Lawyers clashed at an April 6 meeting of the East Hampton Town Planning Board over where Ronald Lauder, a billionaire heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics fortune, should put a driveway to the house he is building on 38 acres in Wainscott.
The differing interests of two sets of neighbors were represented by attorneys who found themselves on opposite sides of the fence: David E. Eagan, for the McCaffreys and Babinskis, prominent families in the hamlet, and Christopher Kelley, for a group of residents who own property near Mr. Lauder’s along Town Line Road.
Although neither lawyer opposed Mr. Lauder’s plan to build a new house on the land his family has owned for more than 50 years, they disagreed on just which access to it was best.
Mr. Lauder and his own attorney, William Fleming, had presented two options to the planning board. One of these was a driveway that would wander down the side of Wainscott Pond and onto Mr. Lauder’s property; that alternative was referred to as the “eastern access” at the hearing. The other option was a driveway that would run along the west side of the property, parallel to Town Line Road, and then cut east in the middle of the lot; that was called the “western access.”
Although Mr. Fleming has offered two options, he told the board last week that the Lauder family prefers the eastern access.
A majority of the neighbors prefer the eastern access, as well, according to Mr. Kelley, who rattled off a list of names.
Larry Penny, the director of East Hampton Town’s Natural Resources Department, has called the environmental soundness of the eastern access into question in the past, but Mr. Kelley argued that the driveway would be placed far enough away from the pond to protect the wetlands and wildlife there.
In a letter to the planning board several months ago, Mr. Penny said he had reservations about the driveway’s proximity to the pond. It is 10,000 years old, he said, with fertile soils on both east and west sides, and should be shielded from traffic. He said the driveway would affect animals living there.
Mr. Kelley said that of greater concern to many neighbors was the farmland on the west of the pond that would be bisected by a road running through it, should the board choose the western access.
However, Mr. Eagan, speaking for the McCaffrey and Babinski families, countered that contiguous farmland would be bisected with the eastern option, too.
“Planning is never limited to the four corners of the lot,” said Mr. Eagan, pointing to farmland to the east of Wainscott Pond on an aerial photograph. “You cannot ignore this lot.”
Mr. Eagan called the Lauder property, which includes protected agricultural land that is actively farmed, the “last chapter of the town’s farmland preservation program.”
The western option, he argued, would allow currently farmed land to be kept available for future farming. In addition, he said, the western access would provide for better views for the public across the farmland, and not just for the neighbors along Town Line Road who abut the Lauder property.
Andy Babinski, who lives on Beach Lane near his own farm, said that it is the board’s “responsibility to consider the entire viewshed of Wainscott Pond,” which he contended includes the eastern lot.
Saying he believed the eastern access was more appropriate, Yves Istel, who lives on Town Line Road, said he could not imagine how the views would be better with the western access. Mr. Kelley assured the board that his clients would not support Mr. Lauder’s application if the western access is used.
The planning board will hold a meeting in the upcoming weeks to discuss the points raised at the public hearing.