The East Hampton Town Planning Board has recommended that the town board deny applications to rezone residential properties in Wainscott and Amagansett.
Thomas Burke, who owns the Jeremiah Baker House on Main Street in Amagansett, asked to have the property restored to its limited business overlay designation, which was removed following the adoption of the town’s comprehensive plan in 2005.
The house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was once owned by Jeremiah Baker, an innkeeper and mail deliverer in the 19th century. The former limited business zoning would have allowed for a small business to operate on the property. Mr. Burke said he wanted to open a sculpture and furniture repair business there.
“It would be spot zoning,” Elaine Jones, an Amagansett resident and business owner, said at the April 6 meeting. Spot zoning, or changing the zoning of one piece of property when it does not fall within a town-mandated zone change, is illegal.
Jon Tarbet, an attorney representing Paul Masi, who lives behind the Baker House, said that Mr. Burke’s plan does not take into consideration the goals of the comprehensive plan, which he said removed the limited business overlay so that nonresidential uses would not stretch farther down the south side of the highway in the hamlet.
Saying Mr. Burke’s proposal would be a detriment to surrounding residential neighbors, Mr. Tarbet said the town code requires all zoning to be in compliance with the comprehensive plan.
“How can the town board ignore the comprehensive plan?” he asked.
Kathryn Santiago, the planning board’s attorney, said that following some research, she determined that the town is charged with “considering the town as a whole” and may not be required to follow recommendations of the 2005 document.
“It’s scary that we would even consider changing it at this point,” said Peter Van Scoyoc, a board member, noting that the plan, which he said took many years and much community input to create, has only been in effect for six years.
“It could inspire a domino effect,” said Robert Schaeffer, “it’s smacking of spot zoning.” The remaining three board members, Reed Jones, the chairman, Nancy Keeshan, and Patrick Schutte, agreed, and promised they would send their recommendation to town board.
Likewise, the board found little favor for a plan to change the zoning of the Wainscott Post Office, which is also zoned for residential use. The owner of the property, a company called Wainscott Pooh, has asked that the lot be rezoned to central business.
Stuyvesant Wainwright, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the comprehensive plan recommended that the post office be moved to the north side of the road from where it sits on the south side on Montauk Highway in the hamlet.
Although the federal government has eight years remaining on its lease with Wainscott Pooh, Mr. Wainwright said there was no guarantee that the Wainscott Post Office would continue to operate there when the lease expires. It has been reported that home delivery is planned for the hamlet in the next two years.
“Wainscott is in desperate need of some attention,” said Laurie Wiltshire, a land planner working for the property owner. She said the land is not suited for residential use, and called the intersection of Montauk Highway and Wainscott Stone Road the noisiest intersection in town.
“Every single ambulance that leaves town goes past this intersection,” she said.
Many from the Wainscott community came out in opposition to the plan, saying that any business that could cause more traffic on Montauk Highway would not work.
“We don’t need more traffic there,” said Ms. Keeshan. Mr. Van Scoyoc agreed, calling the intersection a bottleneck into East Hampton.
“I want to maintain Wainscott as it is,” said Jose Arandia, who lives on Sandown Court. Jordy Mark, another hamlet resident, echoed Mr. Arandia. “We kind of like the grittiness of Wainscott,” she said. Although Ms. Mark waxed poetic about the hub that is the Wainscott Post Office, Mr. Wainwright said that wherever the office ends up is “up to the U.S. government.”
Again, all five board members at the meeting voted to recommend denial of the application. The town board will make a final determination at a later date.