Although the so-called 555 luxury housing project aimed at over-50 buyers in Amagansett is said to be dead, town board hearings on the creation of a new zoning classification for senior citizens, and on applying that zone to the roughly 25-acre 555 site, may well continue in the new year. The developers have not gone away and could be expected to consider alternate plans.
In its initial version, Putnam Bridge, a Connecticut firm, hoped to build 89 units that could have produced as much as $100 million or more in sales. On Dec. 4, however, the Suffolk Planning Commission shot down the two zoning proposals, which had been crafted by the developers, by a stunning 11-to-2 margin. A town board vote to override the commission would require four of the five-member panel. As such, approval of the original plan appears extremely unlikely. This leaves what could happen on the property an open question.
The 555 site, which for the most part has agricultural designation, comprises three parcels. Putnam Bridge bought it from the Principi family in 2012 for just over $10 million. The central portion is the largest, with 11.8 acres, and is most significant. Since cleared of scrubby vegetation some years ago, this part of the property has become a de facto Amagansett village green, hosting a number of events, most notably the annual Wounded Warrior Rock the Farm benefit and Soldier Ride. Because of this history, the project deserves a different kind of scrutiny by town officials.
Ideally, the town might propose and the developers agree to a three-part solution. A truly affordable set of residences for those with low and moderate incomes could be approved for a portion of the easternmost lot, along Bunker Hill Road. This would comply with the comprehensive plan and allow greater residential density than its underlying zoning would otherwise permit. The western parcel, which has not been used for much to date, might be set aside for a limited number of market-rate apartments or a town house complex.
Given the central section’s agricultural designation and its proximity to the Long Island Rail Road tracks, its value for high-end residences is limited anyway.
It appears that the Principi family believed there were limited uses to which the central lot could be put and accepted only $1.7 million for it in 2012. That kind of sum might put its acquisition within the realm of affordability for the community preservation fund and allow it to continue to be used for benefits or perhaps recreational events.
Putnam Bridge could develop the eastern and western parcels as allowed under current zoning and still make a profit. It would not be in the tens of millions as envisioned, but they should have understood that a luxury, 89-unit proposal was near to impossible going into it.
A plan for the property along the lines of what we have proposed here could well be a win for all involved — including the community.