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Driftwood Eyes Revamp

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 23:17
With existing buildings in need of repair and a swimming pool that is “on its last legs,” according to a representative, the owners of the Driftwood Resort want to construct a new, more environmentally-friendly resort.

A proposal to demolish most of the existing structures at the Driftwood Resort, a nearly 70-year-old oceanfront hotel on the Napeague stretch, and redevelop the property in a more environmentally friendly manner was discussed at a meeting of the East Hampton Town Planning Board on May 1.

The hotel consists of 57 cooperative apartments, as well as a gym, and a lounge that are contained within two buildings that form an L-shape: a one-story structure faces the ocean, and a two-story building on the eastern side of the property borders a pool. There are also three cottages, two tennis courts, a basketball court, picnic areas, a playground, a boardwalk to the beach, a housekeeping building, a shed, a parking lot, and a private residence on site. 

Robert Young, an architect, said the resort’s hotel-room buildings, which were built in the 1950s and 1960s, are in need of constant repair, the swimming pool is “on its last legs,” and the property’s sanitary system is not up to code. “The leaching structures do not meet the minimum required by the Suffolk County Health Department,” he said. 

The installation of a new septic system would require extensive construction, including digging up the parking lot, Mr. Young said, so the hotel’s board of directors had been weighing whether to improve the entire property, and wanted advice from the planning board before developing a site plan.

The proposal calls for razing every structure except the tennis courts and the private residence, and constructing two new hotel-room buildings in the same L-shape configuration. The number of units would remain the same, but the size of each would increase from about 383 to 600 square feet. A new lobby, and a pavilion for the gym and lounge, would also be constructed.

Currently, the buildings are not compliant with Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations pertaining to flood-hazard areas and hurricane-resistance, Mr. Young said, but the new structures would meet those standards, and they would be energy efficient. 

The parking area, which is currently asphalt, would be reconfigured and constructed with more water-permeable materials that would reduce stormwater runoff. 

As an alternative to Mr. Young’s plan, Laurie Wiltshire of Land Planning Ser­vices, who is advising the resort’s owners, presented a smaller-scale redevelopment, which included renovating existing structures, adding a second floor to the oceanfront building, and upgrading the septic system, but did not alter the overall site plan or address as many environmental concerns. 

Planning board members were unanimously in favor of the grander vision. “I like the idea of the more comprehensive renovation,” said Louis Cortese, a board member. 

Ed Krug, his colleague, said, “A more radical plan could be good for everybody — the owners, the town, the environment. I’m not certain that half measures are going to do much.” 

The board then discussed an application from the owner of the Journey East Hampton hotel on Pantigo Road, who is seeking permission to install a bar in the lobby.

The owner, Bridgeton Holdings, a Manhattan real estate development company, opened the hotel last June, and five months later sought permission for the bar as part of a site plan modification. The board said at the time that, instead, a special permit would be necessary. 

The town code allows a bar as an accessory to a resort on the following conditions: if the use is compatible with the neighborhood, if there is adequate parking, if the site is not within 500 feet of a residential district, and if the hotel has a minimum of 25 guestrooms.

Journey East Hampton meets the latter standard, but, the board said, given its close proximity to residences and the 21 spaces it has for parking, it did not meet the others.

The town board recently enacted new parking requirements for resorts and motels. To be allowed to operate a bar as an accessory use, the code now says a resort must meet current parking requirements for its principal use, plus 50 percent of the parking otherwise required for a bar. The planning board has the authority to reduce the amount of parking if existing conditions prohibit it, or if the owner offers mitigation.

Eric Bregman, a lawyer for the applicant, said the parking requirement should be waived because the hotel is seeking to create a bar for guests and not for the general public. “You’re not creating a Surf Lodge situation,” he said. The bar would simply be a small “old-fashioned service bar” at which guests would receive a welcome drink. There would be no seating, and the hotel staff would serve as bartenders. 

According to a planning department memo, the liquor license allows drinks to be served to guests in the hotel’s yard and in a recreational facility that includes a pool and a deck. 

Mr. Bregman said there would be no wait service to those areas.

In order to alleviate the board’s concern about the hotel becoming a gathering spot, he said the owner would be willing to sign a covenant on the property that would limit the number of people who could congregate in the lobby at 40, and would confine transactions at the bar to room charges only.  

The question of whether the rear yard, which abuts residences, could be used as an area where guests could take drinks remained a sticking point. If you don’t allow that, said Mr. Bregman, “You’re basically saying, ‘Okay, no amenity bar.’ ”

“It’s undeniable that it’s a constrained site,” replied Samuel Kramer, the chairperson. “It’s undeniable that you’re never going to meet the 500-foot setback requirement.” He recommended that the applicant offer more mitigation and covenant agreements in future discussions with the board. 

In another hotel-related matter, the board approved a minor site plan application from Gurney’s Star Island Resort and Marina to build a 241-square-foot addition to the property, which was formerly the Montauk Yacht Club. The construction will create a new entrance to the main building as well as a janitor’s closet, and a handicapped-accessible stall will be added to the bathroom of the existing restaurant.

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Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of units at the resort. There are 57, not 73 as reported earlier.