Set on a slight rise, with a big lawn in front of it, the house at the corner of Ditch Plain and Deforest Roads, there since the days when Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders were quarantined in Montauk, is hard to miss if you’re headed to the beach.
But the one-acre property could be in for some major changes if the East Hampton Town Planning Board approves a plan to divide it in two.
At a hearing on April 10, neighbors and their representatives weighed in, questioning where a second house could be placed and suggesting that the town buy the property, which its owners, Mark and Joan Sullivan, have had on the market for over a year.
“It’s iconic,” said Rita Bonnicelli of the Brill Legal Group, representing Mary Ann Concillio, who lives just north of the property.
Cal Stewart, a neighbor, pointed out the historical importance of the site, as well as the high-volume recreational use of the area, and suggested that the town purchase the property and turn it into a park. There are photographs showing Roosevelt, then a general, leading his troops on horseback with the house in the background, during their month in Montauk following their return from Cuba and the Spanish-American War.
Opposite the larger Ditch Plain beach parking lot, the property is shaped almost like a triangle. While zoning there would allow for a subdivision, owners of adjacent properties questioned, among other things, how such a split would be apportioned.
“The lot is clearly a triangular lot,” Ms. Bonnicelli said, pointing out that the zoning code encourages the board to create rectangular lots when it approves a subdivision. In this case both the proposed lots would be triangular.
“After a storm Ditch Plain Road is often underwater for days at a time,” said Ms. Bonnicelli. Her family had a house on Deforest Road and she grew up going to Ditch Plain beach. She questioned how much landfill would be needed to construct a house on the proposed new lot, and whether that would cause flooding of neighboring lots.
Walter Galcik Jr., another neighbor whose family has lived on Ditch Plain Road since the early 1970s, had similar questions. “The only buildable spot is right is where the house is now. Everything else is below grade.”
A survey in the planning board’s file shows the existing house sitting on an 18-foot ridge. The property slopes down toward the road from there. Mr. Galcik fears that raising the grade and further developing the land would force even more water onto neighboring lots.
To divide the land so that another house could be built on it would be a detriment to the neighborhood, Ms. Bonicelli said.
Nancy Keeshan, the board’s vice chairwoman, said early last week that the planning board had already sent a letter to the East Hampton Town Board asking it to consider placing the property, which she called “the gateway to Ditch Plains,” on a list of prospective acquisitions for the town.