Those who Zoomed into the Feb. 6 meeting of the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee were, no doubt, startled to hear from Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott’s Alex Edlich that all the recent talk about denying free beach access to those who have not been included in the territory of the new village was really much ado about nothing. Edlich said that he — he didn’t report his wife’s views — favored free Wainscott beach access for all East Hampton residents. He said that it was just C.P.W.’s consultants who suggested otherwise by including beach fees in the village budget as a plug number, an offset to the beach maintenance expense in the budget. All could be fixed by the village’s merely leaving maintenance to the town — the town that is regularly accused of neglecting Wainscott, treating it shabbily, and ignoring, belittling and lying to its residents. That’s simply incredible.
But more fundamentally, Edlich’s blaming the consultants and saying the village could leave the beach maintenance to the town really doesn’t fix anything. The village, if formed, will have absolute legal control over access to the beach. It could at the outset, or whenever it needs the revenue and doesn’t want to increase taxes, impose beach user fees on those who are not village residents and even on village residents who cannot easily get to the beach without driving. Reference to the recent kerfuffle over parking fees in the East Hampton Village should make that clear enough.
There is also plenty of evidence to support the conclusion that Edlich’s comments were, at best, disingenuous. Beach control is what C.P.W. and incorporation are all about. Beach management is the second largest budget item and the only discretionary governmental function that is not left to the town. C.P.W.’s budget, which it regularly extols as the gold standard, states: “The model assumes that the Village would manage [Wainscott’s two] beaches, and the associated parking lots, in-house rather than relying on the town. Managing these functions in-house would not only allow the Village greater control over how the beaches are maintained but would allow it to collect revenues from parking fees”
This “assumption” obviously reflects a mandate to the consultants, not something they dreamed up to make the budget work. Ongoing beach management is budgeted at $142,966, which is 17 percent of the ongoing expense budget, and projected parking fees constitute more than 15 percent of non-tax revenues. These are not after thoughts to balance the budget.
No one should be fooled by Edlich’s disavowal. The C.P.W. insiders who expect to fill the volunteer posts in the new village government are going to maintain their beaches, exercise control over access, and charge at least any nonresident who wants to try to find a parking spot a hefty fee to do so. What this episode has done is to show the lengths to which C.P.W. will go to get what it wants — a village they own.
JOHN H. HALL