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St. Gabriel’s buyer gains approval to build luxury development

BRIAN HAKLISCH PHOTO Aerial photo of the former St. Gabriel’s property soon to be an upscale housing development on the shores of Coecles Harbor.
Aerial photo of the former St. Gabriel’s property soon to be an upscale housing development on the shores of Coecles Harbor.

By a vote of 4-0 with one member absent, the Planning Board approved the final subdivision of “Pandion Landing,” the luxury residential development slated to rise on the shores of Coecles Harbor where St. Gabriel’s Retreat Center once stood.

Property owner Richard Hogan purchased the 25-acre site from the Passionist Fathers in April 2015 for $15.1 million, The basic plan first proposed in July 2015 remains intact, Mr. Hogan said. “The number of home sites has been reduced to preserve the environmental and visual integrity of the land and the seascape,” he said.

The Planning Board approved an eight-lot subdivision that includes five house lots with one having a legal right to add a guesthouse and two homeowner association parcels — a boathouse near a community dock and a tennis facility and storage barn.

Of the five house lots, one is being retained for a family member, one for a friend and a third is in contract. Two remaining waterfront lots are available, Mr. Hogan said. One lot is for a main house with an adjacent lot in which the owner of the main house could build a guest house. There is a limit for house sizes to 3,000 square feet of livable space per acre of land, Mr. Hogan said.

It’s taken more than two years to gain approval from the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Waterways Management Advisory Council, with adjustments made to meet requirements from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and the Shelter Island Fire District.

There are a number of conditions set down by Planning Board, such as compliance with drainage and septic requirements and maintenance of road access for emergency vehicle access.

The county health department required an upgrade to the existing septic system and installation of a new well. In line with the county’s instructions, each structure will have its own septic system.

“The technology is rapidly evolving so I expect to see some positive changes,” Mr. Hogan said about the systems to be installed on the properties.

The county has encouraged those with cesspools or aged septic systems to upgrade, but has not placed any requirements for property owners to use the latest technology.

Buyers are free to design and build their own homes, but plans must conform to design guidelines implemented under the provisions of the homeowners association, Mr. Hogan said. That will, he added, ensure “harmony of architectural style, proportion and landscaping that preserves the rural character and panoramic water views.”

Among the codicils attached to the Planning Board approval are:
•    There is to be no further subdivision of the site
•    No pool can be built on either of the homeowners association lots
•    Aside from the tennis courts on a homeowners association lot, no other courts are allowed except on land serving house lots four and five
•    Tennis courts are not to be lighted at night and both clubhouses are to be “Dark Sky” compliant
•    Use of homeowners association buildings is to be restricted to homeowners and their guests and not public use except for an occasional charitable fundraiser
•    A shared dock is provided near the boathouse, but only two other docks could be built.

“We plan to build one single association dock with a slip for each owner,” Mr. Hogan said. “While we have retained the right for the two wing waterfront parcels to build a 100-foot dock, I hope these are never built.”

During the demolition process on the St. Gabriel’s property to make way for the development, a controversy arose when Mr. Hogan’s attorney, William Fleming, announced the chapel on the grounds that originally was to be moved to another area, was too frail to be moved and would have to be demolished.

Some of its stained glass windows, however, would be used somewhere in the development, and other windows would go to the Shelter Island Historical Society, the attorney said.

Town Engineer John Cronin inspected the chapel and said the assessment was wrong, determining that it could be moved with little or no damage. A group of residents then raised money and tried to have the chapel moved to a private lot.

When the proposed move failed to meet the builder’s timetable, the chapel was razed.

All 32 windows were catalogued and saved, Mr. Hogan said. A number of them are being restored, he told the Reporter, and he’ll have more to say at a later date about their fate.

Some of the windows have been given to the Shelter Island Historical Society, Our Lady of the Isle Church, the Passionist Fathers, who had owned St. Gabriel’s Youth Retreat, and still others were given to some of those involved in trying to move the chapel to an alternate site.

Kathryn O’Hagan and David Klenawicus, who had spearheaded the effort to save the chapel, were given two of the stained glass windows.

“Ultimately, we plan to restore them,” Ms. O’Hagan said. The couple would like to find a place on the Island to have them installed where everyone can appreciate them, she said.

Many Islanders, on learning about the purchase of the St. Gabriel’s property, hoped it would be preserved.

“This project was beyond the means of the Community Preservation Fund and most private donors,” Mr. Hogan said. “Given that the property was previously developed presented other hurdles as well.”

In the process of clearing the land, contractors have removed eight non-conforming structures and 30 septic tanks that were located within the 100-foot setback of the development. All roads, concrete block structures and foundations were crushed on site and are being recycled into new roads for the planned community, Mr. Hogan said.

“As was highlighted in our environmental assessment review, this project actually has a positive environmental impact,” he said.

Construction on the two homeowners association buildings is to start once the final lot has been sold, Mr. Hogan said. Exact timing on construction of houses will be up to individual buyers.