Springs Leads in Reporting Code Violations

    The first quarterly report issued by the East Hampton Town Ordinance Enforcement Department shows that housing violations make up a majority of cases the department has been dealing with since the start of the year. Of the 265 code-enforcement cases dealt with or under review as of April 1, 75 involved overcrowding or other violations of housing code.
    Furthermore, 51 of the documented housing violations were found in Springs; the remaining 24 were dispersed through­out East Hampton Town.
    Springs also leads the pack in environmental violations, with 31 of 73 reported cases involving litter, protected land, and illegal signs. Other zoning violations, including non-compliance with planning board or zoning board determinations, are also significant in Springs, which had 27 of the 46 reported cases; Amagansett and East Hampton, had seven zoning violations each, the second highest rate.
    Many of the cases that landed in the hands of the Ordinance Enforcement Department this quarter originated from a complaint lodged by a member of the general public, according to the report. It lists 52 of the 75 housing cases as having started with a resident’s complaint.
    Sixteen cases stemmed from ordinance enforcement officer patrol.
    The Springs Citizens Advisory Committee and residents met several times over the past few months at Ashawagh Hall, on Springs-Fireplace Road, to discuss what many have perceived as a housing crisis in Springs.
    Town Councilwoman Theresa Quig­ley’s proposed overhaul of the housing code touched off a firestorm in the hamlet this winter when she said she was considering a change in rules that would allow bedrooms in basements and in accessory structures, including garages, for the first time.
    At one of the Springs Citizens Advisory Committee meetings, at the end of February, Patrick J. Gunn, the town’s assistant attorney and administrator of public safety, said that a crackdown on illegal housing and overcrowding was his top priority.
    At that time Mr. Gunn said he was expecting a number of property owners to choose voluntary compliance with the town code rather than face sentencing in East Hampton Town Justice Court. However, the quarterly report indicates that in Springs, only 14 property owners chose to comply. Forty-six cases are currently in the Justice Court system, with five more about to enter. Twenty-two are still under investigation.
    Of a total 136 complaints in Springs (including those in categories other than housing), the Ordinance Enforcement Department determined 35 were unfounded.
    Across the town, safety matters, such as house numbering and pool fencing, which used to make up the bulk of cases, now only account for about 10 percent of the total. Officers, who can usually spot such violations from the street, brought a majority of these cases to the attention of the department.
     The records show that of the town-wide total of 265 cases, the 116 resulted from public complaint and 122 resulted from patrols. (The remaining 27 were termed “referrals from other agencies,” such as law enforcement.)
    Mr. Gunn did not return a call requesting comment on the report. But Councilwoman Julia Prince, the town board’s liaison to the Ordinance Enforcement Department, said yesterday that she is very pleased. “They’re doing a great job,” she said.