Planning Board Balks at Ditch Plain Plan

A proposal to divide a house lot opposite the Ditch Plain town parking lot in Montauk created waves during the East Hampton Town Planning Board’s July 18 meeting. T.E. McMorrow

    A plan to divide a 43,000-square-foot Ditch Plain parcel into two lots, one of 20,000 square feet and the other of 23,000, was broached for the first time at an East Hampton Town Planning Board meeting on July 25. Judging from board members’ reactions, it could provoke divisive debate.
    The property, at the pivotal location where Ditch Plain Road does a sweeping hook and becomes Deforest Road, opposite the busiest beach-access parking lot in Ditch, has an odd shape, similar to a triangle with a curved edge. An existing house there pre-dates zoning, but its location is odd as well, visually, sitting on the eastern border of the property, close to the neighboring house, leaving most of the land, which was cleared many years ago, unused.
    The current owners, the Sullivan family, seek to break off the western part of the property to form a 23,000-square-foot triangle, with the house remaining on what would then become a rectangular lot.
    The challenges presented by such a division are apparently daunting.
    “Why is this being brought forward at this time?” asked Reed Jones, the planning board chairman. “Is the property for sale?” (There were two large Saunders Realty “For Sale” signs posted there yesterday.)
    “I don’t like it when we’re asked to jump through hoops,” said Diana Weir, a member of the board. The proposed division would require multiple variances from the town zoning board.
    Other board members expressed concern that a new driveway might create lowered visibility and increased traffic. “This [beach] is one of the main attractions in Montauk,” said Nancy Keeshan. “This is a busy corner.” She remarked that the hearing could be the start of a prolonged process, whereupon Ms. Weir said, “I have a problem with selling off pieces of larger property. There are a lot of hoops to go through. I am uncomfortable with it.”
    “To be truthful, I don’t see a compelling reason for this that makes sense,” said Mr. Jones. “I think you’re trying to do a little too much on this parcel of land.”
    The board agreed that any such division would eventually be required to go through a public hearing.
    There was also a hearing that night for Amagansett Estates LLC, a parcel of land that totals about 120,000 square feet. The parcel, at 93 and 103 Montauk Highway in Amagansett, near Windmill Lane, is currently divided in two, with seven nonconforming houses on the two lots.
    Kenneth Yerves, a developer, wants to combine the two lots and re-divide them into four lots, three each of 40,000 square feet and the fourth of 23,000 square feet. The fourth lot required approval from the zoning board of appeals, which was obtained after a hearing on June 5.
    The Town Planning Department advised both the Z.B.A. and the planning board that the proposal decreases the housing density on the land and would therefore be beneficial. Nobody spoke in opposition, though one neighbor, Tom Pierce, did suggest that the screening vegetation used near his property be changed to one that could withstand the lack of sunlight caused by his large shady trees.