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.”