Hurry Up, It’s Time

The delicate balance between the demands of summer and the interests of residents

Five work weeks remain before Memorial Day, which hardly seems enough time for East Hampton Town officials to do what would be needed to maintain the delicate balance between the demands of summer and the interests of residents. There is a lot to do, and, while it is evident that all of summer’s ills cannot be solved in a single year, there is reason to worry that Town Hall remains satisfied with what is to many observers an unacceptable status quo.

May marks the beginning of the town’s new rental registry, which requires that landlords provide certain details about their properties and obtain a registration number, which must be posted in advertising. The town board’s intention in passing the measure was to provide better tools for the enforcement of existing laws about such things as occupancy and turnover. Judging from the virulent reaction to the registry from landlords, it appeared that there had been a hope that the old rules would not be enforced at all. 

Just what the impact will be on illegal shares, party houses, and de facto hotels remains to be seen, but the registry is a good start. The opposition should understand that the East Hampton Town law remains more lenient than in some other jurisdictions, where short-term rentals are banned altogether, for example.

With regard to restoring a sense of calm, next and more difficult on the town’s agenda should be taking on the out-of-control nightlife and bar scene. Though a recently revised town code on commercial gatherings gives officials a way to control outdoor events, for example, they have yet to take advantage it. 

Hotels, even those tucked in residential areas, have been allowed, unofficially, to grow and add amenities unrelated to the needs of overnight guests. Such illegal expansions began in earnest while Bill Wilkinson, a Republican, was supervisor and have only continued during the current Democratic town board majority. 

As new, deep-pocketed money pours into town, particularly in Montauk, it’s past time for a get-tough approach. Other than the rental registry, town officials seem afraid to take on the sources of so many of summer’s problems. We wonder how long it will be before the powers that be really begin putting residents first, instead of kowtowing to  businesses that leave little in return other than litter, noise, and chaos.