southold Town. 

The board debated the motion at a time when Southold is in talks with various civic groups and residents regarding an ongoing zoning update, which is meant to help implement 13 townwide goals — ranging from land preservation to affordable housing development — put forth in its Comprehensive Plan

Consultant groups ZoneCo LLC and Hardesty & Hanover are taking stock of allowable land uses outlined in each of the town’s 19 current zoning districts. They will then suggest updates to the town’s zoning code, which hasn’t been substantially overhauled since 1989.

Once the review is completed, according to Supervisor Al Krupski, the town will consider whether “hotels are appropriate in all those zoning districts, and at what intensity.” Southold officials can then reassess where hotels should be permitted, the allowable number of rooms per acre of land and whether there should be a cap on the size of any given hotel. A moratorium will permit the town to stop accepting new hotel applications until the zoning code is updated. Such a pause could enable officials to more effectively address community concerns about hotels, ranging from traffic to community character to water quality. 

“It’s a matter of natural resources — water availability, septic flow — the impact to the roads and the impact to the community,” Mr. Krupski said, adding that the zoning update would take “about a year” to complete.

“I don’t know if there’s any proposed changes having to do with hotels yet,” Mr. Krupski said of the consultants’ review now in progress. “[A moratorium] has to be done in context of the zoning update.”

There are currently multiple applications for hotel development and expansion before the town. Plans for the new two-story Mattituck Hotel at the former Capital One building on Main Road, owned by the Cardinale family, call for 121 rooms, a 275-seat restaurant, a 300-seat catering facility and indoor and outdoor pools. Alexander Perros, an owner of the recently renovated Silver Sands hotel in Greenport, has submitted an application to transform an existing accessory boathouse on the property into a restaurant. 

When asked whether these pending applications would be halted under a moratorium, Mr. Krupski said, “There’s no answer to that yet. It depends on how [the moratorium bill] is written.”

Planning department head Heather Lanza said Tuesday that the town is currently aware of four more new hotel proposals that are in the concept or pre-submission phase. Because no formal applications have yet been submitted, any of those proposals would be halted under a moratorium.

Among those pending projects is a boutique hotel at Peconic Bay Vineyards on Main Road in Cutchogue, one of scores of area properties owned by the Soloviev Group. In 2021, the Solovievs announced their intent to construct a 40-room resort with a spa and retail operations on the 53-acre property. 

The town would have to seek approval from the Suffolk County Planning Commission to enact a hotel moratorium. Should the planning commission deny this request, the Southold Town Board could override that decision with votes from five of its six members. 

A hotel development and expansion moratorium in Southold Town would not impact the Village of Greenport.

During last week’s nearly 40-minute discussion, the board also weighed the option of a broader moratorium to temporarily halt all commercial development, not just hotels, and the question of whether a moratorium of any kind would prove a worthwhile endeavor.

“Because we have a bunch of [hotel] applications or a lot of talk about [hotels], are we just reacting to this?” board member Jill Doherty asked. . “And what’s going to be the next thing that comes up? Moratoriums take time, paperwork … It’s going to take time away from the attorney’s office, from [the planning department] to prepare the application for the moratorium. We need to weigh that out … We can’t solve all the problems by throwing moratoriums at them.”

Town attorney Paul DeChance confirmed that his office has already drafted language for a potential hotel moratorium, which he said the Town Board will likely discuss during its next work session on March 26.

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