Locals say it every summer: They have never, ever seen it so crowded. Only this year, the summer of 2013, we think they really mean it.
From the beaches to the main streets and back roads, people are everywhere. A friend in Montauk asked us last weekend whether there was anyone left in East Hampton since it seemed everybody was there. Someone in Amagansett quipped at a citizens advisory meeting that her hamlet was turning into Montauk, what with the share-house crowds, noise, litter, and all. Someone else of our acquaintance said her strategy, like that of so many people who live here, was to just stay home, a workable idea, perhaps, but it really should not — does not — have to be this way.
About a decade ago, East Hampton Town began the painstaking process of updating its comprehensive plan, an overall vision document on which to base land-use and regulatory decisions. The time may have come for an overarching update to the update, so to speak, specifically looking at the town’s carrying capacity in terms of infrastructure, drinking water, quality-of-life concerns, and public safety.
Such an undertaking, though necessary, would find only minority support among those now on the town board. When it comes down to it in most matters, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, and Councilman Dominick Stanzione come down on the side of monetary considerations. Each has expressed (either outright or in the voting record) a sense that if something is making money it is good for the town. That may be a contentious assertion, but it has held the day time and again on Pantigo Road.
In recent years, Town Hall has sided with those promising to bring in the greenbacks over the concerns of residents. Just consider the collapse of residential overcrowding rules and the board’s recent backing of last-minute and intrusive commercial gatherings, for example, and, more generally, the unregulated and presumably illegal expansion of various once-small restaurants and bars into horde-magnets.
Suffice it to say, the majority of residents and taxpayers chose to live here not because it was a good place to make a fast buck, but because they loved all that made East Hampton a beautiful place. It is up to our elected officials to recognize this and begin to shift the balance back. Asking the fundamental questions — what do we want this community to be and how do we get there — will be critical.