The future of Hren’s Nursery, a landmark on the Montauk Highway between East Hampton and Amagansett, was on the agenda of the East Hampton Town Planning Board last week. The business was closed last year. Now, however, the Hren family has proposed subdividing the property, with one lot for the nursery, four house lots, and an agricultural reserve. The landscaping part of the business would be discontinued.
According to JoAnne Pahwul, an assistant planner with the East Hampton Town Planning Department, the 4.9-acre business site was created in 1993 along with five one-acre residential lots when a 10-acre parcel owned by the late Joseph Hren was subdivided. The land is zoned for residential use, but because the nursery predated town zoning, it continued as a legal use.
At the time, the planning board stipulated that an acre would have to be set aside as open space if the 4.9-acre parcel was ever subdivided further. In keeping with that stipulation, the current plan calls for a 1.25-acre agricultural parcel, to be operated by the nursery. The house lots would be between about 34,000 and 40,000 square feet each.
At the board’s meeting on Jan. 9, the plan raised some questions. Ms. Pahwul asked how the agricultural reserve would be used if the nursery went out of business. Secondly, it was noted that the town code dictates agricultural businesses are to be on two acres or more.
It was Ms. Pahwul’s recommendation that, given the growth of “pocket” and specialty farms, the planning board should consider suggesting to the town board that the code be changed to decrease the size requirement for an agricultural business to one acre. Patrick Schutte, a planning board member, agreed, and the board decided to revisit the idea at last night’s meeting.
“There’s all sorts of agriculture. If we call something an agricultural reserve, it should stay as an agricultural reserve,” said Ian Calder-Piedmonte, a planning board member who owns a small farming business himself.
“The board is in general agreement. Right now, we have a building falling apart,” Reed Jones, the chairman, said. David Weaver, the applicant’s agent, responded, saying that the Hrens were already removing buildings from the site.
While the members of the planning board frequently accept Planning Department recommendations, in another matter on Jan. 9, concerning adjacent lots on Gerard Drive in Springs, the board sharply differed with the recommendation.
Siri Reckler owns two small lots at 253 and 257 Gerard Drive. One is 50 feet wide; the other is 100 feet wide. According to Laurie Wiltshire, who was representaing Ms. Reckler, she is doing estate planning and wants to leave one of the lots to each of her two daughters. She asked that the lot lines be redrawn to make them equal in size.
The Planning Department, based in part on a 2009 hearing on the issue, recommended against doing so, reasoning that one of the lots would wind up even more nonconforming since the zoning code requires residential parcels in the area to be at least 200 feet wide.
“We’re simply trying to move a line,” Ms. Wiltshire said. The board agreed, voting unanimously to approve the changes, subject to approval from the Suffolk County Planning Commission.