Amagansett Unknowns

    The question for Amagansett voters in Tuesday’s balloting is whether to authorize the fire district to buy the two-acre Pacific East property adjacent to the firehouse for the future construction of a separate ambulance facility. The commissioners have said there is no way the expansion they envision could be accommodated on the land the district owns now — 4.7 acres.
    That the commissioners are thinking ahead is laudable. The number of ambulance calls continues to escalate and the Fire Department’s drivers and emergency medical technicians deserve the highest praise. But we are opposed to the deal for several reasons.
    Foremost among them is that no government agency — and the fire district is just that — should be given the green light on a proposal of this scale without first laying out the particulars in detail. If the district gets the okay to buy the property, it will then ask voters for the money to put up a building. Once having agreed to buy the land, it would become difficult for residents to put the brakes on a construction project.
    There also is the possibility that taxpayers would be paying too much if the $2.8 million deal goes through. Pacific East last operated as a restaurant open to the public in the summer of 2007. Under the town code, this would mean its rights as a pre-existing, nonconforming business in a residential zone had lapsed. East Hampton Town’s top building inspector thinks otherwise, however, although he has yet to provide documentation to support his belief. It is unlikely that the property, wedged between the firehouse on one side and the Amagansett Farmers Market on the other, would fetch nearly as much money if it were sold on the residential, rather than commercial, market.
    On Tuesday, in hastily called balloting, Amagansett Fire District voters will decide whether or not to absorb a tax hike to buy what may be overpriced land, while at the same time signaling an inclination to approve the unknown costs of a new building. Voting no would allow time for the commissioners to address the open questions and to give the public stronger assurances of their implied “trust us.”
 

Comments

I agree another expeditious vote without all the facts. I also applaud planning but have a hard time understanding the need to spend $2.8M on land plus construction costs to house another ambulance when we have 4.7 acres already. Can the existing land be structured and used more efficiently? In addition, I would like to know how many times an additional vehicle is needed between September and June? I would rather see the farm land preserved, ( hello Peconice Land Trust)and expand the Amber wave project and maintain the open land in Amagansett. How do we get the vote delayed to lay out the facts and alternatives in a comprehensive manner?
This argument ignores one elementary factor: Time is the enemy of real estate transactions. Should the district fail to perform in accordance with the contract by delaying the vote, the seller might very well lose confidence in their ability to close and seek a buyer elsewhere. And since the nonconforming use appears set to expire next month, it's likely they already have a contingency plan in place. The district commissioners seem to believe that the seller has a particular motivation to sell to them, but it's tough to imagine this would be the case if the contract expires. It appears that the choice before Amagansett voters is: "Now or Never".
I agree with your Editorial. There is no immediate need to purchase this building. It can wait. The interior is a shambles and it has certainly not "legally" operated as a restaurant in three years. My understanding from a broker involved with the listing, when I inquired about leasing the property, was that would require an extensive amount of work to get the required permits from the County to cook in there. The other thing I was told by same broker, was that the owners would never agree with each other to a sale. In some interviews, the Fire Commissioner, I believe, spoke about building apartments or some kind of living quarters above the new barn, to house paid responders. Perhaps these paid responders might just be current volunteers who need a place to live. I could see that happening. With the Amagansett Taxpayers footing the Amagansett Gravy Train some more. So perhaps at this time it is best to put this "Ambulance Barn" dream aside, till there is a full airing of the intentions.
How many fires a year in Amagansett? How many ambulance calls? How much have those numbers risen over, say, the past ten years? Where's the evidence that an expansion is needed? Given that this area is about as developed as it could ever be, why should we expect more fires or more ambulance calls?