Best Way to Fight

a Letter to the Editor of the East Hampton Star


August 2, 2020

Dear David,

I am a longtime Wainscott homeowner and voter. I am concerned by the effort of a small group to incorporate Wainscott. This effort is being led by the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott. Everything I have read or heard from C.P.W. in its Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee presentations and otherwise, tells me it is a single-issue group dedicated to the defeat of the wind farm cable landing on Beach Lane. C.P.W. mentions other issues facing Wainscott, but it doesn’t say where it stands on them or offer any solutions.

My concern is not the wind farm. All interested parties, pro or con, including C.P.W., have a seat at the table in the discussions with the Department of Public Works. Whatever the department decides, there will inevitably be lawsuits and thousands of dollars spent on legal fees. I have no interest in a future Wainscott village that will have to assume responsibility for these costs, which would mean higher taxes for all of us.

My number-one concern is implementing the hamlet study adopted by the town in May 2020. Debunking the idea that Wainscott gets no attention from the town, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc released a statement on May 11, 2020:

“Adoption of the hamlet and business studies into East Hampton’s Comprehensive Plan will help protect the unique character of our hamlets and our quality of life,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, who initiated the first study as town board liaison at the request of the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee. Former Supervisor Larry Cantwell, upon being elected supervisor, expanded the effort to all five hamlets.

I attended many hamlet study sessions and walked the hamlet with town officials and the firms they hired to prepare a blueprint on how to turn Wainscott’s commercial district from a strip into a well-thought-out, attractive entrance to the Town of East Hampton. With a great deal of input from Wainscott’s diverse residents, the hamlet study recommends design changes to give architectural cohesion to the commercial strip, to add sidewalks and benches to promote walking and social interaction, new landscaping and lighting, and, importantly, a parking lot, desperately needed to relieve congestion. Implementing the study will likely involve up-zoning at both ends of Route 27 — never a popular endeavor with commercial developers — and lead to an expensive but worthwhile fight in the courts.

Is C.P.W. ready to take on commercial property developers whose interests are to control future development? Will a village have more expertise at the ready and financial resources available than the town to control and manage future development? I don’t think so. Again, if incorporation succeeds, it will mean higher taxes distributed over Wainscott’s small number of homeowners rather than the town’s larger tax base.

The hamlet study suggests continuing the planning process, with ongoing community participation, for the 70-acre area commonly referred to as the sand pit. Currently the sand pit is zoned 100 percent commercial/industrial. The hamlet study submitted a “mixed use” sketch of the sand pit to give the town a large park, with playing fields, the hamlet’s first appropriately-sized parking area within walking distance of existing stores, a modest amount of much-needed work force housing, as well as a smaller number of commercial-industrial lots toward the north end of the 70-acre parcel. I am particularly interested in this aspect of the study because mixed-use zoning would materially reduce additional degradation of Georgica Pond’s water, only a few miles away.

Assuring responsible development of the sand pit will require thousands of dollars of legal fees and expert advice, first to even read, much less respond to, the owner’s recently submitted proposed plan and related environmental impact statement. A village with a proposed operating budget of $300,000 is hardly set up to take this on. A village zoning board, a village planning board, and a village building department would each need paid, experienced staff and attorneys to advise them. The idea of a $300,000 village operating budget is disingenuous at best. Think many multiples of that budget for this project alone.

Instead of attacking members of the town board with personal insults, all Wainscott residents would be better served by joining forces to make our voices heard, to let the town board that we elected support our hamlet plan. That’s the best way to fight Wainscott industrialization and enhance Wainscott’s unique character and charm, not only for those fortunate enough to live near Main Street, but also for the majority of Wainscott residents who live year round south and north of Route 27, from the Atlantic to Route 114 and Sag Harbor.

We don’t need another layer of government and more taxes. We have 29 town departments working for us. We have a County Legislature and county executive, New York State assemblyman, New York State senator, and Congressional District 1 congressman. Do we really want more government? More taxes? I say no to incorporation.