Small Group Seeks to Impose Cost of Legal Fight Against Proposed Beach Lane Cable Landing On Entire Hamlet, With No Benefit to Taxpayers
On December 30, 2020 – the eve of a four-day weekend – a group of wealthy property owners centered on Beach Lane in Wainscott filed a petition with the East Hampton Town Clerk that seeks to incorporate about 60% of our 350-year-old Hamlet in pursuit of their single-minded desire to prevent an electrical cable from an ocean-based wind farm landing under their street. Under New York State Village Law, this filing starts a very fast clock toward a vote that could result in the incorporation of Wainscott by early this Spring.
Although the proponents of incorporation have dressed up their petition as one which seeks to “create a more responsive and representative government, and control over local zoning and development” (Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott Press Release, December 30, 2020), a clear-eyed analysis of their website, public statements and their bought-and-paid-for financial projections reveals that the incorporation of Wainscott offers no long term benefit to Wainscott taxpayers, but would impose permanent costs on all of us. The end result of incorporation would require the entire village to pay the enormous legal bills required to fight the Beach Lane landing – with absolutely no certainty that an incorporated Village of Wainscott could stop the cable – and also subcontract from other Towns and Villages the costs of a police force as well as the support staff essential to the work of planning and zoning, which is a very large expense now borne by the entire town.
For nearly a year, supporters of incorporation claimed that an incorporated village of Wainscott could operate on an annual budget of $250,000 to $300,000. Then, in December, they finally admitted that the annual cost to operate even a bare-bones village would be closer to $900,000. However, a close analysis of the assumptions underlying even this figure makes it clear that supporters continue to low-ball their estimates of the costs of running a village. For example, they propose to expend under $80,000 in planning and zoning staff support (the likely figure for work related to the proposed Wainscott Commercial Center, alone, is many times that) and they make no accommodation at all for the inevitable cost of litigation to challenge the power cable, which is the would-be incorporators’ only real goal.
But perhaps the most egregious feature of the proposed incorporation is the hubris shown in the arbitrary boundary which supporters have concocted in their petition. Initially, incorporation’s supporters proposed a boundary which followed the Wainscott School District, and a petition was circulated to great fanfare and press coverage. However, when it was pointed out that the Wainscott School District includes parts of the Villages of Sagaponack and East Hampton and therefore, under New York State Village Law, could not be used, a hand-drawn boundary was proposed, under a different provision of the New York State Village Law. This new boundary eliminates from the proposed village nearly 100 Wainscott residents on Hedges Lane, Georgica Woods Lane, South Breeze Drive, Cobber Lane, Sag Harbor Turnpike and Merchants Path, who will now be required – along with everyone else in Town – to pay a costly fee to the incorporated village for the privilege of attempting to park on Beach Lane, the ocean beach which is closest to their homes.
These South-of-the-Highway property owners, who make up over two thirds of the petition’s signers, are bamboozling their neighbors with false promises and fatuous comparisons to Sagaponack (whose own Mayor said could cannot be equated with Wainscott), all to impose on their neighbors the costs of their legal fight. As their press release makes clear, they are trying to force Town Supervisor Van Scoyac to act precipitously and, in a few weeks in the middle of winter, during a pandemic, compel a quick vote on incorporation and the permanent imposition of increased taxes and a wholly unnecessary layer of government.
Wainscott United is comprised of full time residents who live North and South of the Highway. We urge any person in Town, and especially those in Wainscott, who oppose this “Terrible Idea” – as The East Hampton Star’s editorial of December 10, 2020 called it – to be heard and, ultimately, vote against it.
For more information, please visit our website WainscottUnited.org, or on Facebook at Wainscott United.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at P.O. Box 505, Wainscott, New York 11975.