Pushback Against One Hamlet Plan

Future use of East Hampton sand pit a sticking point for many in Springs
A sketch in the hamlet report for East Hampton shows “opportunities for commercial redevelopment, housing, contractor parking, and a food systems incubator” at the sand pit on Springs-Fireplace Road.

A presentation of the East Hampton hamlet study drew criticism during a public hearing at the East Hampton Town Board’s meeting last Thursday, with many residents of a neighboring hamlet, Springs, voicing concern that future development could worsen conditions on an already congested Springs-Fireplace Road. 

The comments contrasted with those offered at an Oct. 4 public hearing on the Wainscott hamlet study, which were mostly positive. But where residents of that hamlet saw opportunity at its former sand pit property, Springs residents worried that future development at the active sand mine along the commercial-industrial stretch of Springs-Fireplace Road would further stress the already crowded corridors leading to their hamlet. 

The sand pit off Springs-Fireplace Road could become one of the town’s largest developable areas once the mine ceases operations, according to a buildout analysis in the hamlet study. One possibility, the study says, is the site’s division into 30 to 40 commercial-industrial lots. “A residential subdivision would be most likely” in a zone wrapping around its northern edge, according to the study. 

“The high usage will become a burden on surrounding communities,” Frank Riina of Springs said of the sand pit site, which is expected to close in about 10 years. 

The town’s comprehensive plan, Mr. Riina said, “determined that every new house with one or more school-age children is a tax burden on the community. . . . For every new house, there is projected to be 10 new car trips on the road every day. Repeatedly, the consultants acknowledge the roads around the sand pit mine are already very busy.” It is upsetting to Springs residents, he said, “to think that somebody is putting forward a plan that may jeopardize their community and stress it out, without doing the backup work to see whether or not the road capacity can accommodate it.” 

The consultants, Peter Flinker of Dodson and Flinker, a Massachusetts consulting firm, and Lisa Liquori of Fine Arts and Sciences, a former town planning director, presented “a business plan for the sand pit site without including its impact on the community,” Mr. Riina said. “What our community needs is a plan . . . that includes a more reasonable development than the one being offered.” A traffic study should be undertaken, he said, with development linked to roadways’ capacity. 

Carl Irace, an attorney representing Citizens to Preserve the East End, which he said includes many residents of the area of the Springs-Fireplace Road corridor among its approximately 350 members, said that the East Hampton hamlet study’s results “have a significant impact on Springs, particularly the portion devoted to the Springs-Fireplace commercial corridor,” between its intersection with Abraham’s Path and its juncture with Three Mile Harbor Road and North Main Street. 

He also asked for a traffic study to determine the impact of future development, along with the immediate hire of a planning consultant to develop plans specific to both sides of Springs-Fireplace Road in the area of the sand pit. The town should consider purchasing undeveloped lots on Springs-Fireplace Road to preserve green space, he said, and a study should determine if entry points to “future major-scale development” could be from Three Mile Harbor Road. “This could relieve some of the stress on Springs-Fireplace Road,” he said. 

The Wainscott study “was a very good step at looking at rationalizing that business center,” said John Potter of Springs. Wainscott’s commercial district is “right next to a very busy road, and the process of moving some of the traffic and the commercial enterprises off of that main road are exactly what we would have liked to have seen in a study of the Springs-Fireplace corridor,” he said. “But it didn’t.” 

George Lombardi of Springs told the board that in 2015 he was badly injured in a car accident on Route 114. He had been airlifted to Stony Brook, he said, where his family was told that if he had gotten there a few minutes later he would not have survived. “If my accident occurred in Springs, with the traffic on Springs-Fireplace Road . . . I may not have made it,” he said. “Any future plans for any proposals to increase traffic on Springs-Fireplace Road, I think, will directly harm the safety of the residents of Springs.” 

The Pantigo Road business district was also addressed. The emergency medical center planned for Pantigo Place, near the Town Hall campus, represents “an elephant in the study area,” said Paul Fiondella. Once built, “it will completely change the neighborhood,” he said. “There should be a separate study of this area just taking into account what’s going to happen once the hospital, or some form of it, is located there.”

Mr. Fiondella also criticized the lack of bicycle lanes or paths in the town. “We still need a study of how are we going to implement the use of bicycles and pedestrian movements in the town in such a way as to reduce traffic,” he said. Without that, “it’s premature to start talking parking, curb cuts, and traffic, when you don’t even have a study of how to minimize those things.”

He supported the recommendation to construct 28 units of housing at the former Stern’s site on Pantigo Road, but said that it should be an assisted-living facility. “If you are in one of our existing affordable housing facilities and you can’t take care of yourself, there is nothing here for you,” he said. 

Catherine Casey, who is executive director of the East Hampton Housing Authority but was speaking as chairwoman of the East Hampton-Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee, said that the committee applauds the suggestion for an affordable housing overlay on the west side of North Main Street, and the hamlet study’s recommendation for a redesigned intersection of Springs-Fireplace Road, Three Mile Harbor Road, and North Main Street. The group also agrees with the suggestion to narrow the width of Cedar Street. The C.A.C. disagrees, however, with the suggestion to eliminate parking on the east side of North Main Street, citing an adverse impact on businesses, and with the suggestion that Collins Avenue be designated a one-way street. 

The hearing was closed. Ms. Liquori told the gathering that public comments would be reviewed with an eye toward reaching a consensus as to the final report’s recommendations. An environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act would follow. 

The hamlet studies began in 2015, with public input beginning the following year. The consultants have presented updates since then based on public comment from individuals, the hamlets’ citizens advisory committees, chambers of commerce, and East Hampton Village. The goal is to adopt recommendations for each hamlet to be incorporated into the town’s comprehensive plan. 

A public hearing on the Amagansett hamlet study will be held at the town board’s meeting next Thursday. The public hearing for the study focusing on Springs is scheduled for Nov. 15, and Montauk’s hamlet study will be the subject of a public hearing on Dec. 6.