A third attempt by East Hampton Town Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc to get a board majority to take the town’s Fort Pond House property in Montauk off the market was suspended Tuesday when Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who could cast the key third vote to pass the resolution, requested more time.
Both Mr. Van Scoyoc and Councilwoman Sylvia Overby believe the four-acre waterfront property, which provides a public access to Fort Pond, should not be sold.
Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, who voted to sell off the site several years ago even in the face of massive public opposition, prompting several lawsuits, have not wavered. When the property was put up for sale, the town was still working its way out from under the last administration’s financial mismanagement, which resulted in a multimillion-dollar deficit.
Mr. Stanzione, who voted initially with Mr. Wilkinson and Ms. Quigley to authorize the sale, against the opposition of the two Democratic members of the previous town board, had abstained from a previous vote proposed by Mr. Van Scoyoc on taking the property off the market, leaving it a tie.
Mr. Van Scoyoc brought the matter up after comments earlier in a board work session by Larry Smith, a Montauk resident. Mr. Smith called the property, which includes a house, a “special place” with a “special history” and a “special location,” noting the numerous community groups and individuals who had used it before it was shuttered and left in disrepair.
In private hands, Mr. Smith said, it would become “another McMansion — or worse, another nightclub.”
“We now have, thanks to this administration, a surplus in our coffers,” he said. “Why sell? Please stop and rescind the sale of Fort Pond House,” said Mr. Smith. “If not it will be lost forever.”
Mr. Wilkinson said that the property is zoned for residential use, so a nightclub could not open there. Ms. Quigley said that when all town properties were vetted for possible sale, the Fort Pond House was the only one placed on the market. She suggested that it was not actually used by the public, based on her discussion with a local reporter who, she said, had told her that she never received listings of public events at the property. And, Ms. Quigley said, the town’s buildings and grounds staff had said that they never had requests to use it.
However, under an agreement with the town, the property was managed by the Third House Nature Center in Montauk, one of the parties that sued after the administration blocked access and put the site up for sale.
Mr. Van Scoyoc told Mr. Smith that he would not only seek a vote to rescind the potential sale, but would seek to have the property designated a park or recreational facility.
“I want more time,” Mr. Stanzione said when the resolution was offered later in the meeting.
“I think time is up,” Councilwoman Overby said.
“If you want my vote, time is not up,” Mr. Stanzione replied. Mr. Van Scoyoc said that the property has been in limbo for years. “Are you going to grant the courtesy or not?” asked Mr. Stanzione.
“Yes,” Mr. Van Scoyoc replied.
The property was purchased for $890,000 in 2003 and has been listed for sale for $2 million.