555 Plan Withdrawn

Hearing on a new zone will go ahead tonight

  This article has been updated from the version that originally appeared online and in print.

    Opponents to the proposed 555 development plan in Amagansett received an early Christmas present on Dec. 11 when East Hampton Town Planning Board’s chairman, Reed Jones, announced that the application had been withdrawn by the owners of the former Principi farmland on Montauk Highway.

       Mr. Jones began the meeting with that announcement. The call, he said, had come an hour before the scheduled meeting, which began at 6:30 p.m. In fact, an application to the East Hampton Town Board to rezone the property had not been withdrawn, although representatives for the developer, Putnam Bridge, had requested that Dec. 19 hearings on the creation of a new senior housing zone and on rezoning the 555 property be adjourned until after the new year. 

       On Dec. 4, the Suffolk County Planning Commission voted to recommend against the creation of a new senior citizens housing zone for the project. Without the commission’s approval, the town board would need a majority-plus-one vote to create the new zone, and only three of the five board members were in support of it.

       The agenda for the planning board’s penultimate meeting was a busy one and the session went well over two and a half hours, but even after receiving the news they had been hoping for, opponents of the 555 plan did not leave until the proposed zoning change needed to make it possible was discussed.

       The board had been asked by the town board to weigh in on whether a new senior citizens housing zone should be created, which would have allowed up to 100 units on the 23.5-acre property, currently mostly vacant. The land is now divided into three parcels, which would be merged into one. The 555 proposal was to build 79 condominium units on a single merged property.

       The zoning change is still on the town board agenda for next Thursday. The seven-member board was basically unanimous in saying that the town needs to explore a senior citizens zone, but that this proposed zoning change was not the way to go. Diana Weir pointed out that the proposed new zone would reduce the required setbacks from Montauk Highway.

       “What jumped out at me were the other properties that could be merged,” Patrick Schutte said, concerned that the change would serve as a precedent for other large parcels of land in the town.

       “If this is a real need, how big does it need to be?” Ian Calder-Piedmonte asked. Mr. Calder-Piedmonte has been skeptical of the proposed zoning change. “If the town board is asking me about my opinion on this, I am opposed,” he said.

       Bob Schaeffer ran off a list of concerns that the zoning change raised for him: “The density issue. What does it do to our taxes? Setbacks. There has been no study of what our seniors need.” J.P. Foster, a member of the planning board,  echoed the need for a study.

       Mr. Schaeffer also pointed out what he sees as a flaw in the town code. Because the 555 proposal was brought forth as a condominium plan, as opposed to a normal subdivision, it was not held to the same land-use standard. In a normal subdivision, he pointed out, 70 percent of the land would have had to be preserved as open space.

       Mr. Schaeffer pointed out that politically, the measure now has almost no chance of passing.

       Nancy Keeshan said she believed the topic of affordable housing for all East Hampton residents needs to be explored. “We won’t have any seniors if we don’t have any young people,” she said.

       In the end, the board voted 7-0 to recommend against adoption of the zoning change.