Family's Lawsuit Demands Road From Windmill Lane

A lawsuit against East Hampton Town by the Bistrian family, owners of more than 30 acres of farmland north of Amagansett’s Main Street, seeks to force construction of an access road through the land so that it can be developed. David E. Rattray

Members of the Bistrian family, the owners, through corporate entities, of 33 acres of farmland north of Amagansett Main Street, have sued East Hampton Town to force construction of an access road from there to Windmill Lane so that house lots may be developed on the acreage.

On and off for decades, the town has negotiated with the family to buy the land for preservation, either outright or through the purchase of development rights, or some combination thereof.

In August, after reaching yet another impasse over conflicting assessments and a purchase price, the Bistrians notified the town that they would proceed with development. They demanded that East Hampton follow through on its promise to construct an access road into the site from Windmill Lane, which they say was agreed to in 1971 when Peter Bistrian provided the town with land to create the Amagansett municipal parking lot.

The family, through its attorney, had said last year that if the town did not build the road by October, they would install it themselves. According to the lawsuit, there has been no response, to date, by the town.

Ten contiguous parcels make up the acreage, some sections of which, lacking an access road, are landlocked.

The area is zoned for two-acre residential lots, but is also in an agricultural zone, which imposes restrictions on how it can be developed. Appraisals on the land’s value commissioned by the town and by the family have differed widely. Last year, appraisers for the Bistrians set the price at $29 million. The town, based on its own appraisal, offered $19 million.

The lawsuit, filed early last week in State Supreme Court, seeks a court order verifying that the access road area was dedicated to the town as a public highway, that the town is obligated to “open, pave, and maintain” it, and that Steve Lynch, the highway superintendent, be compelled to oversee its construction.

Alternatively, it asks the court for a judgment upholding the family’s right to open up and improve the access road from the property to Windmill Lane themselves, and restraining the town from interfering with that process.

The suit cites a September 1970 East Hampton Town Board resolution outlining a proposal to “acquire and improve as a parking lot a parcel of land approximately two acres on the north side on Main Street, Amagansett, and acquire approximately three acres for a future access road north and west to Windmill Lane, and to pay all necessary acquisition and improvement costs” associated. It also references a legal notice in The Star prior to a public vote on the acquisition, and the results of the referendum, in which town voters approved it.

In September 1971, Peter Bistrian conveyed ownership to the town of the 2.3 acres for the parking lot, and, for no additional fee, the additional three acres for the access road, “for the sole purpose,” according to the lawsuit, “of developing the road that would provide [him] with access to the rest of his property, which had been eliminated as a result” of transferring the 2.3-acre parcel.

The construction of the parking lot, according to a letter from the Bistrians’ attorney to the town board last year, removed the approach to the family’s property from Main Street, prompting the agreement for Peter Bistrian to provide the town, at no cost, with the additional three acres for the access road.

  The road is depicted on the town tax map leading from the north side of the parking lot through the farm fields and then curving west to intersect with Windmill Lane in the area of Schellinger Road.

According to the lawsuit, the town has over the years acknowledged the existence of the conceptual road, most recently in its application to the Suffolk County Health Department for a permit for the new public restroom at the edge of the parking lot and farm fields, to be opened next week.

“The town’s refusal to open the road,” the suit alleges, “is a transparent attempt to obstruct further development, without justification.”