East Deck Petition Gathers Many Names

ED40 wants to create a “private club” on the site of the old East Deck, with 179 members. T.E. McMorrow

An online petition posted by Montauk’s Ditch Plains Association on Monday afternoon, asking East Hampton Town planners and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to rebuff an application that would drastically change the footprint of the hamlet’s East Deck Motel, had gathered 860 signatures as of Wednesday.

The petition, addressed to Reed Jones, chairman of the town’s planning board, asks the board to “Deny ED40’s special permit and the D.E.C. permit for membership club conversion, or require a N.Y.S. mandated environmental impact statement due to negative environmental and character of community impacts.”

The Ditch Plains Association was started in the fall and received not-for-profit status in June. It now has 300 active members, said Laura Michaels, a board member. It has met weekly during this “critical period involving the ED40 proposal,” she said.

The association was initially created to deal with erosion issues, but there was always a keen eye on ED40’s redevelopment plan, said Ms. Michaels. Its other directors are John Chimples, Freddy Gold, Connie Cortese, and Lou Cortese.

ED40 is the name of the development group, which is registered as a limited liability corporation in Delaware, a state that does not require the names of shareholders to be made public. Its application states that it would create a “private club” on the site of the old East Deck, with 179 members. A new septic system would be built to handle the waste of up to 537 people, with a daily flow of 5,171 gallons. Some 3,661 cubic yards of fill would be brought in to elevate the system, which would be installed in a known flood zone. There would be an 8,000-square-foot pool with decking, a game room, a spa, a restaurant, and a café. Parking on the site would increase from 36 spaces to 100, with some located underground.

The Concerned Citizens of Montauk organization has already asked that an environmental impact statement be required. In addition to the scope of the renovation, the group worries that ground and surface water would flow north from the site to Lake Montauk, which is already seeing its share of pollution from human and animal-waste runoff. A small beach on the south side of the lake, the part nearest to Ditch Plain, has been closed to swimmers for most of the summer.

Representing ED40 in East Hampton is the Montauk law firm of Biondo and Hammer, whose move to split the ownership into two corporations, in compliance with a town code requirement that such a facility be nonprofit, has been approved by the town attorney’s office.

Alice Houseknecht, the East Deck’s longtime manager, inherited the motel a few years ago. It was sold in the fall for a reported $15 million. At the time of the sale, Ms. Houseknecht said she was confident that the new owners would retain some part of its charm.

The Ditch Plains Association petition can be accessed at ditchplainsassociation.com or on its Facebook page. More than 100 surfers are said to be planning a protest-paddle out on the site on Aug. 30. 

Laura Michaels, left, Connie Cortese, and Freddy Gold are board members of the new Ditch Plains Association, which was founded to oppose a large redevelopment project at the former East Deck Motel. Janis Hewitt