Wolffer Wants a Hearing

Carrie Ann Salvi

    Calling the Sagaponack Village Board’s ongoing discussions of the Wolffer Trust’s two-year-old subdivision proposal “completely irrational,” an attorney for the trust pressed the board on Monday to schedule a public hearing on the project.
    Michael Walsh, the attorney, told board members that neighbors might want to weigh in on their latest request, for a new plan with houses built further west on the property, closer to Sagg Road. Wolffer wants to build four houses on a 12.3-acre piece of its 134-acre parcel.
    “This has never happened,” said Mayor Donald Louchheim of the request for a public hearing absent a board-approved site plan. However, the village attorney, Anthony B. Tohill, confirmed the applicants’ right to a hearing.
    Mr. Walsh expressed frustration with the board’s past requests, which began, he said, with concerns about views from Montauk Highway. “You asked for 1,900 square feet,” he said. “It was irrational, but we gave it.” Next it was the view from Narrow Lane, said Mr. Walsh, with a setback of 650 square feet, “which makes the residences virtually invisible after landscaping. Now, we’re told the west side is more desirable?”    
    The Wolffers have preserved about 120 acres, Mr. Walsh said on Tuesday, “and have asked for only four lots.” “Christian [Wolffer’s] ex-wife lives here,” he said, pointing to an aerial photo. “Their two daughters want houses on the property.”
    Marc and Joey Wolffer, sons of the late Mr. Wolffer, assumed ownership of the vineyard in January with long-term plans of expanding its offerings and continuing their father’s legacy.
    Mr. Walsh told the board the 32-foot-tall residence that would be 650 feet away from Narrow Lane would have zero impact, according to the environmental consulting company that prepared the survey. The trustees’ preferred plan, he said Tuesday, would block its view of a field.
    “I am not a planner . . . just a village resident,” said Mr. Louchheim, “but it seems a sad precedent in the middle of the largest parcel of land in the village . . . to plop four new building lots.” He said he would prefer open space in the back, adjoining existing stables and three sides of other properties in agricultural uses. “One of those owners may be interested in acquiring that lot for a horse farm,” he said.
    Lee Foster, a board member, said that if the houses were placed on the lower end, the west side, construction would have a less destructive impact. She acknowledged, though, that she was “extremely ambivalent.”
    “I am at odds with myself,” Ms. Foster said. “I would like to see another plan.”
     “I feel strongly that I would prefer to see them along Sagg Road,” said Lisa Duryea, a board member. Another member of the board, Joy Sieger, said that “our plan in Sagaponack is to keep the views.”
    William Barbour was the only board member in favor of keeping the lots to the east, to the rear of the property, which would make it easier for farm equipment to get to the land in front, he said.
    “This is a closely held, family estate farm,” Mr. Walsh said in response to what he considered a time-wasting discussion of farming. “Row crops are not likely to happen here,” he told The Star Tuesday. It was very important to the Wolffers that the houses not be constructed on the Sagg Road side, he added, saying that four houses there would “destroy the scenic vista on this country lane.”
    A public hearing on the plan will be set for next month upon receipt of a corrected map.
    Also on Monday’s agenda was an application for a site plan review for proposed plantings in a 50-foot drainage easement with 50 feet of property behind it on Erica’s Lane. Mayor Louchheim voiced concern: “If we allow them to do this on the easement, we are incurring liability with neighboring property owners,” he said.
    With safety concerns about police and fire access, and flooding an issue, the board was inclined to deny the application. However, since the owner was not present, it will be discussed at a future meeting.