House Lots to Replace East Deck

Now called Montauk Colony, iconic motel property will be divided in four
T.E. McMorrow

The moribund East Deck Motel, which is on a more than four-acre oceanfront site at Ditch Plain in Montauk, will be demolished over the next few weeks, along with its septic system and outdoor pool, as plans for four oceanfront house lots there move forward. Plans for the site were the subject of two public hearings at East Hampton Town Hall this week.

The owner of the land is a limited liability company headed by J. Darius Bikoff, one of the founding partners of Vitamin Water.

The ownership group purchased the property in 2013. Its original plan, for a private club, met with stiff opposition from neighbors and was eventually scuttled. The site was then put on the market for a reported $25 million, well over the reported purchase price — and more than East Hampton Town officials, who negotiated for a public purchase, decided the town could come up with using community preservation funds.

In February, the East Hampton Town Board changed the zoning of the property from resort to half-acre residential. The owners of the property, now named Montauk Colony, have submitted plans four oceanfront lots, each with a separate driveway off Deforest Road. The zoning board hearing Tuesday was on a request for variances to allow three of the lots to be less than 110-feet wide, as required in the zoning code. One of the partners, Scott Bradley, attended the hearing. The second hearing was to take place before the planning board last night on the subdivision itself.

In addition to lot-width variances, the zoning board considered a request for a special permit to allow a wooden walkway to be built over the dunes. However, it became clear during the lengthy hearing  that the walkway would be a sticking point.

With the planning board hearing coming up the next night, Leonard Ackerman, the attorney representing the owners, asked the board to grant the lot-width variances immediately, saying, “We very much would like an expedited process.” He then withdrew the walkway from Tuesday night consideration.

“Let’s not hold up this application,” Mr. Ackerman asked. The zoning board agreed, voting 5-to-0 to approve the lot-width variances.

When Mr. Ackerman withdrew the proposed walkway, which itself was an amended proposal (the original request was for two raised walkways over the dunes), he made it clear, however, that the owners would return to the board in the future with a similar request.

The problem with the walkway, Eric Schantz, a town planner, told the board, is that wave action at that location is very strong. He displayed photographs showing the tide coming right up to the dunes. Even though the walkway would be removable, there would have to be posts in the ground to secure it, he said, which could become debris in a strong storm. “There have not been any recently approved permits for entirely new walkways over the face of bluff in Montauk,” he said.

It was noted at the hearing that the owners had agreed to public access to the beach adjacent to the site in perpetuity.

Laura Michaels of the Ditch Plains Association, who also attended the hearing, said the association was “very concerned with dune stabilization.” She asked that when the zoning board’s attorney, Elizabeth Baldwin, writes the determination regarding the lot-width variances language be included requiring the owners to stabilize the dunes “with sand,” as opposed to any hard structure. The dunes there were rebuilt with clean sand in 2014 and revegetated, Mr. Schantz said.

“The trade-off,” Jeremy Samuelson of Concerned Citizens of Montauk told the board at the hearing, “is we’re going to put these houses closer to the road.” He said that was important because previous estimates of sea level rise are now seen as too conservative. Levels predicted in the year 2100 are now expected to occur in 2050, he said.

One board member, David Lys, pointed out that the owners could have configured the property with a cul-de-sac and created more than four buildable lots. Mr. Schantz had also noted that there were five 60-foot-wide lots directly across Deforest Road.