Value Disputed, Land May Be Lost

Appraisals differ by $10.5 million for 30-acre Amagansett farmland parcels
The Bistrian family and East Hampton Town have been unable so far to come to terms on a fair price for the preservation of 30 acres of farmland the family owns north of Amagansett. Durell Godfrey

Lengthy negotiations between East Hampton Town and the Bistrian family over the possible purchase and preservation of a large tract of farmland they own in Amagansett have reached yet another impasse.

In an email to The Star on Friday, Bonnie Bistrian said the family’s appraisers, Goodman Marks Associates, had pegged the fair market value of the 30-acre property, which lies between Windmill Lane and Main Street, north and west of the hamlet’s municipal parking lot, at $35 million. The appraisers put the value of the development rights alone — which “we are happy to sell,” Ms. Bistrian said — at $32.5 million.

On Friday, East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, who was in Sag Harbor most of the day conferring with officials about that morning’s ruinous fire, confirmed that the town had been interested in the development rights but, he said, it was “unable to come to terms on the fair market value.” The town received two separate appraisals recently, each one far off the price sought by the Bistrians.

“My personal perspective is that this farmland should be preserved,” the supervisor said. “I am bitterly disappointed that we have been unable to come to terms.”

The appraisals done for the Bistrian family were provided to the town, after which, according to Ms. Bistrian, it made an offer of $22 million, about $3 million more than it had offered in 2014, a sum the family rejected. She said the latest offer was “$10.5 million below the appraised value.” Like Mr. Cantwell, she said, “It’s very disappointing for us.”

Ten separate parcels are involved, each of which, Ms. Bistrian said, could have a house on it. The exact number apparently would depend on the town code’s requirements on farmland preservation. The family has no immediate plans to develop, Ms. Bistrian indicated, but she added, “All we need to do is vation. The family has no immediate plans to develop, Ms. Bistrian indicated, but she added, “All we need to do is open the road.”

 The road to which she referred exists on paper and would, if opened, run between the parking lot and Windmill Lane, providing access to the lots.

  On Monday, Scott Crowe, a Windmill Lane resident who heads Save Our Farmland Amagansett, an ad hoc group formed to preserve the field, challenged the Bistrians’ claim to ownership of the road. “We believe it is essential to correct the often repeated — and therefore commonly accepted — misconception that there exists any agreement to build a road. There is absolutely no legal basis for such a claim,” he wrote in an email to Dodson and Flinker, the Massachusetts consultants retained by the town to oversee its ongoing hamlet studies.

“Our group and many other residents are emphatically against developing this highway,” Mr. Crowe wrote. “Such a road would irreparably damage the town’s character, and funnel even more noisy traffic into surrounding quiet residential streets, causing dangerous conditions for pedestrians, runners, and bikers.”

Mr. Crowe said by phone yesterday that he hoped the impasse would not wind up in court. “I think there’s a better outcome, where everyone can win,” he said, involving “private buyers” who would purchase part of the land, and the town the rest. As it stands, however, the difference between the town’s assessment and the Bistrians’ is too large, he said. “Their asking price moved from $29 million [two years ago] to $32 million. I’d like to see the numbers go back to 29 and 22. That gives us something to work with.”