Wilkinson Board Looks Favorably on Controversial Zoning Change

A 24-acre site in Amgansett may be rezoned in a last-ditch attempt by the Wilkinson administration to allow for a large, high-end development. Hampton Pix

The Republican majority of the East Hampton Town Board voted Thursday to consider changes to town law that could pave the way for a sprawling luxury development in Amagansett reserved for older residents.

Two unusual simultaneous hearings will be held on Dec. 19, during the administration's final meeting before leaving office. The first hearing will address a proposed new zoning classification and the second whether or not to apply it to a 24-acre site in Amagansett.

Putnam Bridge, a Connecticut developer that purchased the former Principi family farm on Montauk Highway at the eastern edge of the hamlet, is proposing a 79-unit condominium community with prices starting around $500,000 for an apartment and in the $1 million range for stand-alone units. Such high-density development is not allowed under East Hampton Town zoning.

In the vote Thursday, Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, and Councilman Dominick Stanzione agreed to hold a hearing on the creation of a new zoning category in the town -- a senior housing district -- which the developers have requested.

They also voted to hold a hearing the same night on rezoning the developers’ property to that district, which, as proposed, would allow four housing units per acre, with a maximum of 100 units in any one development.

The Amagansett property, which contains "prime" agricultural soils and is made up of three separate lots, is zoned for house lots of a minimum three-acre size on almost 19 acres of the parcel, with one-acre minimum house lots, affordable housing, and limited business uses allowed on the remainder of the property.

Although hearings on legislation and zone changes are held so that the board may hear and consider public opinion, it is possible that an after-hearing vote may be called on Dec. 19 to approve both measures before a new, Democratic-majority administration takes office in January.

Mr. Wilkinson and Ms. Quigley chose not to seek additional terms in office and will return to private life at the end of the year. Mr. Stanzione, who lives in Amagansett, lost a bid for re-election on Nov. 5

The board’s two sitting Democrats, Councilwoman Sylvia Overby and Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, whose terms will continue for another two years, voted against scheduling both hearings. The proposed zoning district was submitted to the town by the developers and not revised or reviewed by town attorneys or the board, they pointed out.

Both Ms. Overby and Mr. Van Scoyoc objected to formal consideration of a zoning district that had not been discussed or drafted by the board. “So we’re changing our code . . . based on a submission by the applicant,” Ms. Overby said.

“Intellectually, I don’t understand your objection,” Mr. Wilkinson told her.

“I don’t either,” said Ms. Quigley. “We’ve drafted a ton of laws that were completely messed up and wrong and filled with errors. So it’s frankly irrelevant to me who drafted it,” she said.

While consideration of zoning changes is sometimes appropriate, Mr. Van Scoyoc said, “I haven’t heard any public outcry for this.”

Ms. Overby also objected to the procedure of setting a hearing to rezone a property to a zone that does not yet exist, but Ms. Quigley defended the idea. “People who come to speak are going to speak on this particular project,” she said.

“I find this to be totally reprehensible,” Ms. Overby said.

Mr. Stanzione, who lost a bid for re-election on Nov. 5, remained silent and cast the deciding vote.

Conceptual plans for the 555 development have been presented to the town planning board, as well as to the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee.

In a presentation to the town board earlier this fall, the Planning Department weighed in on the proposal in a lengthy memo, calling the proposed use of the property counter to existing zoning regulations that limit the density of development and to the town comprehensive plan, which calls for additional housing for senior citizens at affordable, not market value, rates.