Bayville doesn’t have a CVS, a Staples or a McDonalds. And now it won’t be getting a seaside inn either. Bayville village trustees voted unanimously on Tuesday to amend its zoning code to remove the term “seaside inn.” The board effectively eradicated the work of the former administration, which had supported building an inn on Bayview Avenue property that once hosted Steve’s Pier, a successful restaurant that one resident said put Bayville on the map.
With the building long gone, there had been several meetings over the past few years at which promises were made to build a hotel that included a spa, restaurant and a pool in the rear of the waterfront property. The most recent plans indicated that it would be four stories high and have 23 rooms.
But nothing but a foundation was ever built, and the plot of land has remained an eyesore, one that has divided residents as they have argued about what should be built there. Some people have worried that a seaside inn would change the fabric of the small beach village, bringing traffic and noise.
Nearly 80 people attended the meeting at Bayville Intermediate School. Mayor Bob De Natale and Trustee Bob Nigro, an attorney, addressed the comments of residents, some of whom demanded answers.
“I think the change in codes before you let us know what will be built on this property is not fair to the people of this village,” said Rory Cohen.
De Natale said that the board has been in conversation with a developer, but he could not say what plans were being discussed. Once the plans were finalized, the village would hold a public hearing, he said.
“This entire board sought these seats ringing lots of doorbells,” De Natale said, responding to another resident’s insistence that many Bayvillites want a seaside inn. “The overwhelming message we got was to repeal that zoning change and that’s why we are here tonight to discuss it.”
Additionally, he said, he and the five board members had been victorious in the June election because of their promise to ensure that such an inn would not be built in Bayville. Nigro had won in the 2016 election cycle with the same promise.
Al Avazis, who ran unsuccessfully for trustee in the last race, disagreed, saying that the mayor’s and trustees’ victories were not an indication of what residents wanted when it came to the inn. They did not win by a large margin, he said. De Natale won the mayoralty by 49 votes, Avazis said, adding that he lost his bid for trustee by just 15 votes, and another challenger, Jen Jones, lost by 10 votes. “To say the village has mandated you to change this law isn’t accurate,” Av-azis said.
Attorney Arthur Kremer, who is representing Leonard Gross, the owner of the waterfront property since 2009, told the board that repealing the code could result in a $10 million lawsuit. “This is a very direct effort to go after one property,” Kremer said. “I’ve never seen a resolution like this before. This legislation will be thrown out of court.”
Nigro then asked Kremer if he knew the history of the meetings with developers and Gross. In 2014 there was a promise to build a spa, Nigro said, but only the foundation was built. “He had permission to build the spa,” Nigro said of Gross. “Why didn’t he build it?”
Frank Bates, who started the now disbanded civic group Save Bayville to stop the building of a seaside inn, supported the code change. He also reminded the board that more than half of the property is residential. “Steve’s Pier isn’t even a full acre,” he said. “If we put houses on that property, we can get taxes right away.”
Former Mayor Paul Rupp, who chose not to run for re-election in June, said his administration supported the inn to generate more business for struggling local businesses. He claimed to have “fixed the village finances,” and warned the board that the village was not in a position to buy the property.
“Don’t take this property off the tax rolls,” Rupp warned, “or our taxes will go up. By killing this you are making a huge mistake.”
Collette Foley confirmed that the issue has divided the community. “It’s like Groundhog Day here in Bayville,” she said. “You weren’t here to listen to anyone here. How will this decision impact us?”