The Two Percent

We have long believed that limiting the size of new and renovated houses was a must if the South Fork’s beloved sense of place was to be protected. In this, we are, we think, joined by many of our friends and neighbors for whom what might be called Hamptonization is an affront. In traditional opposition to limits, of course, are many in the real estate and building professions, who welcome the dollars that maximizing square footage may represent. 

The East Hampton Town Board is to hear views, pro and con, on revisions to the law that determines just how much house is allowed on a given parcel. The proposed changes would cut house sizes by 2 percent, hardly enough to have a discernable effect. 

The problem with the current law is evident in several places. New, bloated-looking houses out of scale with those nearby have appeared in Beach Hampton and Ditch Plain, for example. The Amagansett lanes, which run toward the beach from Main Street, are a distorted caricature of their modest former selves. The town’s 2-percent takeaway is not likely to amount to the loss of even a mudroom on one of them.

More creative ways must be found to regulate the mass impact of residential construction in many neighborhoods despite what promises to be strong opposition in some quarters. This is especially true in erosion-prone areas, where federal rules require houses to be elevated by as much as 14 feet. Coupled with existing allowances for the number of stories, these houses mar views and the landscape itself.

East Hampton Town officials are on the right track in seeking additional limits. Unfortunately, the 2-percent option to be considered this evening in Town Hall will not, in and of itself, be sufficient.