Ripple Effect of Montauk Wastewater Plan

One line from a recent story about a new restaurant being proposed at a Montauk hotel really jumped out at us. Speaking at an East Hampton Town Planning Board meeting on Dec. 13, Kathleen Cunningham observed that a 16-seat restaurant at the Hero Beach Club should not even have received any consideration until there was a better way to deal with the extra wastewater it would produce. Related, though not directly, is a town board proposal for a nearly $33 million Montauk sewage treatment system, into which the Hero Beach Club, among many other enterprises, could be tied.

And there you have it. Even though downtown Montauk is an overbuilt, unmitigated summertime disaster from a planning perspective, the town board has been willing to look favorably at year’s end at a sewage proposal that would remove a major stumbling block for developers who in their own self-interest would make things far worse. At the same time that town officials are trying to figure out how to tamp down the high-season party in Montauk, this proposal is precisely what some observers have feared as ideas for new wastewater infrastructure are put forth.

Assurances to the contrary, a septic waste plan prepared for the town states that new restrictions would have to be written into the code in order to avoid increases in build-out density. Boards, such as those that review planning and zoning projects like the Hero Beach Club’s, are hampered by precedent and limited in the ways in which they can guide growth. Variances are sought, and granted, even though the cumulative effect of many small changes can be detrimental to the community’s overall interest.

In a prior editorial, we addressed our belief that the Montauk sewage treatment plan was an example of misplaced priorities — and that its funding was foolishly tied to the continued existence of erosion-threatened properties. Now, in pointing out how it could immediately lead to additional commercial growth where none is warranted, we hope the incoming town board sees it as yet another reason to slow the process.