Trimmed-down Saunders development proposed
Sale price lowered, residential units reduced from 8 to 6; hearing on Aug. 19
For 10 weeks — from May 13 till July 24 — barely a peep was heard from any of the principals regarding the sale of the Saunders Restaurant property on Rye Harbor.
A lot was going on behind the scenes.
The results are now apparent. The restaurant owners have agreed to a lower sale price, and the prospective buyer, Rye Harbor Realty, LLC, has reduced the number of single-family dwellings from eight to six in its development proposal (To see the engineering company's site plan, click here.).
The trimmed-back proposal will be heard by the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) on Wednesday, August 19, at the Rye Junior High School at 7 p.m.
Click on drawing for larger version of Altus Engineering site plan.
Technically Rye Harbor Realty (RHR) has filed a new application in its attempt to obtain variances for the development of the roughly three total acres on either side of Harbor Road. The restaurant is located on about one acre on the north side; the rest is now used for overflow parking. The new application refers to the development as "The Moorings at Rye Harbor".
Its previous application was approved 3-2 by the ZBA on April 18, but a petition challenge resulted in a 3-2 ZBA vote on May 13 calling for a rehearing. (See Rye Reflections
stories in the May issue
and June issue
Attorney Peter Loughlin, who represents RHR, explained that "the Saunders property has been on the market for some time, and the Zechel family feels that Rye Harbor Realty is the most responsible developer to come along and that this may be their last opportunity to realize a reasonable return on their four-decade commitment to the property.
"As a result they have renegotiated the sale of the property. The family will receive less money and RHR, LLC's ability to make a profit will be reduced, but both parties felt that this new approach would be more acceptable to the Town."
Attorney Mae Bradshaw, who lives on Harbor Road and organized the petition of 50 signers that resulted in the rehearing vote, remains opposed and says she is just one of many.
"A group of concerned citizens who have been made aware of the developments surrounding this case are alarmed by an apparent disregard of the commitments set forth in the Rye Master Plan," Bradshaw wrote in an email to Rye Reflections
"The goal for coastline preservation does not include a desire to create additional densely populated areas, such as Wallis Sands. The purpose of the Master Plan was to speak out against such density in the future."
Bradshaw and others have created a website at www.SaveRyeHarbor.com
RHR speculated that the assessed value of the residential units will be between $1.5 and $1.7 million in a condominium form of ownership.
The RHR application
was co-signed by Attorneys Loughlin and R. Timothy Phoenix, representing the Zechel Family, through the Saunders Trust. It covered variance matters and zeroed in on specific legal cases, but it also seemed to be anticipating that density and Master Plan questions would be raised.
Toward the beginning of the application RHR stated that it "agrees with a majority of the board in its April 8th decision on a former proposal that the density proposed in its January submission is appropriate for the neighborhood. It is mindful, however, that there are concerns about density. With considerable deliberation, RHR worked with the Zechel family to develop a proposal to reduce the density of the Saunders property even further … "
Toward the end of the application RHR ticked off about 25 "benefits" to demonstrate that the proposal is "consistent with the Rye Master Plan and is eminently reasonable."
Dorothy Saunders bought the land in 1926, enabling her husband, Ben, a lobsterman, to sell his catch there. Eventually it became a fish market and lunch counter. Their daughter Dorothy turned it into a seasonal restaurant in the 1960s, had to close it for two years, then sold it to William W. Zechel in 1972. Douglas and Nancy Zechel expanded the restaurant and turned it into a year-round restaurant with 175 seats inside and a deck alongside the harbor. Douglas has now operated the restaurant for 38 years.
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