The former Peconic Health and Racquet Club on the waterfront in Flanders has been sitting vacant, boarded up and collecting weeds, since former owner Ron Zaleski closed the business nine years ago. But the building’s current owner says he plans to reopen the landmark Flanders Road building as a health club, although a slightly smaller one than before. That plan comes after other proposals for the site failed.
“We have plans to have it reopened as a health spa in a different configuration,” said David DeRosa, owner of Island Properties and Associates, which purchased the three-acre property in 2007.
The building, once known as “Seven Zs,” has fallen into disrepair.
“We’re taking down a big portion of the building and reorganizing it a little bit differently,” Mr. DeRosa said.
Southampton Town principal planner Clare Vail said that while no formal application is yet on file with the town, the developers have met with town planners to discuss reopening the site as a health club.
Mr. DeRosa said he originally planned to raze the existing building and replace it with condominiums.
“We couldn’t get the county health department to make any kind of decision on that, so we just gave it up,” he said.
Mr. DeRosa had initially hoped to get about 16 condo units on the three-acre site, but withdrew that application because he was told that, due to the property’s proximity to the bay, the health department would allow no more than eight units with just standard septic systems. He said eight units would not have been economically feasible.
After that, he said, county officials approached him about buying the property for preservation.
“We had put together a plan where we would have taken down the building and left it as a sort of scenic rest stop,” Mr. DeRosa said.
County officials later indicated to him that they were no longer interested in purchasing the site, he said.
Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said this week he was never aware of any county attempt to purchase the site.
On the septic issue, Mr. Schneiderman said, “For every use, there’s a calculated flow and you need a certain acreage to have that flow. It’s tough to get beyond that.”
Southampton Town Councilman Brad Bender, who lives in Northampton and was a member of the original health club when he was younger, said he’d rather see the property developed than left as open space, since the Flanders area needs to build its tax base.
“In Flanders, for the town to take something off the tax roll of that size, the people [would] go through the roof,” he said. “They’d rather see it developed. It would be nice if we had a business there that drew people in instead of it being boarded up.”
Island Properties plans to change the configuration of the property to remove part of the building and add more parking, Mr. DeRosa said.
When asked if he planned to restore the indoor swimming pool, he said, “We’re not 100 percent sure yet,” noting also that aluminum framing that had protected the pool has since been stolen.
“I think the town wants us to keep the pool,” Mr. DeRosa said. “They don’t have anything like that in the area and they’d prefer we kept it. Right now, in the plans we have, the pool stays.”
He also wasn’t sure if he would be permitted to build a canoe or kayak launch site or an area from which people could take JetSkis out on the bay.
Mr. DeRosa believes the Flanders area could be quickly revitalized with the proper planning and attention.
“Flanders could be turned around quite easily if the right people in the local government really took a solid look,” he said. “When you have so many properties on the water, it doesn’t take much effort to develop them. It just takes some insight where everyone sits down and puts a plan together.”
Mr. Zaleski, the previous owner, said Southampton Town once offered him $300,000 for the property, which at the time was assessed at $6 million.
Mr. Zaleski wanted so badly to get rid of the property that he held an essay contest in 1999 in which people paid a $100 entry fee and wrote essays on why they wanted to own a health club. The winner would get the health club.
He was hoping to get 12,000 entries, which would make him about $1.2 million and enable him to get out of the business.
He didn’t receive anywhere near that total, however, and had to refund the entry fees.
According to town tax records, the 2013 tax bill on the property owners was to be $95,353, but it was reduced to $18,617 after being contested.
“This was a property that’s been a concern to us because of its high visibility,” Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside, and Northampton Community Association, said last week after being told of the plans. “That’s why we’d be happy to see the property improved and a new business open up there.”