Courting Public Opinion

    A controversy is taking shape over 555, the proposed large housing complex in Amagansett. Both the developers and those opposed to the enactment of new rules that would pave the way for the 79 units to be built are making appeals in the court of public opinion.

    The development, proposed by a Connecticut company called Putnam Bridge, would go up on the 24-acre former Principi farm along Montauk Highway at the hamlet’s eastern edge. It is described as a senior citizen housing complex; the minimum age for residents would be set at 55. Market-rate units would include both houses and apartments, with prices reportedly ranging upward of $1 million, along with eight one-bedroom apartments designated as “affordable” housing, to be sold for $550,000.

    Such a development is not allowed under current zoning regulations. To proceed, Putnam Bridge needs the town to create a new zoning district, for which the developer has submitted draft legislation for a “senior citizen housing overlay district.” The Amagansett property would then have to be rezoned to that district.

    Over objections from the East Hampton Town Board’s two Democrats, the board’s three-member Republican majority voted to hold hearings on both proposals on Dec. 19, the last town board meeting of the year and the last scheduled session for the Republicans, all of whom are outgoing.

    Under the name Stop 555, residents, who gathered several weeks ago to organize opposition to the project, have been collecting signatures on a petition against it. The petition, which describes the Dec. 19 hearing as a “last-minute raid on our zoning code” by the outgoing town board, is being circulated at various places around town and online at change.org.

    A crowded meeting at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett on Saturday drew another large group of the concerned.

    Meanwhile, Putnam Bridge has placed ads in local newspapers asking people to “Know the Facts, Be Progressive, Respond Intelligently.” The ad cites a need in the town for senior citizens housing and asserts that “growth is inevitable” and “smart growth is essential.” The project “will be one of the most environmentally advanced projects in the country,” it says.

    The Dec. 19 hearings at Town Hall, on creating the new zoning category and  on rezoning the Amagansett property, will begin at 7 p.m.