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Jan 27, 2011 2:22 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Rechlers Seeking Amendments To Gabreski Airport Project

Jan 27, 2011 2:22 PM

The developers looking to build an industrial park at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton revealed this week that they now want to construct a three-story hotel on the site—one taller than they originally proposed—even though such a tall building is not allowed under Southampton Town code.

Gregg Rechler, one of the developers behind the proposed Hampton Business and Technology Park project that will be built on nearly 50 acres at the Suffolk County-owned airport, met with town, county, airport and community representatives during last Friday’s Southampton Town Board work session to discuss that and other changes to their plan.

Mr. Rechler, a partner with Rechler Equity Partners in Melville, presented a list of proposed amendments that seek relief from a section of the town code that places restrictions within the “airport planned development district.” That is a special zoning designation town officials created in 2007 to pave the way for the project that is designed to stimulate economic development in the area.

Town code stipulates that the height of buildings within the airport PDD cannot exceed 35 feet, and must be capped at two stories. The developers can go as high as 50 feet on one of the buildings if they follow through on plans to construct a movie studio on the site. That stipulation, however, does not apply to the hotel.

But Mr. Rechler is now proposing a three-story, 43-foot-tall hotel that would boast 145 rooms and be part of a larger industrial complex featuring eight other buildings, all along the eastern side of Old Riverhead Road, according to a copy of a map now on file at Town Hall.

The square footage of all nine buildings would total around 430,000 square feet, including a 73,686-square-foot hotel. The Rechlers originally planned to build a 485,000-square-foot industrial complex but were forced to reduce the scope of the project after learning that they had about 50 acres to work with, and not the 58.6 acres that they originally thought.

On Friday, Mr. Rechler also presented a list of other requested changes, including relief from some sign requirements and parking-related modifications.

A three-story building is necessary to attract a flagship hotel to the area, Mr. Rechler said. He explained that his planners realized the other modifications were needed as they solidified plans for the industrial park, which his company hopes to secure site plan approval for before the end of the year. He added that there were a lot of “unknowns” when the airport PDD was created, such as the exact acreage of the property and what types of uses would be allowed.

Mr. Rechler and his cousin and business partner, Mitchell Rechler, signed a 40-year lease with Suffolk County in May 2009 to develop the property. The partners, who are going to pay the county about $38 million in rent over the next four decades, originally wanted to break ground on the complex this year, though that will most likely not happen. They are expected to invest approximately $90 million in developing the site.

“My message is, now we have a single developer developing a single site, with a single site plan in front of you,” Mr. Rechler told Town Board members on Friday.

Town Board members, who must sign off on the proposed changes, did not offer an opinion on the modifications during Friday’s meeting. Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said she needs to examine renderings of the modified plans before giving an opinion. She also said a public hearing on the changes would be held before board members approve or reject them.

Community reaction to the proposed changes was mixed. Some Westhampton Beach Village officials, and Westhampton resident Sharon Frost, who lives near the airport, said they did not want a three-story hotel built on the property. But Hank Beck, co-chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee-West, whose members include those living in the village and Westhampton, said the technology park and hotel would benefit the community. He added that the project would improve a site that is “geographically depressed,” referring to how the property is several feet below grade.

Though he still needed to review the amendments being sought by the Rechlers, Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller said on Monday night that no buildings in the village are taller than two stories. He emphasized that Old Riverhead Road is one of the main entry points to Westhampton Beach Village. Still, he said the final call on the proposed changes falls to the Town Board.

Mr. Beck, meanwhile, said that most of the sought modifications are minor, and the Rechlers are sticking to the main points of the original plan. He said that Westhampton is in need of a hotel, noting that the area has lost between 65 and 80 hotel and motel rooms over the past year or two. He estimated that those losses mean that 10,000 fewer tourists can stay in the area each year. “During the summer, it’s no trick to get people here,” he said.

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Editor, is there any chance of posting a PDF of the site plan here, including the location of the proposed three-story hotel? If the hotel is in the middle of the 50 acre site, and sufficiently distant from the Riverhead road, it should not be that objectionable IMO. How close to the "eastern side" of the road would the hotel be?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 27, 11 4:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
There are documents that can be viewed on the town's website:
By Bill Sutton, Managing Editor (117), Westhampton Beach on Jan 27, 11 4:32 PM
The hotel will be located on the Northwest side next Old Riverhead Road.
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Jan 28, 11 1:39 PM
A movie studio? Oooooh! That sounds nice. Wait! It's not a movie studio, it's a hotel. And we want to make it eight feet taller than permitted. After all, you said that we could make the movie studio fifteen feet taller. We're still thinking about the movie studio - - - if we get to build the hotel.

What the hell, the ST Councilmembers are probably all wearing Rolexes that they bought on Lexington Avenue.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 27, 11 4:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Another great one from highhat! Nobody does it better.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jan 27, 11 10:17 PM
to Turkey Bridge:

Thank you. One tries.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 27, 11 10:28 PM
A movie studio has a real need for 50' of interior spaces which can acommadate different set requirements. A hotel does not have a need for 45' of interior space. Additionally, the height of a movie studio wouldn't affect parking requirements because the added space wouldn't be to accomodate people. Added height on a hotel means more rooms which means more parking, more sanitary flow, more water use etc. There is a distinct difference between the two.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 28, 11 9:52 AM
Not only will it be 8' taller than allowed but they are also raising the grade 10' to the new road.
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Jan 28, 11 1:37 PM
Nature, wouldn't you agree that they are going to seek to get the same # of rooms wether the building is 2 or 3 stories tall and if so the parking and waste water flow would be the same.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Jan 29, 11 2:58 AM
No, they want a taller structure so they can add a 3rd floor with more rooms. If they have the same square footage for a 2 story structure it will need to be spread out on the site which cuts into available land that has to be set aside for buffers, land banked parking, landscape areas and building setbacks.

If you look at the letter they submitted to the Board making several requests one of them is asking for FAR (floor-area ratio) to be for the entire site, instead of the individual ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 29, 11 10:32 AM
Thank you Editor Sutton for the link to the PDF's on the SH Town website. Let's see if we understand this correctly.

Under the link for "Site Development Plan" dated 11/30/10, the PDF shows many sites, but only one (#9) has a swimming pool, and the footprint of the building is consistent with the "Massing Analysis" PDF (see below).

Is this some kind of joke?

Is it possible that the developers put the highest roof ridge (43') on the entire 50 acre site as close to the Riverhead ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 27, 11 5:29 PM
My guess is that to attract a hotel chain, you need to place the hotel close to a main road where it will be visible and easily accessible. To place it further away makes the site less attractive. Also, given that it is an airport ( I have not looked at plan), maybe having building on the periphery might make more sense. Is the building lower or higher than currently existing hangars?
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jan 28, 11 11:22 AM
Attention Hampton Bays Residents! This is the kind of thing you can expect if the Rechler's are allowed their CPI PDD. They will try to hold the Town hostage so they can get whatever they want and threaten to leave the project unfinished if they don't get their way.

The Rechler's are Developers first and good neighbors last. They pulled out of the EPCAL deal because they couldn't build housing that they decided was neccessary because there was "no affordable housing" available. Apparently ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 28, 11 9:41 AM
Thanks for pointing this out. I'm not aware of their track record. I am concerned that they are involved in two major projects in the Town. Would rather see them complete one and then look at the other. Are there any other developers involved? I would have presumed that more developers and contractors would have been involved. Looks to me like the town got themselves into quite a pickle with these people and their litigious penchant.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jan 28, 11 11:51 AM
“My message is, now we have a single developer developing a single site, with a single site plan in front of you,” Mr. Rechler told Town Board members on Friday.

So no, there is only 1.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 28, 11 12:27 PM
Thanks. So its their way or the highway. Seems to me that the town should have retained control of the project knowing what it wanted and then outsourced the parts. Now it seems limited to what the developer wants there.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jan 28, 11 12:55 PM
Apparently the Rechler boys make commitments and then decide they don’t want to follow the rules.
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Jan 28, 11 1:43 PM
Building 9 is the hotel, which is closest to the intersection for obvious reasons. That's an ugly-ass hotel, too. And good luck to anyone who tries to walk or bike to work in this development; the sidewalks all end at the entrances to the parcels, so you have to walk across the parking lot to get to the buildings.

Oh - and how about that Jitney stop? Nope - they didn't include that either.
By nutbeem (27), Westhampton on Jan 28, 11 12:41 PM
The "plan" is so superficial that it couldn't have taken more than an hou ror two to draft using CAD software. It's dumb and gross. Obviously, this is Rechler et al.'s 1st dip of the toe into the permit process.

Forget it for now. This will sit on the shelf for a decade or so until there is actually some demand for the structures. Then everything will change as competition to develop the site emerges. At that point, the Rechlers, or their successors, will claim special status as the ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 28, 11 1:36 PM
I don't think forgetting this for now is the answer. They seem pretty aggressive to me.
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Jan 28, 11 1:52 PM
HH - your theory is wrong.

Developers in depressed economic climates strike while the iron is hot - that is to say they beat the respective approving boards over the heads with claims of "shovel ready projects" and saying it will "create jobs" so the Town's let their arms be twisted and approve things that shouldn't be approved (like extra height for hotels). Once the approvals are in place, THEN they sit on it for 10 years until the economy can support it. This allows them to get the ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 28, 11 2:40 PM
Nature, but the "basic requirements" are NOT met here, because the proposed hotel does NOT meet the SH Town height limits of 35' !!!

Plus, as detailed above, the developers have had the audacity to slam this WAY TOO TALL (and not that well designed IMO) building as close to the Riverhead road as possible, it appears.

MOREOVER, as suggested by one post above, the grade around the proposed hotel has been raised 10' in the proposal. Add 43' on top of the new revised grade and how ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 28, 11 4:22 PM
PS -- the Massing Analysis PDF does a subtle snow job by drawing in the red horizontal 35' line, WITHOUT DRAWING IN THE SMALLER BUILDING SIZE IF THE ROOF RIDGE WAS SET AT 35' !!!

SH Town, please require the developers to draw in the smaller HOTEL to scale in these perspective drawings. The change in volume and scale would be startling IMO.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 28, 11 4:29 PM
35 is arbitrary, 43 is arbitrary, 53 is arbitrary. Why so much concern about an arbitrary height in an unused commercial/industrial area with no residential development within sight?
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jan 28, 11 7:19 PM
Probably the concern is that it will set a precedent for taller structures town wide.

By ICE (1214), Southampton on Jan 29, 11 2:49 AM
As part of a PDD application it is not precedent setting. PDD's are their own animals. If I wanted to build a movie studio I couldn't just say "the Town Board wants to approve a 50' one in Westhampton so that's what I get". Building Code caps commercial structures at 35' and 2 stories.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 29, 11 10:28 AM
The basic requirements are met to a great extent with the exception of the building height which they are seeking a variance from. It's a conceptual plan to give the Town Board a Concept of what it will look like. This is SOP for a PDD (or any other site plan).

Grading plans can be requested at any time by the Town Board and would be part of the application once it gets preliminary approval. Just because the Town Board gives it the OK does not mean that everything is set in stone. ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 29, 11 10:35 AM
Thanks to Nature and PBS. Your reasoning is persuasive.

Nature, your explanation clarifies why the proposed buildings are so clunky and identical in shape.

Since there seems to be no need for additional commercial space at the present time, one hopes that the ST Council will see no need to hurry. Let the site lie fallow until there is more than just one developer interested.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 28, 11 4:44 PM
2 members liked this comment
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 28, 11 6:33 PM
to PBR:

By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 28, 11 8:33 PM
The Rechler boys have already signed the deal with the County. They will be the one and only developer at Gabreski.
Please all of you write the Town Board now before you forget how ugly a 3-story hotel will look on Old Riverhead Road. The Board will not to take these comments under consideration they need them in black and white in front to their noses.
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Jan 28, 11 5:21 PM
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I guess I should also write so the board can be reminded how few jobs there are in the town, how much tax revenue can be produced and how an abandoned military complex from 60 years ago can be polished into something the area needs.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jan 28, 11 7:23 PM
Nobady is saying we don't need the complex. But a 3-story hotel is overkill.
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Jan 29, 11 9:30 AM
I think a 3-story hotel will look much nicer than the vacant properties at the corner of Montauk Highway and Old Riverhead Road/ Oak Street which is the FIRST thing people see when they come into the area!

Nothing says "Welcome to our Beautiful Seaside Village" like abandoned buildings.
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Jan 29, 11 10:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
By Dolphinsgate1 (1), East Quogue on Jan 28, 11 8:45 PM
Anyone know if the new Mercedes dealership on CR39 is under 35'?
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Jan 29, 11 2:51 AM
Yes it is under
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 30, 11 1:01 PM
Look in Riverhead at the Holiday Inn on Route 58 across from Panera's. That's what we're getting.
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Jan 29, 11 9:31 AM
The horror; oh, the horror.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jan 29, 11 10:41 PM
OK, I read the article outlining the agreement. The Rechlers have leased the site for a number of years. But surely the agreement is void if the lessees cannot or will not present a plan of which the ST Council approves.

Stating that the Rechlers have signed and agreement and that they are the ONLY developers for the site is disheartening. It needn't be so.

Am I correct?
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jan 29, 11 11:11 AM
It's so and in stone...
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Jan 29, 11 3:23 PM
Hopefully the new hotel will have slot machines and a bingo room.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jan 31, 11 1:39 PM
Developer wants this, developer wants that... SOS. WHy cant they build as of right? They bought or leased the property and know full well going in what can be done. If you grant them their wish, they are the only ones to profit by it and we get the legecy...
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Jan 31, 11 1:41 PM
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Well, in fairness to the developer (if that's possible) they leased the property with the understanding that a PDD would be allowed - which it has been. A PDD has no real rules (aside from offering public benefits) so they are just seeing what they can squeeze out.

The biggest thing against them is that they are at an aiport, which makes it kind of important to keep structures at a minimum height.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 31, 11 2:06 PM
Nature, a lease with an understanding that a PDD would be approved in general concept does NOT eclipse the SH Town limitations on a 35' height for the hotel, does it?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 31, 11 7:39 PM
No, but there is an understanding that all code restrictions are up for discussion. The Town was willing to go to 50' on a movie studio - it's not out of the question for the developer to ask for 43' on a hotel. My point is you can't really blame the developer for asking for it because a PDD opens all doors. You can blame the developer for a crappy, uncreative design and for being greedy and manipulative.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 1, 11 9:31 AM
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Agreed Nature, they can ask for, and IMO the Town should say NO to, the height change. Your other adjectives ("crappy . . . uncreative . . . greedy . . . manipulative") are well taken IMO.

One remains shocked by the brazen and myopic bold move to shove this "Hotel as Billboard" right against the side-yard setback at the Riverhead road.

It is as if the developers are saying, "I dare you."
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 1, 11 5:35 PM
So should we be happy they aren't asking for a 4, 5, or 6 story hotel. They have an up-island mentality. Screw the rules, yank out all the trees, pave everything over, and build tall hotels. The Rechler boys don’t live here. All they care about is squeezing every dime out of the property at our expense.
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Jan 31, 11 2:55 PM
Six stories would be fine if that makes it an economically productive site with employment opportunities for local people. Thriving businesses are good for communities.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jan 31, 11 3:19 PM
So, VOS, how about 50 stories high, if there is more profit and money in it?

Why does GREED have to rule?

Why do you think the multi-TRILLION dollar financial crisis happened over the last few years, and why is the federal deficit skyrocketing?

Greed, greed, greed -- and you seem to be voting for more of it.

Please take the blinders off.

Are there no human values which surpass greed?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 31, 11 7:37 PM
50 might be a little tall for the area, 43 feet however won't even make it the tallest structure within 300 yards.

As for greed, if that's what you call the standard that makes a parent wish to earn a living to raise a family here, I will be voting for as much of it as I can.

But I know - you've got yours, so screw everyone else.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jan 31, 11 11:02 PM
"Are there no human values which surpass greed?"...New and Improved Greed...
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Feb 1, 11 10:19 AM
The only people making $$$ off a taller structure are the Rechlers. Adding another story will have a marginal effect on the construction company which will be in and out in a year and almost no effect on the number of employees the hotel will have.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 1, 11 3:23 PM
Nice personal attack VOS, for which you have NO factual basis!

I request an apology.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 1, 11 4:02 PM
By VOS (1241), WHB on Feb 1, 11 11:50 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Feb 2, 11 1:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
Usually I'm on board with you bigfresh (I think) but you're wrong on the precedent setting. This is a PDD - any part of the code can be changed - it's all up for grabs. It does not and will not set a precedent within the Town. There are so many other factors in approving a 3-story hotel beyond the height (sewage, parking, FAR, etc.) that it's a non-issue when looking at the impact on future developments.

If you dispute this idea, please point out 1 example of something that was approved ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 2, 11 2:26 PM
Can't site an example relating to a PDD Nature. Seems like it would set a precedent though, especially since our current Board looks for excuses to give developers whatever they want.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Feb 2, 11 9:29 PM
Bigfresh - you don't understand what legally constitutes a precedent in the planning and land use world. A precedent can not be set based on what happens in a PDD - the way the code is written, each case is looked at individually. PDD's are based on developers cobbling together multiple types of zoning to create a planned development which has its negative impacts offset by public benefits. When you apply for a PDD, you have no legal grounds to tell the board they approved XYZ on this PDD, so ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 6, 11 11:11 AM
Well, considering that the movie studio was the big idea that the Rechlers floated in their original request for a pdd to the Council, couldn't they at least retain that focus as the core of their latest proposal. Rather than a hotel OR a a movie studio, how about a casino w/ tooty bar and pole dancing, a use that will combine the best of both concepts. Since Gabreski is government property, the legislature could perform the legerdemain necessary for the surplus airport property to be declared ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 6, 11 9:53 PM
to me the whole thing seems scattershot.

- I understand wanting to develop the land. I recall the airport paying some whopping $10K a year in property tax.
- If you are going to develop something the site is there and there is business nearby.
- A hotel makes a bit of sense if you buy into Hank Beck's argument that over the past 6 years many potential hotel/B&B rooms have been lost in the area
- tourist equate to dollars in local businesses.


- a technology ...more
By Hambone (514), New York on Feb 8, 11 9:14 AM