‘Lemonade, Bicycles, and Flags’ Promised

Curtis Bashaw, a partner in Cape Advisors, explained plans for a renovation of the Baron’s Cove Inn at a Sag Harbor Planning Board meeting on Tuesday. Carrie Ann Salvi

    The renovation plan for 31 West Water Street in Sag Harbor, to turn the existing Baron’s Cove Inn into a “destination resort,” was discussed before the village planning board and concerned neighbors on Tuesday evening. The neighbors had submitted a long list of concerns to the board.
    Curtis Bashaw, a partner in Cape Advisors who is managing the project, bypassed the lectern and microphone, instead standing in front of the audience, to talk about his previous experience, which, he said, includes a “bunch of hotels in Cape May, an old [New Jersey] resort town also with whaling roots that go back to the 1600s, like this place.”
    His properties, said Mr. Bashaw, are characterized by “lemonade, bicycles, and flags . . . family-oriented, classic American resorts.”
    Cape Resorts, an arm of Cape Advisors, operates five hotels, he said, two of them circa the 1870s and one on a residential street. “We are not a hotel hiding as a night club,” he said. “We understand how horrible that would be.”
    “I appreciate what these small towns mean to people who live and work there,” he told the Water Street neighbors. “We’re not carpetbaggers, we stay firmly fixed, and hope that [the development and the community] dovetail nicely.” As “stakeholders” who are tackling the Bulova watchcase factory, he said he has heard villagers voicing their concerns for years.
    Mr. Bashaw explained his plan to renovate the outdated motel to look upscale, to add a 79-seat upstairs restaurant for guests, to restore the existing pool, and to add a lobby with an eight-seat bar, “so an innkeeper can welcome them, give them a key, and offer them a drink.” The lobby will feature a wood-burning fireplace, he said.
    “We’re not requesting a variance,” Mr. Bashaw stressed, explaining that all plans have been designed to conform to the zoning code, including a 499-square-foot side patio and 18 seats on an upper-level porch facing the water. The restaurant is located in a motel/hotel zone and has been confirmed to be an accessory use to the hotel.
    Mr. Bashaw also met personally last week with neighbors, who told him what a nightmare it was when Rocco’s occupied the site. He said the Cape May community was equally alarmed when he opened the historic Virginia Hotel there, and that he self-imposed restrictions to quiet their fears, such as ending beverage service at midnight. Here, on the other hand, “Your village code protects you,” he told the audience. “The restaurant is limited — a party with 500 people is far beyond an accessory use.” He also confirmed that the pool would be restricted to hotel guests.
    Knowing that noise was a prime concern, Mr. Bashaw had proposed a midnight “last call.” The neighbors countered by letter with a request that it be 11 p.m. He said on Tuesday that it would be fair to have last call outside at 10 p.m., and indoors at midnight. He also agreed to go above and beyond the village music ordinance, ending any outdoor acoustic music at 9 p.m. He explained that at his circa 1816 Congress Hall property in Cape May, those who wish to sit outside by the water are reminded of “quiet time” with signs along the veranda.
    To further persuade neighbors, Mr. Bashaw promised not to collect a cover charge or to sell full bottles of alcohol other than wine or champagne, customary for families and couples who frequent a resort destination. He said he was willing have that written into a “voluntary deed restriction that runs with the land.”
    Angela Scott, a resident of Spring Street, spoke on behalf of the immediate neighbors when Mr. Bashaw finished his presentation. “We still have questions,” she said, about the lobby bar’s location on the first floor and the restaurant on the second. Neighbors think a bar in the lobby would attract non-guests, which could create parking and noise issues, she said.
    Mr. Bashaw disagreed with their request to eliminate the lobby bar. It follows code, he said. Eight seats at the bar are part of the 87 seats allowed. “We like the lobby vibe and don’t want to eliminate that,” he said.
    As for the neighbors’ request to eliminate outdoor games, such as “pool polo, which might elevate the noise level combined with alcohol,” Mr. Bashaw did not agree, saying he could not prevent a child from playing with a beach ball. “We’re going to keep it quiet,” he assured.
    To concerns about poolside dining — a hotel guest wanting to sip coffee or eat a sandwich in a lounge chair — he said he would neither encourage nor prevent it. To the request that the number of events be restricted, Mr. Bashaw said that private parties such as family reunions would take place, according to village code, but no promoted parties.
    The neighbors also had sewage concerns, which were addressed by Richard Warren of Inter-Science Associates, who verified that capacity exists for the 87 seats, and by Robby Stein, a village board member in charge of sewage concerns who was in the audience. “The capacity is not even at 50 percent,” said Mr. Stein.
    Ms. Scott also asked that signs advertising the hotel’s restaurant, bar, and shops be restricted, lest it encourage the public to use the facilities.
    She also voiced concern about parking, saying that sufficient parking needed to be assured.
    After both speakers finished, Neil Slevin, chairman of the planning board, said the building department will also need to review the application, and that he would like time with the board to discuss the neighbors’ concerns, the parking issue in particular.  “I think it’s entirely possible that the hotel will be filled,” he said, and as for others, “Where are those people going to park?”
    Greg Ferraris, a board member and former mayor, called the concerns “all valid, we’ve been discussing them for 18 months.” However, he said, “most of the issues will be resolved in the code itself. We can’t force them to do a lot of these things.”
    The public hearing will continue next month, and the planning board will be the lead agency for the application. “We have considered the ramifications of what has been proposed in the site plan,” Mr. Slavin said. “Most of the community seems to have a high level of confidence in the applicant running a professional operation.”