Shrinking Swath of Farmland

    The fate of the last parcel of undivided farmland in the Wainscott corridor, once part of two farms owned by the Hedges and the Osborne families, came before the East Hampton Town Planning Board on March 20.
    The land, almost 40 acres at 55 Wainscott Hollow Road once owned by Ronald Lauder, is owned now by a limited liability company with the address as its name.
    The applicants came before the board previously seeking site plan approval for a 14,566-square-foot single-family house with a 983-square-foot attached garage, a tennis court, a large swimming pool with a small pool house, and a 1,124-square-foot covered porch. It was one of the few applications the board has denied in recent years.
    The owners, represented by Mary Jane Asato of Bourke, Flanagan and Asato, took the town to court, and won a court order requiring the board to reverse its decision, which it did in February of last year.
    But instead of building the house on the site as had been granted, the owners are now coming before the board with a plan to subdivide the land into seven buildable parcels, while at the same time, setting aside 70 percent of the land as an agricultural reserve. It was where the houses were to be built that caused a kerfuffle at the meeting.
    Ms. Asato presented the board with a plan that would have located five of the houses along a hedgerow, running straight across the vista, from Wainscott Hollow Road to Sayre’s Path.
    In addition, an access road would have to be built.
    Ms. Asato told the board that the subdivision plan, as designed, would have the least impact on its neighbors.
    The Planning Department, in a memo to the board, disagreed, encouraging the owners to explore different plans and offering a couple of options.
    David Eagan, who owns a house neighboring the property, agreed with the Planning Department. He pointed out that, under guidelines adopted by the East Hampton Town Board in 2006 for the development of Wainscott, any open farm space should be contiguous with adjoining farm space.
    He also reminded the board that the stated priorities listed in the guidelines included creating “open space, including agricultural lands” and “lands of exceptional scenic value.” He argued that the 40 acres in question were both.
    “Whatever the board decides here, there are going to be some upset people,” said the board’s chairman, Reed Jones, adding that a neighbor on Sayre’s Path had also objected to the houses being placed near his.
    The session was a preliminary one, and the board encouraged the owners to consider and return with possible alternatives to their current plan.
     “This was all potato farms,” Mr. Eagan said on Tuesday as he walked out into his back yard, and pointed at the open land, which cuts a corridor from just south of Montauk Highway, all the way to the ocean, with a few houses along Wainscott Main Street being the only obstruction.
    Houses should be built next to houses, with the open corridor being maintained, he said.