A proposal unveiled last week for an 89-unit housing complex in Amagansett for the well-off 55-and-older set is — there’s no other word for it — audacious. And, once you get past the shock factor, it has to rank among the just plain most-unwelcome and ill-conceived notions to come down the pike in a long time.
Though a formal proposal is a good way off, a representative of the Connecticut firm that bought the 24-acre parcel last year crossed Long Island Sound to make a pitch for it at the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee and the hamlet’s school board. The maybe $100 million project would require that the town create a new zoning classification — senior citizens housing — because the limit under its current three-acre, single-family zoning would be something on the order of just seven houses.
Beyond the carrot of maybe $2 million in new taxes, it is hard to see who would benefit from a new residential village other than the developers and a few real estate agents. At $850,000 to $1.8 million per unit, there are likely to be few who consider themselves local able to afford the buy-in cost. Promises of adjacent affordable housing or payments to some sort of unspecified do-good fund are far too speculative to be taken seriously.
The East Hampton Town Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted in 2005, should be a significant impediment to the out-of-town developer’s plans. In its section on the Montauk Highway corridor in Amagansett, the plan says that the town should “restrict the amount of commercial and residential development which could impair the functionality of the town’s main roadway and change the intimate, small scale character of the area to a congested retail strip mall.” Further, and regardless of the village-like layout the developers have brought forward, the comprehensive plan advises the town to “reduce the residential build-out in order to protect the natural and cultural features of Amagansett.”
The three-acre zoning on the parcel was the result of a specific recommendation in the comprehensive plan, which said that rezoning the area would “help limit the number of new curb cuts, turning movements, and development potential along the town’s main roadway.” There is no way that a development that would add perhaps as many as two vehicles per unit to the mix is consistent with the town’s master planning document.
And it gets worse for the Connecticut firm in the comprehensive plan: “In addition, this land is ranked as prime farmland, rated by the United States Department of Agriculture as the best land for raising crops in New York State, and is part of Suffolk County’s agricultural industry, ranked first in New York State. The farming landscape and industry help to maintain Amagansett’s rural quality, scenic vistas, and unique sense of place.”
Regarding the affordable-housing-suitable designation that once was applied to this property, the comprehensive plan says its three-acre zoning will help reduce the “fragmentation, alteration, and elimination of this valuable farmland resource and industry while helping to protect scenic views.” And, by the way, it also says that the natural characteristics of the property make it “unsuitable for development of affordable housing,” or, one can presume, a crowded cluster of cottages and town house apartments for deep-pocketed aging baby boomers.
Considering what common sense and the comprehensive plan dictate, the developer’s proposal would appear to be well over the horizon of what is in the best interests of the community or the tens of thousands of visitors who pass by on their way to and from Montauk every summer and well into the fall. It is an idea totally out of character and scale, and we think it’s safe to say that it sharply contradicts what most residents would want. The zone change on which this scheme is predicated should be dead on arrival.