Good Fences Do Make Good Neighbors

The owners of the Amagansett I.G.A. have put up a fence to protect their parking lot from potential future neighbors.
The owners of the Amagansett I.G.A. have put up a fence to protect their parking lot from potential future neighbors. T.E. McMorrow

    A fence war broke out during the East Hampton Town Planning Board’s May 9 meeting, pitting the owner of the Amagansett I.G.A., also called Cirillo’s Market,  against a long-vacant building and parking lot next door.
    Fran Cirillo, the market’s owner, is expanding it, on both the east and west sides of the building, by about 5,000 square feet, to over 20,000 square feet. She received site-plan approval from the board last August.
    The expansion triggered the need for more parking, from 118 required spaces to 147. The planning department told the board that Ms. Cirillo had enlarged the lot, as well as redirected the traffic pattern, by adding stop signs and sending traffic in a one-way circular direction
    The issue before the board that night was Ms. Cirillo’s request to amend the approved plan to include a fence, dividing her property from a neighboring one containing a storefront that has been vacant for many years. It is her fear that if a 24-hour-a-day convenience store moved in next door, her parking lot would be used during hours that the I.G.A. was closed, increasing expense, raising security issues, and making it harder for her own customers to park when the market is open.
    Maureen Ryan of the planning department told the board that the problem with the request is that the town code, as well as planning policy, requires that contiguous parking lots be designed so that vehicles do not enter and exit the highway repeatedly as shoppers go store to store.
    Ms. Cirillo addressed the board from the podium, saying that she had consulted with the state Department of Transportation on the parking plan; then sat down in the front row. The session morphed at that point into an informal negotiation between her and members of the board.
    Diana Weir said the board’s concern was not the next tenant but the future of the entire area. Reed Jones, the chairman, said that in general, the applicant usually knows what is best for a property. Robert Schaffer suggested that there be an access easement between the two parcels.
     “I understand your wanting to separate the properties,” said Patrick Schutte. And in the process, he said, a chain-link fence now in place needs to be screened.
    J. P. Foster argued that reducing traffic in and out of Montauk Highway was a major consideration.
    In the end, five members of the board voted to allow a modified fence with passageways that will let people walk between the two properties. Mr. Foster voted against and Ian Calder-Piedmonte abstained, saying more research into the traffic flow was needed.
    The board also announced that night that it will hold a public hearing for Montauk Beach House, formerly known as the Ronjo, on June 6 to consider an application for a 947-square-foot basement in a new building on the grounds. Mr. Reed made it clear that the hearing would address the basement and only the basement.
    Finally, the board signed off on the site plan for Wainscott Retail, a “superstore” to be located at the former Plitt Ford auto dealership on Montauk Highway, home this summer of Whole Foods Farmers Market.
    Demolition of the old building will begin this fall.
    Whole Foods is being run on a trial basis this summer to test viability for the food market giant at that location on a year-round basis. If the test does not go well, the likely occupant could well be a drugstore chain. CVS has been mentioned as having an interest in the site.
    “It is a well-thought-out plan,” said Mr. Foster, a sentiment shared by the entire board.