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Dec 22, 2015 3:53 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Proposed Sewer District Would Impact Southampton Inn Owner In Many Ways

Dede Gotthelf, owner of the Southampton Inn.
Dec 22, 2015 5:58 PM

The Southampton Inn would no doubt face the heftiest financial impact of all properties connected to the proposed Southampton Village sewer district, paying more than $140,000 in property taxes and sewer treatment services per year.

Now, there is a possibility that the Village Planning Commission, which drew up the boundary lines for the service area, could move the boundary by one property to the east—to exclude the Southampton Inn.

As proposed, the boundary currently runs between the Village Latch Inn, which is west of and outside the boundary, and the Inn, which is east of the line and within the proposed service area.

If connected to a new sewer system—village officials have not yet determined if hooking up will be mandatory—the Inn would pay $38,689 in property taxes toward repayment of the cost of the $33 million system, plus an additional $104,600 in annual “sewer rent” to cover the cost of operating and maintaining the system, according to estimates in the proposed map and plan for the district prepared by H2M Architects and Engineers.

But if the village can secure $10 million in grants to help cover the cost of installing the system, those annual figures will decrease by more than $10,000 each—yet still be the most expensive expenditures for any kind of business included in the service area.

Southampton Inn owner Dede Gotthelf, who bought the 90-room facility in 1998, said she has mixed feelings about the sewer district, especially because of her various positions within the community. “It’s an interesting conundrum,” she explained, “because I’m wearing four different hats for this.”

On the one hand, wearing hats as the owner of the Inn and as a long-standing member of the community, Ms. Gotthelf said she finds it hard to support the proposal as it stands now. She said there should be more public input and more review of the project’s environmental impact, especially with the promise of more development. If village officials can’t solve current problems with traffic and parking, she said, those problems will only intensify if the sewer district is up and running in 2020, allowing for increased density of commercial development in the village business district.

“We’re reaching a point in the summer where the lifestyle is becoming almost uninhabitable,” she said. “If they can’t address parking and traffic and noise and air quality … then we’re going to lose this wonderful little gem—one of the most beautiful villages in the nation.”

She also said she does not believe it is necessary to require the Southampton Inn to hook up to the new system. Although she declined to provide specific details, Ms. Gotthelf said she recently commissioned a sanitary engineer to study the inn’s septic system, on which she had spent $40,000 in the spring to upgrade. That study determined, she said, that the inn does not contribute to the degradation of Lake Agawam in any way. Cleaning up the lake is one of the key goals of installing sewers.

Ms. Gotthelf admitted that she would like to see the hotel removed from the service area, or see the village allow property owners to connect on an opt-in basis, in which case, she said, she would not. She expressed her concern to Planning Commission Chairman Paul Travis, she said, and he asked her to write a letter to the entire commission, asking if the boundary line could be moved, which the commission could review at its next public meeting on Thursday, January 7.

“I think we were pretty clear that the lines of the district were something we had developed with the consultants, and that we were going to the public for the review process to see if they make sense,” Mr. Travis said when asked to confirm that on Tuesday.

“I’m hopeful,” Ms. Gotthelf said. “I think that that’s wonderful, that they’re taking in the input of concerned parties.

“It’s a huge expenditure,” she added, declining to say if her business would be able to afford the annual payments. “And the numbers, at first blush, were extraordinary.”

The other two hats Ms. Gotthelf wears—one as the owner of the 71 Hill Street complex next to the inn, and the other as an environmentally concerned citizen—provide entirely different perspectives on the project.

With a proposal on the table to construct up to 18 high-end hotel suites in the complex, which currently houses the Plaza Cafe, WPPB 88.3-FM, and several offices, Ms. Gotthelf said she is all for connecting 71 Hill Street to a new sewer system. It is unclear how much the Hill Street property would have to pay toward the sewer district in either scenario.

“I think if it’s properly done, this is a wonderful thing to support,” Ms. Gotthelf said. “I would love to opt in and support a sewer district for 71 Hill.”

She noted, though, that there are businesses within the proposed service area, such as real estate offices, that would probably not benefit from the sewer system as much as a restaurant or a building with second-floor apartments. She plans to write letters to village officials to express those concerns, she said.

“We have to be very sensitive of people in the village who don’t think they’re going to be benefited from the sewer district. The advantage is to a select few property owners,” Ms. Gotthelf said. “If the owners on Windmill Lane and Nugent Street feel the same way that I do about 71 Hill Street, then, with open arms and open pocketbooks, I have no issue. But let’s not strap the other businesses.”

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So if the sewer isn't hooking up town hall, the elementry school, and the Southampton Inn why is the mayor pushing so hard? Folks this is a scam, and the expenses will never end.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 23, 15 10:57 AM
3 members liked this comment
I'm starting to agree with you. First, the Latch is not included in the boundary, knowing full well density will increase on that spot, and now the Inn, which of course, has its own grand redevelopment plans including more residential, for the building that now houses Plaza restaurant and radio station. Doesn't sound right to me if some of the largest facilities can just opt out of a massive civic project.
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Dec 23, 15 11:26 AM
Don't think many small businesses will opt in on the plan. Doesn't benefit many small owners, only the resturants, delis and few others would opt in. Think the village should sent out a survey to owners for comments...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Dec 23, 15 11:33 AM
How much will the supermarket have to pay? How will that cost be transferred to customers? With a competing supermarket in the area won't consumers have better options? Tuckahoe Center must also be looked at under that light.
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Dec 23, 15 12:16 PM
1 member liked this comment
Fix the sidewalks and the roads. Agwam lake is a storm water and wild fowl issue. It would also increase density and we cannot handle now.
By Obserever (40), Southnampton on Dec 23, 15 4:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
No one could opt out of the taxes. And it appears that the mayor is going to push this through without letting the tax payers vote on it. Can't agree more with chief1 that without the school, Inn and Latch, the whole project seems to be for developers to increase density. And agree with Obserever that storm water runoff is what plagues Lake Agawam. This whole project is poorly thought out and very poorly handled in terms of letting the tax payers have a say in it.
By localcitizen (110), Southampton on Dec 24, 15 12:52 PM
1 member liked this comment