555 Opponents Question Timing and Board's Motives

Word of a concerted effort to encourage public comment and opposition to a proposed new senior housing zone in Amagansett, which would pave the way for a developer’s vision of 79 units of luxury senior citizen housing on the former Principi farm on Montauk Highway, apparently reached East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley during a town board meeting on Tuesday.

The two, along with the third outgoing member of the board’s Republican majority, Dominick Stanzione, had voted on Nov. 7 to hold a hearing on a law submitted by the developers that would create the new zone at the last board meeting of their tenure, on Dec. 19 — and at the same time hold a hearing on rezoning the developers’ property to the new zoning category.

The town’s present zoning code does not, in any category, allow development as dense as that proposed by Putnam Bridge, a Connecticut developer, and the property in question is currently zoned for three-acre house lots on 19 of its 24 acres, with one-acre residential lots, affordable housing, and limited business uses allowed on the remainder.

Fearing that the outgoing majority has fast-tracked the hearings in order to vote on enacting the two zoning changes before leaving office, dozens of residents concerned about the development proposal met Sunday at a private residence in Amagansett to strategize a public response — in hopes of deterring a board vote for the measures or, should that occur, creating widespread public support for their reversal by the incoming administration, according to an account of the meeting. The Town Planning Department has said that the zoning changes are counter to the town’s comprehensive plan and not beneficial to the need for affordable housing for senior citizens.

The incoming board, with Larry Cantwell as supervisor and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez in one of the two vacated town board seats, will have a Demo?cratic majority. Fred Overton, also a new board member, will be the sole Republican. Mr. Cantwell has spoken against the proposed development, known as 555, as has Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, and it is assumed the rest of the new board would take a more thorough look at the zoning request before acting.

Mr. Wilkinson and Ms. Quigley did not run for re-election; Mr. Stanzione lost his bid to retain his seat. “It’s absolutely disgusting what’s going on here,” said Mr. Wilkinson on Tuesday after reading from an e-mail that questioned the motives of the three Republicans in pushing the Amagansett proposal to hearing.

“This is purely the politics of personal destruction,” Ms. Quigley began before standing to deliver further heated descriptions of her perception of what is going on. After being advised to stop by Mr. Wilkinson, she stalked out of the room, and the supervisor called a recess to the meeting.

Upon re-adjourning, he read from a letter that suggested the three board members had a hidden motive for their actions and proposed an investigation. “Bring it on,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “Bring all the investigations you want. Bring it on — the attorney general of the United States; the attorney general of New York.”

“Put your money where your mouth is,” he said angrily. “Stop hiding behind your little texts and tweets. For a public hearing — what is inappropriate about listening to the people of the Town of East Hampton?”

Mr. Van Scoyoc and Councilman Sylvia Overby, in voting against holding the hearings, had complained that the proposed zoning law was submitted by the developer who would benefit, and had not been discussed or revised by the town board. Nor, they said, had the board discussed the Planning Department’s analysis of the law and the property rezoning request.

According to state law, rezoning may be accomplished by a town board through either of two different procedures: enacting a local law or enacting an ordinance. The requirements for each procedure differ, according to a spokesman for the State Department of State, Laz Benitez.

Under either, however, he said, rezoning must be done “in accordance with an existing comprehensive plan” and must comply with all “applicable local regulations.”

Mr. Benitez said that, given the various provisions of the laws that could come to bear in a rezoning procedure, the Department of State was unable to definitively conclude whether the town board’s public hearings and a subsequent, potential vote the same night on both the new zoning category and on rezoning the property, are permissible.

However, according to New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who also serves as the Sag Harbor Village attorney, there is no prohibition against the board holding a hearing to rezone a property to a zoning category that has not yet been created.

But, he said earlier this week, there can be no vote to place a property into that category unless and until the local law creating the new district has been enacted after filing with the state secretary of state.

Consequently, he said, should the board actually vote to approve the new senior housing zoning district law drafted by the developer after the Dec. 19 hearing, it could not also vote to rezone the Amagansett property that night.

In an e-mail to The Star, Mr. Benitez said that zoning legislation that has been adopted by local law procedures and is then filed with the secretary of state could normally take 20 days to go into effect, unless an earlier effective date is written into the law.

East Hampton’s zoning laws are adopted by local law procedures, Carole Brennan, the assistant town clerk, said yesterday.

If a new board disagrees with resolutions adopted by the outgoing board, it could vote in January to rescind them.


I am extremely happy to hear that the locals are trying to protect the landscape of Amagansett from this type of development, especially since it appears to be in direct opposition to the existing Comprehensive Plan. Good for you!